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Sunday, July 31, 2016

Back to School Math Tips

Take a deep breath and relax for another day or two because it's just about time to think about going back to school. One of the things I love most about teaching is the chance to start over each year and this year I am looking forward to changing things up even more now that I've completed a full year at fifth grade. This second year is going to be a lot better. Right now I'm teaming up with some of my favorite math teachers to bring you some of our back to school ideas. Regardless of what grade you teach, you're sure to find some great ideas here.

Tip #1 Spiral

I didn't realize how much I needed to do this until this past year. When you're teaching first grade, it seems like the entire year is spent on addition and subtraction that just gradually increases in difficulty. But as you move up in grade levels, the amount of content just seems to get larger and larger. There's so much to teach and I didn't have time, nor did I want to build in time, for a lot of review. So it's important to not let students forget what they already know.  There are a lot of ways to spiral your math content, but here are a few easy ways I'm using that just fit right in.
  • Number Talks - Last year I wrote a post about starting number talks in the classroom (you can read it here). Number talks were one of my favorite times of the day and they are a great way to bring back past content. They don't take long and you can easily embed your review into the daily routine. Don't just move from addition to subtraction to multiplication and finally division. Mix it up. Keep your students using everything they can. One of my favorite ways to review fractions was setting this up as the daily number talk:

  • Math Tasks - I love using larger problem solving tasks and these are a great way to bring back past content. I often use a multi-day problem that's tied to a holiday or integrated into other curriculum as a way to change things up from time to time. It also gives me a great chance to get my students using multiple concepts at once.

Tip #2 Student Driven Anchor Charts

Rather than coming up with a clever anchor chart that looks great, let your charts be student driven either by making them with the students or letting the students make them. Here are a few examples from my classroom. They aren't as beautiful as the ones I see on Pinterest, but so much learning and solidifying of math concepts goes into the making of each of these.

 This one was made over the course of a few days as we worked at the beginning of our unit on fractions. As students discovered different rules for comparing fractions, we recorded them together with me as the scribe. The last rule was really discovered over the course of a conversation by 3 students whose first names just happened to arrange in a consecutive alphabetical order. The great thing about this chart is that everyone in the class knew who they could ask for help.

This next chart is completely student made. All of the students worked in small groups to create a chart that helped them convert measurements within the metric system. Each groups explained their chart and we picked one that was easy to read and understand to hang up.

These student made charts are from our math word wall. I gave different math vocabulary words for our fraction unit to small groups of students who then wrote definitions, refined the definitions with feedback from the class, and designed the word wall cards.

An InLinkz Link-up

Have a great year!



  1. Love your tips for getting kids ideas up on the walls!

    The Math Maniac

  2. I love using number talks with my 4th graders, too! Having students help to make anchor chart is so important, rather than having pretty charts no one uses! (Thanks for the reminder!)