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Mathonopoly – Solving Equations Game

I can’t take any credit for this one, but I had to share. I recently stumbled upon this gem of a review game. My 7th graders have been learning how to solve one and two step equations. Solving equations can be difficult for some students. Practice, practice and more practice helps! And who doesn’t like a game?

Before I gave students a quiz on these concepts, I wanted to do some review. I feel lucky to have found this… and it is free! You can find the game here  and download it as a powerpoint for free. Again, I did not make this and cannot take credit for it, but HAD to share such a creative activity.

I couldn’t find exact rules listed, so I just made them up based on what parts there are and the rules I know from Monopoly, which I share below. You can definitely adjust these to better fit your class!

Preparations:

I made four different sets so my whole class could play at the same time, and 3 to 4 people can play with one set. Before my students played, I had to cut out all the pieces (not fun) and put them all individually through the laminator (even more not fun!).  I do love a good lamination, but our machine NEVER works properly so it is always a gamble – are you going to get a nicely laminated product, or a ruined mess of melted plastic and 30 minutes of your precious prep time gone? Luckily, the machine was in a good mood for me that day! And, I had students with no homework to finish in a study hall, so I made them my card cutting slaves for the period. Awesome!

 

Setting up the game:

Each group receives a board, Chance cards, Community Chest cards and a set of “Property” cards, a set of dice, and whatever playing pieces you want to use (I used chess pieces because I have them in my classroom!)

Students stack the sets of Chance and Community Chest cards in the designated places. The property cards are set to the side in an organized way.

Students also need score sheets. Using blank sheets of paper worked well for me, but you may want to come up with a quick score sheet. I started each student with 25 points. No money is necessary in this version of the game!

Answer sheets can either be distributed to each group, but I decided to hold on to one, and when students solved the equation, they called me over to check. This way, one student would not be able to see the answers ahead of time and know the correct response without trying to solve it first.

Instructions:

To play the game, students roll the dice (you can do one or two) and move their pieces across the board, just like in Monopoly.

When they land on a property space, students must solve the equation correctly in order to “buy” the property. If another student then lands on that property space, they must give the “rent”  in their points to the owner. Rent amount is the same as the number listed at the top of each property.

The rest of the game is played very similarly to the real Monopoly. However, I did not do anything for when they landed on railroads or Free Parking. Maybe you have an idea for these spaces? Let me know!

Ending the game:

I stopped the class when we only had a few minutes left. Students did not want to stop playing! We determined the winner by who had the most points at the end. I guess you could keep playing until one person has all the points, but just like in real Monopoly, that might take days and days!

It was a blast and the students got tons of practice with solving equations of all different difficulty levels! Thanks dannytheref for such an awesome idea!

How’s It Going? Returning to Teaching After Maternity Leave

Just over a month ago, I had to go back to work after having my baby girl. My leave this time around was over 10 weeks. It felt like a long time and no time at all. How does two and a half months go by that quickly? I knew it was coming, but that doesn’t make coming back any easier.

Before the big day I had time to prepare and discuss a few things with the substitute who was there while I was gone (who was fantastic and made things go so smoothly!). I developed a few lessons and even found a few review games for my students.

The kids day care bags were packed, forms signed, and schedules planned. Meals cooked in advance for easy dinners were ready in the freezer.  I was ready on the outside.

How’s It Going?

People have been asking me, “How’s it going being back?” Well, that depends. How is it going leaving the two beings I love most in the world every Monday through Friday to the care of others? How is it going being away from them more than 40 hours a week throughout the school year? How is it going knowing that you will only have a few hours with them when you come home, but all that other home “stuff” that is pulling at my time? How is it going, knowing that I may be missing important milestones, missing smiles and laughs, or missing cuddles when they are sad? How do I answer that?

At the same time, I enjoy what I do. I like making lessons exciting for my students. There is a thrill in putting together an activity that will demonstrate exactly the point students need to know AND be one they continue talking about for the next few days. It’s awesome to see that light bulb moment for someone in the middle of class, especially from someone that normally struggles. I like joking with the kids in their awkward but endearing ways. The teasing, the lame puns, and silly talk. The students make me smile, cause frustration, laughs, and tears. This is why I do what I do.

It’s Going

So, how is it going? It’s going. It’s going because this is where God wants me to be right now. I know my place is to be at the school I am at, working with the kids I do. God has given me peace about the decision my husband and I made about our work situation. He has given me skills, that right now, I’m called to use in the workplace. Maybe in the future, he will call me to use those skills as a stay at home mom. Or maybe he won’t. But whatever happens, I know that God will keep me going and continue to give me peace as long as I am where he wants me to be.

I know many other of you moms are in similar positions. Maybe you need to work for financial reasons, or insurance reasons. Or both. Maybe you worked so hard for your degree (and have so many student loans) that you feel like this is the only option right now. Maybe you just love what you do so much, that you can’t imagine not working. There are so many reasons that moms have to leave their precious babies everyday.  

Or maybe some of you moms are at home, worried about finances because you aren’t working, feeling overwhelmed because you feel like you never have time to yourself and can’t even get a few minutes to go to the bathroom without little ones peeking under the door (It IS nice to be able to use the restroom in peace again, even if I only have a few seconds in between passing periods!). Maybe you selflessly gave up a career you adored to take care of your family.

It’s Going “Good”

Whatever situation you are in, trust that God knows where you need to be. I encourage you to continually seek out God for his plan, because God’s plans are greater than ours. He knows whether you need to be teaching other people’s precious babies. He knows if you need to be home with your own babies (no matter how old those babies are!). And if you are unsure of where you need to be, just ask Him!

So when people ask me “How is it going?”, I can simply say “Good.” God is good, and though life is a little crazy right now, my life is in Good hands.

DIY Nail Art – A Girl’s Night Activity!

I’m a part of a small group of people from my church that meet a couple times a month. We call it a “Lifegroup” because, as our church continually states, we “do life together!” We meet, we eat (obviously!), we do a Bible study, or sometimes we just talk. And we pray for each other. I think that alone makes our group tight. We share what God is doing and how we need God in our lives.

In about two years, our group went from about 8 adults and 2 kids to 8 adults, 6 kids and one on the way. Needless to say, our get-togethers can become crazy quickly! But this is our life, and so we do the crazy together.

Recently, the ladies of our group plus several others from other groups, got together to celebrate the coming birth of the “one on the way” in our group. It has become somewhat of a tradition in our group to have a sort of ladies night whenever someone is due. We especially like to do this when it isn’t their first baby and a big themed baby shower isn’t necessary. It is awesome to have some time with other women to laugh, share and just get away for a couple hours.

I love to help put together these types of get togethers! Rather than playing traditional baby shower games, I decided it would be fun to do a DIY project. When I saw a picture of a simple arrow nail art, I thought it would be a great project for the girls!

Setting up:

It was easy to assembly the materials. All you needed were boards, hammers, nails, and string. I included paint and brushes as well. My husband helped with the boards. He bought two different sized long boards from the hardware store, then cut them into the sizes I requested. We left some boards plain and used a few types of stains on the others. I printed a few ideas for templates that the girls could use if they wanted.

Note: I did a trial run before the party, and this is what happens when you do not use a ruler and your 2 year old is trying to “help” give you nails. The term “straight as an arrow” does not apply here!

Instructions

  1. Use the template or ruler to lightly draw your design on the wood. It worked well to put the template (if using one) over your board, then take one nail and make all the holes right through the paper. Once the holes were there, you can take the paper off and see exactly where all the nails need to go!
  2. Next, hammer away! Put the nails in where the holes were marked (or where you had drawn). Make sure the nails are in far enough that they won’t be pulled out easily.
  3. Use the string (bright colors make it fun!) and start with tying a knot around one of the nails. Wrap the string around in any type of pattern you choose! I found it is best to “fill in” with the string first, then at the end, go around to make an outline and define your shape more.
  4. Use paint to decorate more if desired!

 

We had a blast chatting, eating, and hammering! It was a little bit of a unique way to celebrate a baby, but we all enjoyed getting the week’s frustrations out with some good hard swings!

All different designs, but they all turned out great!

And the best part of all: the newest baby girl of our life group was born a week later! She was happy and healthy, and mom did great!

Crazy Catapults – STEM Project with simple machines.

I love introducing STEM projects (like these catapults) to my 8th grade students. Because this is the third year I have taught most of the students, they know my rules, and I know their tendencies. By this time, I can foresee some problems that the students could run into and avoid them. I can also try new things with these students. They won’t have melt-downs if something doesn’t go as planned! I’m also continually impressed with how many cool ideas and designs they come up with… they are very creative!

These eighth graders recently wrapped up a unit on forces and simple machines. Last year, I saw a few lesson plans that involved building catapults and thought that would be a perfect way to tie everything together. The project went fine, but students didn’t quite use the simple machine concepts like I had hoped they would. So this year, I decided to amp up the catapult plan and make better! These eighth graders love a challenge and could roll with any minor surprises!

Lesson Overview

First, we discussed a little bit of catapults history. Together, we talked about the different types that were used for various reasons. Accuracy, power and distance are all important features of a quality catapult. Knowing this information, students received the challenge to design and build a catapult that would meet the three main criteria. Launching mini marshmallows as far as possible, trying to accurately shoot the marshmallows into a bucket, and using a sugar cube to knock down stacked cups were their tasks.

The catapults were a huge hit! The kids wanted to bring in materials from home to work on them (which I didn’t allow), and had unique ideas of how they wanted their catapults to work. I will say that next year, I will have to give a few more design restrictions. Some of the created designs had difficulty with one or two stations. Trebuchet type catapults seemed to work the best for the stations I choose.

Overall, I would say this year’s catapult project went much better than last year’s. I made sure students had to identify the simple machines in their design, and even calculate the mechanical advantage. Next year, I will adjust it more (aren’t we as teachers always tweaking our lessons–even the successful ones??) but I would say this project is a keeper!

Materials to use:

Popsicle sticks, spoons, rubber bands, various sizes of cups, tin cans, toothpicks, duct tape –really anything you can find that you think will work!

Other things you may need:

Cups to stack for the power station, sugar cubes (can be used for harder projectiles), meter sticks, a container for the accuracy station, and tape for starting lines. Use this worksheet packet as well – CrazyCatapults.docx. I adapted this from TryEngineering.org and from Vivify’s site. Both these sites contain great ideas for STEM challenges and activities and you should check them out!

Mystery Powder Investigation

Mystery time! Can you figure out what the four white substances are? This lesson can be used to show properties of difference substances or demonstrate differences between chemical and physical changes. Or it can just be for fun!

 

Lesson introduction:

I introduced this investigation to students after discussing chemical and physical properties of substances. For a “warm-up” I asked the students if they would ever accidentally mistake glue for milk. “Gross!” seemed to be the normal response. However, they easily listed several reasons – color, viscosity, density – it was clear which liquid students could drink. I even showed students what happens when you mix vinegar with both. Again, they were grossed out by the curdling milk.

Powder Investigation Set Up

Before class, I prepared the lab for the students. Containers A, B, C, D were filled with a different white powder. I also included a magnifying glass, beakers of water and vinegar and an eye dropper in their lab baskets. Sheets of foil were ready for them to use as “plates” or testing stations for their powders as well. I do use iodine, because this makes a chemical reaction with one of the powders, but I don’t let any of the students handle it. and we put any iodine mixture in separate spaces.

Materials used

I placed cornstarch in container A, salt in container B, baking soda in container C and sugar in container D. Feel free to use other white substances (safe ones please!), but I chose these four because I had them available in my classroom, and they are “safe” to use. Remember… middle schoolers want to eat everything. I’m not going to use things that might put them in danger! Each substance also has a unique reaction to at least one of the tests that students can choose from. Cornstarch changes the color of iodine, salt has crystal-like particles, baking soda fizzes with vinegar, and sugar tastes sweet!

Time to test!

Students test a powder by mixing vinegar and watching for changes that occur!

I let students choose which tests they would like to do with the substances. This includes mixing the substances with water, vinegar, or iodine, feeling the textures of each, using the magnifying glasses to observe the particles, and of course, the taste test (but I make them wait to do this last so it is not a giveaway!)

It is important to emphasize where students may see chemical changes happening. I ask the students these questions:

Are there bubbles?

Was there a color change?

Did something new form?

Can you get the substances back?

While testing, students fill out a chart like this: MysteryPowders. A “P” is placed in the blank if a physical change occurs and a “C” for any chemical changes.

Mystery Solved!

At the end of the time, I do tell the students what each of the substances were and they are excited whenever they guessed correctly!

Have fun investigating!

 

Density Rainbow – Using Colored Liquids to Explore Density

 

Density can be a tricky topic to teach. Students usually understand the concept of mass. They can feel the difference in something that is more massive (or heavy) than something else. Volume can be shown easily — which one is bigger? What takes up more space? When you put mass and volume together, sometimes students get mixed up. Does heavy always mean dense? Does little mean it will be less dense?

I have a fun activity that addresses some of these possible misconceptions. It uses simple materials and the results turn out beautifully (if students do the lab correctly!).

The set up:

This activity can be used before introducing density as an inquiry activity, or it can be used as a culminating activity. Since my sixth grade students have worked with density here and there, I incorporate the lab after our official density lesson. In the days before, we work on understanding what makes something dense, students practice calculating density and we may even play a few rounds of “Sink or Float.” (This is SO easy for any grade level and students love it! You can either do it as a demonstration, or have small groups do it. Just get a beaker filled with water and random items from the classroom and students must predict whether it will sink or float when dropped in the water!)

Density Rainbow

In the Density Rainbow activity, students find the density of five different liquids and pour them one at a time into a 100mL graduated cylinder. If the students are careful with their pouring, the result is a beautifully layered, colorful cylinder!

Before measuring a liquid, students predict where in the layer it will go. On the top? Bottom? Somewhere in the middle? Because I want to include the math, I make students find the mass and volume (about 15mL) of each liquid, and then calculate the density. Most students see the connection between the numbers they are getting and where the liquid will end up. The higher the density, the lower it will go in the cylinder.

Make sure you tell the students to pour each new liquid carefully! Tilt each cylinder and pour the liquid down the side of the 100mL cylinder SLOWLY! This is especially important with the rubbing alcohol. If students splash, the colors will get mixed and the final result won’t be as pretty.

Here are the liquids I use:

The liquids ready to go!
  • A) Water with green food coloring
  • B) Vegetable oil (no food coloring necessary – it won’t mix well anyway!)
  • C) Blue dish soap (you can use any color of dish soap you would like, but I like the blue best!
  • D) Corn syrup with purple food coloring (this gets very thick and sticky!
  • E) Rubbing alcohol with red food coloring.
I label all the cups so students know what liquid to use when.

Condiment cups are also extremely helpful in this activity. I can prep this lab the day before, pop the lids on all the liquids and not worry about spilling or evaporating. You can find the cups most grocery store in the paper goods aisle. If you have a Gordon Foods nearby, they have huge packs of them too!

The final product!

If you would like to use the handout that I do, here it is: Densityrainbow.doc

Notes and extensions:

Because I have students find the mass, they must first find the mass of the empty graduated cylinder they use to measure with. I am always double checking that they are subtracting the mass of the empty cylinder from the mass of the liquid plus the cylinder. If they don’t do this, their calculated density will be off!

Another extension I do is have the students change the volume and predict if the layers will still be the same. If we used 30 mL of vegetable oil and only 10 mL of water, what will happen? We do this as a group and it leads to the discussion of why adding MORE liquid does not change the density. A few of my quicker students pick up on the fact that when you increase volume, you are also increasing mass, so the density will be the same!

Have fun adding some color to your classroom! If you have any other ways you like to teach density, share them! I love introducing new activities to my classroom repertoire!

Cookie Dough Brownies

These brownies have a special place in my heart. The first time I tried making these, I was trying to impress a guy. It was the summer between my sophomore and junior year of college. My life long friend had roomed with “this guy” for the past year. Since we were all at the same school and hung out all the time, we had sort of ended the year with the possibility of getting to know each other more… whatever that meant! Anyway, classes were out for the summer and “this guy” was in town for a visit. The plan was for the two boys (my friend and “this guy”) to come over to my parents house to hang out before we met others to play frisbee golf. (Side note: I used to love playing frisbee golf but I was terrible at it!).

Of course I needed to make a snack.  I started searching all over the internet for ideas. Mind you, this was before Pinterest. Not much before, but all the same, no Pinterest. I don’t even know how to do anything without Pinterest anymore! But, I was in luck that day because I stumbled upon these doozies. Brownies, cookie dough, and chocolate. Um… yes? I also happened to know that cookie dough was an absolute favorite treat for one particular guy. Winning.

I made these brownies, served them, and loved them. Both boys asked for seconds. I was successful in my attempt to impress! In fact, fast forward three years and I married “this guy”. (Another side note: that friend ended up marrying MY college roommate. Isn’t it funny how life works out?) So ladies, try making these for that special someone in your life! Who knows what will happen!

Before getting on with the recipe, I must warn you: these brownies will kill any sort of diet you may be on! They are not meant to be healthy, but they are meant to be delicious. I typically make these as a special treat for get togethers or a special event.. Not just when they are going to sit around the house, because I would eat them all. The. Entire. Pan.

These start with your favorite brownie recipe. I start with a brownie mix (why go through the effort of brownies from scratch when I actually REALLY enjoy brownies from boxed mixes), but you can definitely make them from scratch if that is how you roll. Prepare these according to the directions and allow to cool to room temperature.

While you are waiting, you start the cookie dough. Mix the flour, butter, sugars, milk and vanilla together until smooth. Notice there are no eggs in here, so no worries about getting sick. Once the brownies are cooled, use a spatula to smooth the cookie dough over the brownies.

Finally, you melt the chocolate chips and oil. I usually use the microwave and stop every 20-30 seconds to stir. Once all the chips are melted, pour the chocolate over the cookie dough layer and smooth with a spatula. Place the brownies in the refrigerator to chill.

Before serving, let the brownies sit out for 5-10 minutes so the chocolate isn’t rock hard, however they should be stored in the refrigerator.

This recipe is for an 8×8 batch of brownies. If you would like a 9×13, just double the cookie dough and chocolate ingredients!

 

Cookie Dough Brownies
Ingredients
For Brownies:

  1 box brownie mix (8×8 or 9×9 pan size)**

            **If you want to do a 9×13 size, you can double the cookie dough and chocolate layer recipes!)

For Cookie Dough Layer:

½ Cup butter

½ cup brown sugar

¼ cup sugar

2 Tablespoons milk

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup flour

For chocolate topping:

1 cup chocolate chips

1 Tablespoon vegetable oil

Directions

Bake the brownies as directed on the box. Allow them to cool.

Cream butter and sugars together with a mixer. Add in the milk and vanilla.

Add the flour a little bit at a time and mix until well blended.

Spread the mixture over the cooled brownies

Mix the chocolate chips and vegetable oil in a microwavable bowl. Heat in microwave for 30 seconds at a time, mixing in between until the chocolate is melted.

Spread the melted chocolate over the cookie dough layer. Let the layer cool and harden.

 

Store in the refrigerator.

Gummy Bear Osmosis


I love working with food whenever I can in my science classroom. And I especially like using candy. You pull out a single M&M, and all eyes are on you. When you tell them they will be using any type of candy to do a lab experiment, they can’t wait to get started. Obviously, the first question I get is “Can we eat this?” Now, I’ve taught middle school students awhile now so I am extremely aware of the fact that even if I say “No,” students will still sneak in a lick or nibble! I’ve learned to keep a few extra samples of whatever food I’m using so at the end of class, students can get their candy fix!

In my seventh grade class, we have been discussing cells and how materials move in and out of the cell membrane through passive transport. This leads to discussing the concepts of diffusion and osmosis. When I found a lab that used candy to demonstrate the concept of osmosis, I knew it was a winner! I have been using a lab I found on this blog which is site that has many other resources and great ideas for teaching science. The link to the pdf file which I have used and adapted from year to year is linked below.

Day One

The lab must be done in two days. First, students will take a gummy bear and measure the height, width and mass. Next, the gummy bear is placed in a beaker of distilled water overnight. It’s always amusing to hear the predictions of what will happen. Without fail, I get at least one prediction of “It’s gonna explode!” What is it with science class and students’ expectations of exploding objects??

Students use electronic scales to find mass
I love using the triple-beam balance and so do the students!
Day Two

The students come in super excited to check out their bear the next day. Of course, half the groups have named their little gelatin blobs and are thrilled/mortified to see that their gummy babies grew overnight! Students check the height, mass and width again and find the percent change. (Always love the math tie in!) A graph is made and written responses are required. Then at least one student in every group tries to slurp down the bear or the water left behind. Disgusting, but amusing. (And don’t worry, I do not promote this, but it’s not worth fighting. I just make sure the beakers are clean and safe!)

While groups are working, I try to connect with them to see why they think the gummy bear grew to the size it did. Most students have no issue seeing the connection to osmosis! (Let’s be honest… there are always one or two that still remain oblivious to the fact that we science teachers DO have reasons for activities we choose to do in the classroom!) Other questions that can be used to dig deeper are:

“If we left the gummy bear in the beaker another night, would it continue to grow even bigger?”
“What might happen if the bear was left in salt water?”
“How might we make this process faster or slower?”

If you were to do a little google search on Gummy Bear Osmosis you can find many ideas and variations of how this may work in your classroom! This is the lab I’ve used and I encourage you to use it and check out the science blog here too! Thanks to “Mr. Poach” for creating this awesome lab packet! Happy diffusing!!