Fav -Class Start


A favorite is when students walked into class and immediately began thinking and talking about mathematics. This year, I decided to kick-off the start of each class with a rotation touching on the mathematical practices. Tied to the current unit? Maybe, but not necessarily.

How much time? Well, it’s slowly been increasing as connections back to past or current topics become more apparent (funny how this increases the more it is practiced). Perfected? Nope, some days are magical and others not so much.

The Rotation

  • Monday – Graphing Stories
  • Tuesday – Visual Patterns
  • Wednesday – Estimation 180
  • Thursday – Math Talks
  • Friday – Reflection

The schedule at my school pretends to be a block (class length ranges from 60 to 80 minutes). So, I see students for math every other day and it takes two weeks to get through a rotation.

This post is a bit long as I attempt to lay out the flow of how these warm-ups take place. The first three days have a pretty good feel to them. Thursday Math Talks are the newest for me and need the most work. Friday Reflections seem a bit standard and good likely use an injection of inspiration. All of the days are a work in progress and have changed since the year began. With that in mind, any feedback on how to improve or suggestions to try is greatly appreciated.

Monday – Graphing Stories

A big thanks to Dan Meyer and others who put this project together. This awesome site has a collection of 15 second videos of an action. Students graph the action.


Students come in and open their notebooks to the graphing story page. First, a quick What do you notice? What do you wonder? Then, what action do you think we will be graphing?  Time is always on the horizontal axis and we discuss what will be on the vertical axis and what units will be likely. Funny, how often this is prefaced with a reminder that most videos were created in the States. Yep, that means “feet”.

Begin watching. The videos are set up to run once (15 seconds) at normal speed and then again at half speed before providing a solution. We watch the normal and the half. Stop.

Students talk for 3-5 minutes in their table groups, come up with a “sketch” of the graph and determine areas of focus for the next viewing. They know that we will again watch the half speed section. At the end of this time, students share out. This has varied:

  • What do you notice? I’ve recently begun adding this in to the graphing stories. Students often struggle with the y-intercept. Where does the graph start? Before, this came out through groans as the solution was presented or by individual checks. Adding this step of each table sharing one “notice” brings it out from the students.
  • What do you wonder? This is the focus that students will have for their second viewing. I like shifting to this question versus “What will you look for?” as it feels as if the question opens the frame for students. Again, each table group shares out and if we get repeats, great.

Rewatch the half speed segment.

2 minutes – get a line on your graph. They are free to chat but after a quick burst, the class often gets quiet.

A few solutions – a couple of volunteers come up to the SmartBoard to put down their graphs. Three colors is the max for this. When we play the final moments of the video, the solution is drawn between the student lines.

IMG_0461 3

Solution – Students use a different color to draw in the solution to distinguish from their own.

That’s it. Unless, and this is when magic begins, the students don’t agree with the solution. We go down that lane. Talk it up. Convince us that your solution is a better description of the action.

Tuesday – Visual Patterns 

A big thanks to Fawn Nguyen and others for putting together this awesome site of patterns! There are many patterns and some great ideas to get going. For this, I like to print out a copy of the pattern for each student. They mark the sheet up!

Screen Shot 2016-01-20 at 3.57.50 AM

Students get the page into their notebook and begin working. Talk at the beginning is often minimal as students process the pattern on their own. The talk steadily builds as they make progress and start trying out ideas. I ask them to draw in the next figure as well as what could possibly be Figure 0.

One of the goals of this activity is for students to work in multiple representations to build connections between graphs, tables and equations while also reinforcing skills such as table set-up and graph design. Wait, the scale has to have an equal increment? 

The various ways that students approach patterns is fascinating. The check provided on the patterns page is Pattern #43. When two students reach a solution but have different equations it’s great hearing them talk when asked, do you have the same equation as G? They get down to it, break apart their solutions, talk about equations and then realize that yes, they have similar equations.


For the 7th graders, the concept of variable is still developing for many and having this ongoing, yearly work with variable slowly builds familiarity. At the end of the first semester, most are now comfortable with having “n” placed into their table after the first few numbers (0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, n).

This warm-up is a bit more time intensive. Students work at their own pace as some can quickly see patterns and others take more time to get started and make various representations. Some need hints though a nice thing about having this on a regular cycle is that students have other patterns to refer back to. They are also increasing their ability to recognize patterns.

Wednesday – Estimation 180

Another big thanks to those putting out amazing resources for the math community. This time, it’s to Andrew Stadel for the Estimation180 site. This began as a quick warm-up activity. Students came in to see the image on the screen and quickly start thinking about their estimates. As with the other “warm-ups,” the value of estimations as a doorway to lots of math creeped in more and more now it takes a solid block. The presentation is a bit different as well:


  1. Bring in the What do you notice? What do you wonder? framework. We start slowly. Students see the image and we talk about the things we notice. Then, what do you wonder? This is starting to edge us closer to the estimation.
  2. The next question for the students – What do you think we will be estimating today? Most of the time, this question has already come up though a curve ball was recently thrown to them as I worked in negative numbers.
  3. Now, we get into the estimation framework – What’s an estimate that you think is too high?   What’s an estimate that you think is too low?   Students are off and thinking. Our focus on the too high / too low is to begin developing a range of their estimates. “What is reasonable for you? How is your confidence of the estimation related to the range of your too high/too low?”
  4. We share with lots of questions. This is a great opportunity to review. “Explain how you got to that point…What does that mean?” Now, as a class we have a range. Sometimes it’s quite wide and others fairly tight.
  5. A few more minutes for students to get their just right estimate.
  6. We share and talk some more with students giving explanations as to how they arrived at their estimate.
  7. Show the actual amount to (often) cheers and (sometimes) groans.

Thursday – Math Talks


This is the “day” where I would love feedback. My goal is to get students talking. I want students to realize the difference in the ways each other think. I like that students are opened up to different ways of solving problems.

A few resources that I’m looking at:

I’m not quite sure what happens on Thursday and I’m afraid to say that we often hop into other activities without having a good number talk. Again, suggestions…

Friday – Reflection

Students need time to look back over their math and think about their progress. Reflections are used to also strengthen the connection to the mathematical practices. Questions may revolve around a problem of the week and asks students to write about a mathematical practice they used. This is also a bit in development and suggestions would be great!



One good thing – student thoughts


“…you cannot give up and that if a prototype fails, you don’t just throw it away and try again, you need to analyze it, figure out what you did wrong, how you can fix it, and THEN do it again!”

“it was a lot harder than I expected because a little measurement mistake could mean a lot of chance.”

“from this real-life experience I learned that things won’t always go my way when planning something with specific requirements, so there’d be a lot of trial and error and it won’t be that easy.”

“modelling is an important skill in not only math but also in our lives to double check.”

“I thought it would be much easier than it actually was to find the correct measurements and final volume.”

“I learned to not think so easily of something and take everything as a learning opportunity.”

“My brain was telling me to stop but my heart wouldn’t let me.”

Reading the thoughts of students is always a good thing.

Day in the Life…(round 2)


4:00 am – A vibration on my wrist surprises me awake. I just received a new watch (thanks to the awesome teacher who brought it back from the States for me!) and was wondering how the alarm would function. No more ding ding ding – just a little wrist vibration.

4:00:32 – Pooch is already nosing at me. She wants to head down and go outside. Alright, let’s get the day going.

4:05 – begin planning for my science class today. A new unit on the changing surface of the Earth is starting. Check out cool Google Timelapse imagery. How does the Earth’s surface change over time? What are quick, abrupt changes? What changes take a long time? What are constructive processes? Destructive process? What will the students already know when they walk in today?

4:23 – It’s cold. Down to the basement to see the ever present error on the boiler. Recharge the system so that the heat will turn back on.

5:00 Check school email – response from a parent. OK

5:05 – Hop onto twitter to check out the current NCTM Principle’s to Action slow chat. Add a tweet, check out a link. Anything else out there on #MTBOS / NGSS?

5:15 Get the coffee brewing, prepare snacks for the girls, get lunch packed for me & the wife

5:30 Wake up time for my sweetie and one of the best parts of the day. A half hour of just sitting and chatting with a cup of coffee.

– Is that a little girl upstairs?  “Doggie! Doggie!” she cries out. I run upstairs, and manage to get Thing 2 back down to sleep. Whew

6:00 Race up stairs and grab some clothes for the day. Get on running clothes and warm outwear.  Put school bag and lunch in the tuk tuk. Start running to school. Wow! It’s freezing this morning. I think my beard is collecting icicles and it’s a short run. Running in the dark in China is a bit crazy. Some scooters have lights. Others do not. Most are electric – silent death. The silhouette tuk tuk – no lights but is back light by traffic in the next lane over. I dodge a food cart vendor moving along without lights. What is he doing up so early?

tuk tuk

Our stylish tuk tuk – spray painted by a student

6:25 Changed and jumping in to the school pool. Yay! The water temperature is up! Thanks to the great teacher who puts up a workout for the bunch of crazies who show up in the morning on Tuesdays and Thursdays to swim.

7:00 Out of the pool. Shower. Wow! Someone should check out the boiler here. Is there an error message? The water is freezing.

7:10 Meet my sweetie – it’s awesome that she also works at my school – who just rolls in on the tuk tuk. Get school bag with breakfast and clothes. Change. Eat. Get ready for the day.

8:05 Quickly head over to the PreK-3 classroom to say good morning to the girls. It’s a calmer morning when they sleep in but I hate not seeing them before I leave home.

8:15 Mentoring kicks the day off (Homeroom). “Hey, Mr. Frank your beard looks extra furry,” says a student who missed the first day back. Locker clean-out: we’re trying to start the semester on a new note. Out with the smells!

8:30 Science class & seeking previous understanding. Individual sketch time. Table talk. Collaborative class sketch. Questions. Online exploration. Exit Note – making a strong commitment to do these each class. The window into student minds is revealing.

10:00 Break time

10:15 – 10:45 Observe another teacher’s math class.

10:45 – 11:30 Emails & Team Leader business – set up quarterly assembly and awards. Respond to student issue.

11:30 – 12:25 Math Lab – hmmm. First day of class and no students. Maybe this will change as the quarter progresses. Spent the time working on math rubrics.

12:15 – 12:45 Lunch duty

12:45 – 1:05 Lunch

1:10 – 2:00 Math team meeting

2 – 3:20 Science class #2 – Same lesson though the last class felt a bit lackluster and there was too much time with the web exploration. I added in a table group whiteboard session. Students made individual models and then the table group combined for a model. After a period of time, students got up and visited other whiteboards for take-aways and critiques.

3:20 – 3:30 School paperwork

3:30 – 4:30 Plan for tomorrow / Awesome interruption. A colleague wandered in to talk about collaborating on a stream-table activity.

4:30 Pile into the tuk tuk for the trip home. Sounds of joy reach me as we enter the house. The girls are splashing around in the bath having a great time. I cook as they finish and do art, jump around, fight, sing and tell us about the day. We eat. Great recipe for corn bread if you like it…

Sweet Corn Bread

Recipe from Thrive

Makes 1 – 9×13 pan


  • 4 eggs, whites and yolks separated
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 85g butter, melted
  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1-1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. salt


  1. Preheat oven to 350ºF.
  2. In a medium-size bowl, combine egg yolks, milk, vanilla, and melted butter and stir.
  3. Mix in cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt – stirring to incorporate, but do not over mix.
  4. In a separate bowl, beat egg whites until stiff peaks form. Carefully fold them into the batter.
  5. Pour into a greased 9×13 inch pan and bake for 25-30 minutes. Check with a toothpick to make sure it is cooked through.


7:30 Off to bed for the girls. A book is attempted though melt down happens. Aah, getting back into the swing of school after vacation is so tiring.

8:00 Walk the pooch – still freezing!

8:15 Wind down the evening. It’s going to be an early one tonight.

~Note: In November of 2012, I participated in a MTBoS writing task of describe a Day in the Life. I did not read it prior to writing this post as I wanted to see how different life is today. The girls were just a year and under a year. It seemed crazy then as well. Maybe it will settle down one day…

MTBOS January Blogging Initiative

Oh yeah – the time for New Year’s resolutions. Kids, preps, coaching, bum knees and more have added to my excuse pile for allowing my blog to retire into the depths. So, when the push came for this year’s MTBoS Blogging Initiative I found myself out of reasons. Signing up!

I, Frank, resolve to blog in 2016 in order to open my classroom up and share my thoughts with other teachers. I hope to accomplish this goal by participating in the January Blogging Initiation hosted by Explore MTBoS.
You, too, could join in on this exciting adventure. All you have to do is dust off your blog and get ready for the first prompt to arrive January 10th!