You teach ONLINE? AND What I have been up to this week!

You teach ONLINE?

When I tell others that I teach middle school math online, the first thing they say is, “How does that work?”, followed by an endless amount of other questions.

It seems like most people who I have come across do not know about online schools, so I will come back and update this if we change our plans throughout the year.  Maybe it will give a better picture of how some people teach online. To be honest, I didn’t know that there were online schools for middle school students until I looked into it and found a job, and I have taught for 6 going on 7 years!

Organized the Office

I spent tons of time organizing my office!  I needed to take a break from constantly being at my computer.


It is still a work in progress, but I am happy to have a place that I can work once school starts back up.  In the midst of my back to school fever, I went a little crazy decorating my office.  Early this week, I started putting up posters that I used to have in my classroom.  I got inspired by my fiance’s office that has pictures and posters.

The fun has only just begun… I am sure I will make plenty of changes as the year goes on.  After all, I will be spending a lot of time in there.  I will be teaching from 8:30-3:00 with a break for lunch and another break throughout the day. Technically, this will be more hours teaching than last year. However, I will not have as many videos and lessons to create (hopefully).  I will have trouble resisting the urge to make new videos and resources, so expect some new videos from me to show up on my vimeo profile.  Plus, I did promise to make a back to school video to send to my students, so I need to follow through on that.

Back to School!

Our first meeting is the 11th, so even before we have students, there is work to do.  Luckily, I got a lot done at the end of the school year to prepare for this year.  Of course I still have things to do, but it isn’t as overwhelming as it could have been.  I am the most concerned about our new structure of classes: how it will end up working out, and what it will be like when I am the main teacher for 7th grade.  I am happy that I will be teaching 7th grade Pre-Algebra, which is a class that I taught last year.

I am so excited to see everyone again and am looking forward to working with some new people this year!

A little about our class structure plan:

  • Classes will be Monday-Thursday
  • Friday will be open office
  • Each class period will last 1 hour and 30 minutes.
  • 45 minutes will be a large group
    • Led by me and assisted by the other 7th grade math teacher (there are two of them, but they will rotate) for the first class of the day only.  The rest of the day, they will be teaching their own class.  Ideally, we would like to have the students take a ticket out the door so that we can decide if they are free to go or if they need to stay for the remediation class.
  • 30 minutes will be a smaller group
    • The other 7th grade math teacher will be teaching a remediation class on the same topic that I taught that day during the 30 minutes directly after the 45 minute class.  They will take turns, so each of them will teach twice a week.  I will help them for the first 15 minutes, but for the second 15 minutes, I will have a break, tutor, or set up for the next class.
  • There will be up to 6 classes a day

Bought a Headset & Printed Products

I bought a printer and a headset.  I have yet to try the headset, but am looking forward to it! I did charge it.


I printed some products (even though I can’t use the hard copy because I teach online) just to make sure everything was how I intended it.  I organized the products in two binders: one for stations, and one for other products.  I haven’t done all the products yet, but I am sure I will eventually.  Maybe I can use them someday in the classroom, or use them as a portfolio of my work.  I used my label maker to label the binders.  I can’t wait to start cutting out and laminating some station activities!

TpT Sale Spike

Next came the TpT sale.  I was in shock on the 4th (mainly because I had almost forgotten about the sale and had taken a few days away from technology), and especially the 5th… look at that crazy spike!  The crazy part is that most of those sales were late in the day on the 5th.  My spike motivated me to buy some clip art from a TpT seller to spread the love. Thank you TpT for hosting an amazing sale!Capture

Got Creative

I created some new products on Tuesday and Wednesday:

Then, I added an easy version to my product, Building Squares:  Icebreaker Puzzle (for the first week of school).

Was Inspired

I listened to most of Edmodocon on the 6th and was thoroughly entertained.  We are trying to decide if we will use edmodo next year.  We did not use it last year, but I used it the year before.

Today I realized that the TpT Math Back to School eBook for Grades 6-12 is out.


Welcome Video for Students

I am thinking about making a welcome video to send to my students.


First, I must say that I need to start going to bed earlier.  It never fails, I end up staying up late right before the school year is about to begin, but not at the beginning of the summer.  If I want to stay up late, I have one week left.  After that, it is time to get back on a regular schedule.  Our first meeting is on the 11th.

Most likely, I will post the video on vimeo and share the link with the students to watch before our first class.

FACT:  I only know what a few of my students look like.

I work at an online school, so I work at home, except for meetings.  Last year, I never met most of my students, in person anyways. The few that I did meet looked completely different from what I had imagined in my mind.   I wanted to stare at them and soak in their faces so the picture in my head would transform.  I had some pretty fantastic students in 6th grade last year that I am really looking forward to having again this year!

FACT:  Most of my students haven’t met me.
Where did I meet some of my students?

At the office and/or while proctoring CRT tests.  Last year, I had a few pictures on my website, and turned on the camera sometimes during class.  Typically I only came on camera when the students asked me to, but there were a few days where I surprised everyone.  I did not come on every day.  I don’t mind being on camera, but I become very aware of what I am doing, which is distracting.

Why Am I Thinking About Making a Welcome Video?

The video will give my students a chance to see me.  They loved it when I came on camera last year, but there audio and video don’t sync properly.  There is no lag if I post the video on a website (unless they have internet like at my parent’s house in the country).

I know that some students will be really excited to see me in action. Hopefully the video serves its purpose, making the students feel a little more comfortable and welcome.

I will make sure my office is in good shape so that I can record the video there.  Currently the condition clean, but I am trying to add more items to it. Today and yesterday, I cleaned the perimeter of the garage, where I have tons of school supplies, books, etc. from my classroom. Most of them are still out there… just  a little neater.  Some of these items are moving to my office.

I am thinking about putting up posters on the walls of my office.  I have them, and I have no idea what to do with them. Storing them on the walls might be the answer.  The room needs re-painted from the previous owners, so putting a few holes in the wall isn’t a big deal.

I am considering donating the school supplies… what am I going to do with them?  Maybe I can give them to students at the office somehow.

I can’t believe it has taken me a year to deal with the mountain of stuff from my classroom that has sat in my garage. Now when I open my garage door I don’t have to cringe, thinking that neighbors are looking at my piles of stuff, and secretly judging me.  The amount of money that I spent on all of this stuff is insane!

I know from making flipped videos last year, students don’t like to watch long videos, so I don’t feel the need to make it very long. 2 minutes tops.  Just a hello and a bit about me and about what to expect in class.  It will include any necessary excel documents (a calendar of topics, and 7th grade common core resource) and a PDF with information, such as when to get help.

I am feeling really good about this idea. Maybe I will suggest it to some colleagues.

Now that I wrote it down, I will remember it, so it is time to follow through.  Pictures coming soon.

What do you think?  Would you watch a welcome video from a teacher?  Would you make one?


Coloring Around the World

After posting the The Cost of Coloring in South America Project that I have had lying around for a while, I decided to re-create the activity for other parts of the world.

I started with China.

Here is what my project looks like so far:

What do you think?

I will need to test it out before posting it as a resource.  If you would like to help me test it out, please let me know!

Here is what I need to do to finish the project:

  • Find the cheapest possible map.
  • Determine if all colors have to be used.
  • Make a detailed “how to use this” page.
    •  The small provinces such as Beijing, and Tianjin could cause problems.  That is why I added a map and a list of all the provinces with pictures.

Next, I moved to the British Isles.

With only 5 sections, it makes a simple directions page.  OR it could be used in elementary grades.  Anyways, here is what the project looks like so far:

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It is safe to say that I am becoming obsessed with making puzzles.  My favorite part?

Testing the puzzles out for difficulty and SOLVING them! 🙂

Read more about back to school resources:

First Week of School Ideas and Resources Part 1

First Week of School Ideas and Resources Part 2

First Week of School Ideas and Resources Part 3

First Week of School Ideas and Resources Part 4



First Week of School Ideas and Resources 4

A unique back to school activity for middle school.

The Cost of Coloring in South America:

FREE Coloring Activity Involving Basic Math

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• Cover Page: Cost of Coloring South America Project
• Goal/Directions Page
• South America Coloring Project Worksheet
• South America Coloring Project Answer Key
• Thank You & Author Information

How does this activity work? Directions:
• Color the map of South America. Each color is worth a different dollar amount.
• Make the cheapest map possible.
• WARNING! Before you get started, there is a catch… no colors can touch.
• Your map has to cost ≤ $2,800 or LESS!
• How LOW Can You Go?
• When you finish, explain how you got your answer. Did you have a strategy? Explain.
• Make sure you show all your math (adding up the numbers and state your answer.

Download this FREE product from my TPT Store.

Read more about back to school resources:

First Week of School Ideas and Resources Part 1

First Week of School Ideas and Resources Part 2

First Week of School Ideas and Resources Part 3


Back to School Ice Breaker Puzzle Activity

 Back to School Ice Breaker Puzzle Activity

Are you looking for an activity to use for back to school? You can’t lose with a fun icebreaker! This set of puzzles is challenging and guaranteed to make every student think whether they want to or not!


Here are some pictures from my rough draft before creating this activity.  I created the entire activity on the computer, and was looking forward to print it out to have my fiancé try it to assess the difficulty level.  I went to my printer to print the activity, and was greeted by an angry printer that just kept eating my paper.  I was flabbergasted because I have only used my printer a couple times before, and it was brand new when I got it!  Also, it is telling me that I am almost out of ink… but I thought my ink was new too!  Either someone has been secretly using my printer, or it just decided to betray me.  Needless to say,I was super disappointed.  I just sat there with a frown on my face for what seemed like a few minutes.  Then, I realized, that I could just grab some paper, pencils, colored pencils, crayons, a ruler, and some fabulous folding and tracing skills to test this activity.  As I was recreating the activity that I made on the computer, I was constantly reminded that math is SO cool!  Equilateral triangles can form so many patters… so can right triangles!  Playing around with the shapes was a lot of fun.  I would love to come up with some new criteria and shapes and create some unique puzzles.

Note:  These puzzle pieces do not “go together”, but here are all the pieces sorted by number.


Once I finished creating the puzzles, I took pictures of them before cutting them out so that I would have something to refer to if I got confused later.  Then, I cut out the pieces.  I tried putting the puzzle together, but it was taking too long, so I decided to make some adjustments to change the difficulty of the puzzle set.  In the process, I discovered two great ways to lower the difficulty level:

1.  Make sure that all the numbers are facing the same direction.  (See the example above)  By having all the numbers face the direction, the puzzle could have quickly became too easy (especially if this fact is given out as a clue), so I decided to write the numbers facing all directions to start.  Later, I decided to change it to increase the ease of making the product, and to make the puzzle easier (once the clue is given out).

2.  Color code to change difficulty levels instantly!  This activity has 6 puzzles with 4 pieces in each puzzle.  I chose these numbers on purpose because they offered flexibility when determining the difficulty level.  On top of that, having a nice number like 6 allows you to easily discard 2-4 puzzles without affecting the results.

Here is how I created the difficulty levels:

  1. Easy (1 blue, 1 purple, 1 red, 1 yellow, 1 green, and 1 orange):  6 puzzles, all different colors, 4 pieces in each puzzle
  2. Average (2 blue, 2 purple, 2 red):  6 puzzles, 2 of each color, 4 pieces in each puzzle
  3. Difficult (3 yellow, 3 green):  6 puzzles, 3 of each color, 4 pieces in each puzzle
  4. Mega Challenge (6 orange):  6 puzzles, all the same color, 4 pieces in each puzzle

Other ways to change the difficulty:  take out and entire puzzle or set of puzzles.

An Example of a Completed Puzzle (1 of 6):


Puzzles Sorted by Color: 8 Pieces (2 Puzzles) per Color


As you can see from the picture above, a simple paperclip (yes, that is a mini-gel pen… but same concept as a paper clip) will suffice.  You can store the pieces in a plastic bag, in pencil pouches, or pencil boxes.

Walmart    Pinterest

Read more about the icebreaker puzzles here.

Purchase a printable version that is ready to use here.


First Week of School Ideas and Resources Part 3

I have been busy creating back to school resources (and other resources) for the last few weeks. In fact, I have spent almost all of my time behind my laptop working. Hopefully some of these resources will help you out. I wish everyone a successful back to school, which will help set the tone for a successful year!

Free Back to School Resources:

Math Scavenger Hunt


How can you use this activity?
Option 1: Use as a twist to the traditional getting to know you activity.

  • Are you thinking about using a traditional getting to know you activity this year?  Instead of signing papers for being left-handed, or visiting another country, have students sign based on their math abilities!  Students will quickly learn which peers are good at math.
  • If they get stuck, you will see math magic!  The students that know what they are doing HELPING the students who don’t so that everyone can complete their scavenger hunt.  After the activity is complete, be sure to discuss how the students felt about the questions.  Were there any questions that they couldn’t complete?  What topics do we need to focus on this year?  Go over any problems that caused misunderstandings.  Use samples from the student’s work to help explain.

Option 2:

  • After using this as a getting to know you activity, your class list is sure to change a lot. Have each new student that comes to your class complete this worksheet as a New Student Placement Test. This will give you an idea of what level the student is at.  I have moved students based on the results to their placement test.
  • I KNOW! Grading an extra paper for every new student that steps into your room is time-consuming. However, it is WORTH it so that you can get a better idea of what level each student is at.
  • I have used something similar for ALL 6th, 7th, and 8th grade students in past years as a New Student Placement Test.
  •  Even if you don’t want to use as a getting to know you activity, use as a placement test for your entire class! You could even trade and grade (having students check the answer written in the square) to get an idea of how many questions the class was able to answer.  Change student’s placements after the assessment if necessary/possible.


Time Capsule Worksheet


  • Students love to see how they have changed since the beginning of the school year! Just remember to return the envelopes at the end of the year (a student will probably remind you).  Your class will thoroughly enjoy opening their time capsules at the end of the year!
  • I like to change-up the questions, so here is the EDITABLE version.
  • Almost always a student says, “These questions are personal”, and I tell them that they do not have to answer the questions at all (or even complete the activity), but that no one will see their answers.
  • Looking for activities for the first week of school? Check out this free time capsule worksheet.
  • What do you need for the activity?
    • tape measures (I prefer the cloth tape measures to metal ones; students can share)
    • scales (I only had one; students can share)
    • time capsule worksheet (2 pages)
    • security envelopes (enough for all of your students)
    • stickers (optional for extra security)


Colored Stars


  • This one might be a bit of a stretch for a “back to school” resource, but it can help you with organization, which is crucial this time of year! No one wants to START off the year with a messy classroom!  Maybe it will get there on its own as the year goes on…



Other Resources Worth Checking Out (From My TpT Store):

Building Square Icebreaker Puzzles


Are you looking for an activity to use for back to school? You can’t lose with a fun icebreaker during the first week of school! This set of puzzles is challenging and guaranteed to make every student think whether they want to or not!

• 6 puzzles (in 3 different sizes) with quadrilaterals and triangles for the pieces. Each puzzle has 4 pieces.
• Puzzles are color coded to easily change difficulty. 3 levels: average, hard, and mega challenge. Removing some of the puzzles in the set is another way to easily change difficulty.

How can you use this activity?
• Decide which puzzle set(s) you wan to use. I suggest using “Average 2 to a page”. Note: Making adjustments to the activity (to change difficulty) is simple!  For example: take out some of the puzzle sets, and give the students hints.
• Print necessary puzzle set(s) on card stock (or print on regular paper and laminate).
• Make copies of your chosen set(s).  Make enough copies for each group.
• Cut our your puzzle pieces and store each set of 6 puzzles in separate plastic bags.
• Determine how you will use this activity in your classroom. I suggest using it during the first week of school as an ice breaker. I typically have students work in groups of 4. I start off by telling them that they are going to solve some puzzles with their group WITHOUT TALKING. Hand gestures are OK. I keep the puzzle pieces in a plastic bags (one for each group). I distribute the bags to each group, and remind them that they CAN NOT SPEAK, only gesture.
When the students take the pieces out of the bag, some students will start trying many different combinations. Others will freak out and just sit there. Tell them that you are going to give them hints and that it is important for everyone to help their team.
• Begin telling the students hints. I suggest writing the hints on the board, covering the hints on an ELMO only revealing one new at a time, or revealing one at a time through your SMART Board. You may end up telling the students a lot of hints.  Keep the rules visible so that students can refer to them if needed. Another option: print out rules and distribute copies to students when many clues have been revealed.  If you can see that the students are really getting into it (and several hints have been given), you can let them to talk QUIETLY. Tell them that they don’t want to give the answers away to the teams around them.
• If any of the students get super into the activity, you can offer for them to try the “Hard” or “Mega Challenge” when they get finished with their work early one day.
• This activity is great to use as an icebreaker. Some students will take charge and stand out. Many students will get frustrated when they are SO close to getting a puzzle piece to fit. EVERYONE will be able to take part, and more importantly everyone is required to THINK (whether they are moving pieces or not). Another bonus: students will learn that listening to you is important because solving the puzzle without your hints would have been extremely challenging.
• After hints are revealed, and at least one group has solved the puzzle, then lead a discussion about how they felt, what their strategies were, etc.  Many students will want to share what they were going through when they weren’t permitted to speak, or how great they felt when they put a puzzle together!
• If the class struggles, finish the puzzles as a whole class using an ELMO or by taping it to the board. Consider adjusting the number of puzzles for your next classes. For example, for the next class, you could tell them to remove the red puzzle pieces and set them to the side. Then, have the students go ahead with just the blue and purple cards.
• After the activity is complete, lead a discussion. Sample Questions: How did you feel? What was your strategy? How did you communicate? Was there a team leader? What was your role? Did you ever want to give up? If you just keep trying different combinations, you are bound to get the answer eventually! What was your favorite part of the activity? How did the hints help you? What was the best hint that made you think… “AHA!”? And any other questions you can think of…

Hints List for Students:
• There are 6 puzzles to solve.
• Every puzzle makes the same shape.
• There are 4 puzzle pieces in each puzzle.
• Each individual puzzle has all the same colored pieces. Try sorting by color.
• The numbers 1-4 appear ONLY ONCE in each puzzle.
• All puzzles are congruent (the same size).
• The numbers all face the same direction when the puzzle is solved. Try arranging all the pieces so that you can read all the #s.
• All of the puzzles make a square.
• 4 of the puzzles have of 3 triangles and a 1 quadrilateral.
• 2 of the puzzles have 3 quadrilaterals and 1 triangle.
• And any other hints you can think of…

*Note: it is very important to give the students hints so that they don’t get frustrated and give up.


Integer Operations Puzzles


Integer Operations Triangle Puzzles

• 4 Puzzles
• 60 pieces
• 64 match ups

Do you want to see a preview? Check out the listings for each puzzle in this pack:
•  Adding Integers Triangle Puzzle
•  Subtracting Integers Triangle Puzzle
•  Multiplying Integers Triangle Puzzle
•  Dividing Integers Triangle Puzzle

How can you use this activity?:
• Independent Practice
• Group Work
• Homework
• Assessment
• Review

Specific Ways to Use The Puzzles:
Option 1: Use a puzzle to mix things up! Print the complete puzzle mix up page, and the complete puzzle worksheet. Then, have students complete the puzzle, glue it on the worksheet, and turn is as an assignment. If you have any students that don’t want to they can write all the problems one notebook paper and solve them. Later, you can display these assignments.
Option 2: Print, cut out, and laminate the bigger puzzle pieces. Then, store in plastic baggies. Distribute to students in groups to solve the puzzle. See who can solve it the quickest! Keep all 4 puzzles on standby!

How to solve the puzzle:
• Solve each expression to find the answer.
• Match up expressions with their correct answer.
• When matches are found, place the puzzle pieces and work on the next part.
• Make sure that all shared lines represent the same number.
• Once everything matches up, you are done! Congrats!
• Glue puzzle pieces on worksheet (if you are using the worksheet).


Want to read about and download some more back to school resources?

First Week of School Ideas and Resources Part 1

First Week of School Ideas and Resources Part 2