Scavenger Egg Hunt: Equivalent Expressions

Teaching is a blast because nothing is the same.  Sure, I teach the same standards each year and often use similar lessons and activities.  But each group is so different that it makes each day a blast!  The munchkins this year are in need of some extra practice for equivalent expressions.  We've moved on from an intense focus, but I REFUSE to let their hard work slip away into forgetful oblivion.  So, we're having an Easter Egg Hunt.  Because we can.  And because DEEEEEEEP down in a "cool" 6th grader's heart is a love for all things fun and all things holiday.  They're just taller kids. 

Anyway, I made this snazzy guy and I am PUMPED to bust it next week as we gear up for spring break.  #ineedallofthefocusicanget  I figure the kids are wild anyway, so why not take advantage and send them outside to do math.  I may even put a few Starburst Jelly Beans in them as well.  If I don't eat the bag, first!

I'm using this product I made which can be purchased in my store, here.  (PS - If you're not an egg/Easter person, don't worry.  It can be used for anytime of the year!)

I have 28 kiddos, so I'm going to make 4 groups of 6-7 (depending on how many kids are absent - a lot of families start vacation early......)  but I'm also going to put a few equivalent expressions in eggs that don't match anyone's expressions because I think it's also important to say, "Hey!  This one isn't equivalent at all!" vs. just finding a way it CAN be equivalent. 
Keep your "base" expressions (the part with the number) for a souvenir.  (this page doubles as the answer they're there for reference)
Everyone in the group needs the response sheet.  There is a space for each equivalent expression! 
Send them outside to get out the energy, find eggs, AND do math.  It's a win-win-win.
PS - I make a rule that they have to stay at the egg to figure out if it's equivalent or not.  They can only keep the egg if it is, otherwise they put the paper back and leave it alone.  I let them take their whiteboards out, too, for a space to solve.
For your answer key, print 6-to-a-page in the "multiple" section of your print options.  This allows you to have ONE sheet with all of the answers.
Happy hunting!

Have Courage & Be Kind

There are tons of things that are hard about being a teacher.   The hardest, in my opinion, is seeing our students hurt.  Sometimes we can help them feel better, and sometimes there are things happening in their lives that are out of our control.  And it breaks my heart into a million little pieces.  If my students learn but one thing from me in the 180 days I have to make a difference in their valuable lives, I hope they learn this: HAVE COURAGE AND BE KIND.  Yes, more than math, writing, science, art, history, P.E. and even more than passing the end of year test.  Students are people, and people are more important than any of those things.  
We could all use a little (or a lot) more of this in our world.  You are making a difference.  Every day.  Even if it feels hopeless, you are making a difference.  Your kind words travel an extended distance.  You are enough!  You are terrific!  You are valued!  You are important.  You are appreciated.  So hang in there!  You've got this!

Drawing Expressions

I seriously L.O.V.E. algebra.  Every little thing about it!  I love teaching it, I love solving it, I just love, love, love it.  *cue Beatles music....

As a teacher I have come to realize that not all students come through my door with the same sentiment towards algebra.  Thus, I have a personal mission to make sure they leave through my door with a love (or at least some mutual respect!  Ha!)

Algebra can get a little tricky when you start to mix variables in, so I created this to help my students visualize what is going on with the distributive property and the variables.  Sometimes when they distribute, they forget about the variable and they just add or multiply the coefficients.  Those variables feel sad! 

I laminate these for student use, but the document camera gets a nasty glare when I try to project laminated things, so this one is just written right on there as an example. 

Color coding! It's a life saver.  My visual students really latch on to this, and it also helps to get the idea of terms across.  Later, when we combine like-terms, we will bring the colors back!  I also like to keep all math symbols in one color.  This also helps break up the terms, and it seems to help the math symbols & operations stick around....they tend to get lost on some problems...

I hope this little idea helps!  You can find this in my TPT store!

Winter Blues Buster

I love winter.  LOVE it!  I do not, however, love indoor recess.  I think it's safe to say that every teacher loathes the intercom announcement that no one will step outside.  My second year of teaching, we had three weeks of indoor recess.  THREE WEEKS!  I'm surprised we all made it alive to February.  Growing up my teachers would just put a video in the VCR.  The first few days I thought, "Yeah, I'll do that, too."  But after about 2 days of that, I was pretty much over it.  I needed the kids to be doing SOMETHING.  Some teachers are golden and can get their kids to just play math games all recess, but my math block is the 90 minutes before recess, and it just didn't really fly with my "tween" crowd.  So, I've collected over the years, and with the snow coming down harder by the minute as I look outside, I am prepared for that intercom.  BRING IT!

Scattergories - Best game ever.  It's a quick set up/take down and can be played for as long or short as you like.  I like to play the game as a class first, and then set the kids free because the "challenge" process can get a little brutal without some guidance.  This game has been officially banned in my family because my siblings and I can't leave the game as friends.  Ha! 
Story Cubes - One of the teachers on my team gave me this the year I taught her son.  I love this game!  I use it in my writing centers, too, but the kids like to play it without actually having to write.  They just love the elaborate stories they can come up with!  Super easy to set up and clean up.  #win

 Set - This one definitely takes practice, but it is one of those fun card games that works the mind.  This is a great way for me to sneak in mathematical thinking and critical thinking without the protest.  In fact, my class thinks it's fun. 

Scrabble SLAM! - My first year of teaching the shyest, quietest girl in my class brought this game in during a cold week and asked if I would play it with her during an indoor recess.  She beat me by a landslide.  This game is great for young and old alike!

Dollar Tree Card Games - I picked both of these games up at Christmas from Dollar Tree.  I'm sure they have stuff like this for holidays all of the time, so stop by and see what they have!  For a buck, you can't lose.

Suspend - STEM practice in a cylinder.  Y'all, this game is a blast.  I play it with my husband and brother-in-law, and we all love it!  Be prepared for cheers and gasps throughout the game play, so if you're looking for silence, I wouldn't bring this guy out.  :)

Dominoes - These are "mini" dominoes that I bought at Dollar Tree a few years back.  I bought about 10 sets for math, but they are a popular choice during indoor recess. 

Appletters - From the company of Banana Grams (quick confession, every time I spell "banana" I have to sing Gwen Stefani....maybe she should make more spelling songs for easily misspelled words because I am yet to get that one wrong!) comes this game!  It's pretty much the same.  Only it's in the shape of an Apple.  Ha!  Scrabble works, too, but I like that these are the size of my hand vs. a whole box and Scrabble requires a longer time commitment. 
What do you do when you're trapped inside all day?

Plug it In, Plug it In...

No, this isn't a post about Glade plug-ins...  (Though I do show a clip of that nifty jingle when we talk about "plugging in" the answer to check our work...and my students think I'm nuts and "old" because that commercial hasn't been around for a long time...ha!)


Algebra is hands down my favorite part of math.  I use it ALL.  OF.  THE.  TIME.  I write equations to figure out if I can beat my brother and his family to my parents' house based on how many stops they make and how fast they are's SO useful.  Getting that across to a bunch of 11 and 12 year olds takes more than just a nice speech, though. I'm sharing a few of my favorite things to do with my class to get them love-love-loving expressions & equations. 

To introduce variables I do this activity - and I FINALLY made a product and posted it in my store.  This just gets kids thinking about variables and what they mean - that they stand for something!

For each letter of the alphabet, there is a card with a variable.  For example, card B says, "B is bigger than a baboon."  They have to write B = a cruise ship (or whatever they pick) and they also have to PLUG IT BACK INTO THE ORIGINAL STATEMENT.  After teaching this for a few years, I've decided to get the plugging into their heads early.  So, their final statement is "A cruise ship is bigger than a baboon."  If they just say that B = cruise ship, it no longer makes sense in the original statement (Cruise ship is bigger than a baboon).  Why not throw a little grammatical practice in, too, am I right?  Poor kids. 
I love this activity especially because my class has to get up, move around, and talk to each other to find out information about each other.  Some of the statements say things like, "V wants to be a veterinarian." etc.  So they get to chat and they think they're totally getting out of math work.  My rule is that they can only use a person once on their paper.  That way they have to *gasp!* branch out from their BFFs. 

To practice evaluating expressions I created this gem: EQUATION INVASION!  The game requires the group to have a die!  A card is flipped and each person rolls the die as many times as there are variables.  This way not everyone has the same exact answer since they each roll for themselves.  Evaluate away!  If your answer is a multiple of 10, touch luck, Chuck.  You lose ALL OF YOUR POINTS!  (Invasion).  If it is not a multiple of 10, you get to add the answer you generated to your total points score.  I tell my class to keep each other honest because if your neighbor isn't being honest, they'll beat you.  Competitive, much?

This product differentiates in seconds - each card has the letter A, B, or C on it.  C is your most challenging card level. 
To differentiate WITHIN each letter, just change up your dice options!  I have a million different dice in my classroom.  If a student needs a change, just give them a different die!  I've learned that differentiation doesn't always mean writing three or four (or more!) different assessments and lessons.  There are some ways to make it really easy for myself!  #teacherwin!
For combining like terms, I use two things.  This activity from Middle School Math Madness.  It's great for your visual learners to color coordinate.  I also use this as a math center (also designed for quick differentiation) from my store here.
What are your favorite tips, tricks & products for algebra?