Some holiday math and writing fun!

Merry Christmas to all the followers of my blog! Want a FREEBIE to keep you sane this last week before Winter Break? Then keep reading!

Okay….it’s the last week before Christmas break…so here’s a quick post with a few ideas for things to do to keep the kids busy and NOT driving you crazy!

c02ac1cc454831b0c10dd30f3456cfa7The first idea is based on something I did in my classroom days…and it was a HUGE hit! This was in the 90s before technology came to the classroom, so I used to copy off catalog pages of potential holiday gifts for friends and family. I would hand out a sheet to the kids for listing gifts and prices, then show the items on the overhead projector (yes – I said overhead projector; that’s how old I am LOL!).  I would use this “fantasy” shopping excursion to help the students practice math computation skills. I can’t remember exactly what I did, but I know that there was a competition to see who could spend the most and the least!

A8F2BD1F-42DF-431D-9BFE-88C40EED1D2BNow that I’m tutoring, I wanted to try the same idea with my students but updated with technology. I created three sheets for fantasy shopping…one for multiplication/addition, one for a division and one for subtraction.  Armed with both catalogs I had received in the mail, as well as websites (Amazon, Target, Wal-Mart, etc.), I had the students choose WHO they wanted to shop for…it could be friends or family, or both! On the sheet, they had to list the cost, and then do the computation based on the topic. Then, taking it a step further, I had them create a presentation with a photo of the item, the cost, and their grand total/budget. The students are either taking a photo of the item in the catalog or finding it online and doing a screenshot, then adding to their Google Doc or Slide. Click HERE to see a sample presentation!

Screen Shot 2018-12-17 at 7.57.19 PMFor my students not working on math skills with me, I created a few literacy activities to use with the fantasy gift shopping, including responding to a prompt about what gifts they would give to friends and family if money was not an issue, as well as persuasive and descriptive writing ideas. For my student just today, I brought my catalogs so he could pick out some “gifts: for his family.  Tomorrow I plan to have my 7th-grade student do writing about some very “unique” gifts using her vocabulary words from her vocabulary word wall on Padlet (see photo below.) Check out her work HERE! 

Padlet Vocabulary.png

My Fantasy Holiday Gift Shopping activities are currently for sale in my TpT store, but I wanted to thank all of you for following my blog by offering you a free copy for just 24 hours! Click HERE for your copy! Best of luck surviving the week and have a restful, peaceful and relaxing Winter Break! You deserve it!




Writing in Math

How often do you have students write in math? How often do you have them explain in writing how they solved a problem?

If you had asked me 15 years ago when I was in my 5th/6th classroom, my answer would have been…uh, not very often. But I’ve grown older and wiser over the years and I now see the importance and necessity of having your students write in math! While working with GT students recently, I had them explain in writing how they solved their math challenges, and I have carried on doing this with my tutoring students.  So buckle up and get ready to learn or review several ways you can use writing in math!

Screen Shot 2018-10-02 at 2.55.39 PMMath Exemplars

I love these, and have used them in my classroom, with GT students, and with tutoring students!  It is the perfect combination of math problem solving, critical thinking, reading, and writing!  The website has them for grades K-8, but you can use them for RtI or GT work, just go down or up a level.

When using these, I modeled and discussed HOW to read them. I basically wanted them to use Close Reading and really interact with the text.  I had them highlight what they felt was important for solving, and what they were being asked to figure out. This is important because often in the solving of word problems, students just look at the numbers and start using algorithms. I had to constantly take them back to what they had to find out and solve, and make sure they understood this. After they had solved the problem (or even not solved it!), they had to explain in writing (they could add pictures too) the process they used to solve it. Even my GT students had trouble with this so I could tell it this was something they had not been asked to do very often.  In fact, every student has such struggles with this, that I finally created templates for them to use, one for primary students, and one for intermediate students.  The next year, before I even had my students attempt to explain in writing, I used Educreations to record their explanation verbally, as well as their pictures on how they solved it. That proved to be a perfect stepping stone before moving them into the writing. Check out one of the 2nd-grade students’ videos explaining how they solved a problem from a past Noetic Math Contest.


Check out the progression of one of my tutoring student’s mah problem-solving explanations over a year’s time.  The first one was when he was in early third grade.


The next is from a recent Exemplar’s work: He is much more clear explaining and using his algorithms to explain how he solved this. Also, notice the close reading marks in the Exemplar text.


Math Roll-a-Word Problem Stories

TPT Brayden's Roll-a-Math-Word Problem

I had briefly mentioned these in a previous blog but would like to expand on them more as I think they are the perfect way to get kids not only doing some fun creative writing but using their math skills to solve problems, then explain in writing how they solved them.  The idea came from the popular roll-a-stories I had seen on Pinterest; I had tried them a few times with another tutoring student. Then during a tutoring session right before Christmas, I used a holiday-themed roll-a-story with the same student whose work is pictured above (A New Paint Set). We had been working on word problems for several weeks as he had shown that he was competent at math computation, but give him a word problem, he would not read it carefully and just go straight for the numbers, assuming he knew what to do. So after we had done our fun holiday roll-a-story, he said, “Why don’t we use a roll-a-word problem?  Voila…the idea was off and running, and I created one sheet to offer as a free product on Teachers Pay Teachers; has become my most popular product! (I’m a TpT newbie so don’t have many products yet!) Over the next several months he did several of these, and not only did his math skills at solving word problems improve, so did his writing skills!  Below are samples of the stories and word problems he created and the explanation on how he solved the math problem (the F-  on one of them did NOT come from me, it was part of his story 🙂


This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Screen Shot 2018-10-01 at 8.09.19 PMAfter we created a summer themed roll-a-word problem sheet, I came up with the idea of creating some for every seasons and holiday during the year! The result is my new  Teachers Pay Teachers product…Year-Round Math Roll-a-Problem Story sheets!

Included in the product are sheets for New Year’s, Winter, Spring, St. Patrick’s Day, End of School Year, Summer, 4th of July, Back to School, Autumn, Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. Within many of the sheets are links to people and places for your students to learn more about before writing their story.  In addition, there is a blank sheet for you and your students to customize however you want. You will also receive a link to all of the sheets in Google Drive so you can make copies of them all and then revise and personalize as you wish!

Click here for the Year-Round Math Roll-a-Word Problem Story product!

If you use the roll-a-word story problem idea, send me samples of what your students create!