Why I Use PowerPoint to Teach Middle School Math

Nowadays, one of the major components of many teacher evaluations – including mine – is student engagement. Especially as a new teacher, I struggled with what felt like a game of “Whack-A-Mole” – getting student A on task only to find student B across the room is flinging paper at the student in the next seat. It was a never-ending cycle that left me exhausted. No matter what I did, I couldn’t figure out a way to get every student on task, doing what I needed them (and what they needed) to be doing.

why teach PPT whackamole

It took me a while to figure out that there were two major reasons why my students weren’t always on task. And no, it wasn’t that my lessons themselves weren’t “engaging,” although, as a new teacher, that actually was part of it, but not the central part. I know this to be true because as I progressed in my teaching career, I learned how to make much more engaging lessons, but unless I employed the tactics I’m about to explain, I wound up with the same problems.

The two reasons my students weren’t always on task were

1) they didn’t know what to do/didn’t have something to do

and

2) they couldn’t do what they were supposed to be doing.

Many of my students were off task because they didn’t know what to or have something to do. I had way too much downtime in my lessons. The students who were mature were able to sit and wait until the next component – which, admittedly, wasn’t long. It wasn’t like I had 5 or 10 minutes of dead time, but any teacher can tell you that even just 10 seconds of space is enough to derail a student who is either immature or not self-directed.

Students goofing off in classroom

Students goofing off in classroom — Image by © Sean De Burca/Corbis

So, what’s a girl to do? I abhorred the idea of busy work – I still do. Whatever I had for my students to do, it had to be authentic and worthwhile. It was a long time ago, so I don’t remember the flash of lightning that hit me for the inspiration, but at some point, I decided to try PowerPoint lessons. I put together all the vocabulary, notes, examples, and practice problems for a concept into a slide show and required my students to take these notes for a grade.

why teach PPT projected slide

Do you know what it’s like to hear the angels of heaven sing?

why teach PPT angels sing

I suppose it sounds like different things to different people, but that day it was the sound of silence. It was my whole class on task. Seriously. Every single student. And I know that most teachers will confirm that novelty and/or gimmicks may solve a problem in the short term, but give it about two weeks and things often go back to the way they were.

why teach PPT wait_for_it

That didn’t happen. I used PowerPoints with the same success regarding engagement and on-task behavior throughout the rest of not that year, but subsequent years. This is because PowerPoints give students clear and consistent expectations of what they are supposed to be doing, and provides enough information on each slide to keep students engaged if they finish one definition or problem before other students.

The other reason my students were off task was because I was expecting them to do things they couldn’t. Many of my students – like so many in our country – were performing below grade level. When I was putting up one problem at a time and asking students to work on it, the ones who couldn’t do it were off task. Once I changed to PowerPoint lessons, though, this problem was eliminated. Instead of one or two problems at a time, I was able to have several – sometimes up to ten different problems on a slide! I was able to have different levels of problems so that everyone was able to do what I wanted them to do. Additionally, the other slides alleviated this problem because everyone can write down information from a slide. This may not seem worthwhile, but I made sure my students knew two important things about this: 1) this was building notetaking skills, where were vital for their future in education, and 2) these notes were graded, so even if they didn’t fully understand the lesson, just by writing down the information on the slides, they could earn a grade that would help them overall.

why teach PPT important

And guess what? This all had an unexpected side effect: because these low-performing students now knew what they had to do/had something to do AND could do it, they actually began to improve their understanding and comprehension.

why teach PPT whaaat

If you’ve never tried using a PowerPoint in your middle school math classroom but you’d like to, I’d encourage you to check out some ready-made lessons that are Common Core-aligned. These are my most popular and best-selling lessons:

Independent vs. Dependent Variables

Ratios and Proportions

Integers and Absolute Value

Why I Decided to Teach Certain Math Skills in My English Classes

As the third quarter comes to an end for many schools, I wanted to take the time to share why I, as an English teacher, spent time showing my students a very specific math skill: calculating GPA. I did this when I was teaching 9th & 10th grade English, although I also did a modified version of it this year with my 7th grade math students. However, middle school transcripts aren’t as focused on GPA – at least not in my district – so it depends on your circumstances whether or not you’d want to do this as a middle school teacher.

GPA

As a non-math content area teacher, I had to really weigh the pros and cons of taking an entire class period to go over a math skill. All our curriculums are over-packed. We don’t have days to “waste.” Was I ready to give up a day of curriculum to teach a skill that wasn’t directly related to my own curriculum and standards? Well, honestly, the first time I did this, I hadn’t intended to take an entire class period. My goal was to put up the grade calculation chart to show my students how their 3 grades (quarter 3, quarter 4, and final exam) worked together to get their final semester grade. That was only supposed to take maybe 10-15 minutes. I knew I could spare that. I knew I had to. But, as the conversation took a turn to GPA and how that is calculated and how “bad” one grade can be for a GPA, it didn’t take long to figure out that my students had zero idea how to calculate their own GPA.

deer in headlights

This was a serious problem since I worked with freshman. Those of you who work with underclassmen are well aware of the thought process these students have. So many of them don’t think their grades matter. They don’t realize the damage a bad grade in 9th or 10th grade can do to a GPA. They don’t understand that they will spend the rest of their high school career fighting to repair a GPA that has been devastated by a “C” or, heaven forbid, a “D.” Let’s not even talk about the “F”s. When I tried to quickly explain the GPA calculations, my students immediately took an interest. They demanded I slow down so they could take notes. Seriously, I had students who rarely paid any attention to a single word I said and when I started talking about their GPA they were like, “Woah, woah, woah, Miss! Slow down!” They cared about this. What shocked me was not so much that my students didn’t know how a GPA was calculated – after all, it would be unlikely that they would have learned that in middle school, given the emphasis (or lack thereof) placed on GPAs in middle school – it was that their math teachers hadn’t taught them this when they started high school.

GPA 2

I realize now that I shouldn’t have been surprised. As teachers, we assume a heck of a lot of knowledge for our students. We assume they just know things because we know them. We forget how we learned. It doesn’t occur to us to teach things we ourselves know and/or expect our students to know. And I’m not talking about curriculum concepts, I’m talking about this type of stuff: GPA calculation, test-taking techniques , how to bubble a freaking Scantron sheet correctly. So I taught them how to calculate their GPA. The first time, I had to fly by the seat of my pants. I had to guess how much our district weighted honors and AP classes. I let them know that my assumptions could be wrong and they should do their own research to figure out how their specific class load would work out. But the next time, I was prepared. I did my research and found the district’s weighting system and how GPA was calculated. I budgeted a full class period for it, and it paid off. And my students were enthralled and thankful. It honestly changed a lot of perspectives. I know a lot of my students changed their attitudes towards their effort in classes because of this lesson. I know because they told me themselves. I saw some students improve their efforts in my class, and I know other teachers saw improvements in theirs. They might not have known why, but the improvements were there.

GPA 3

You might think that the kids who cared were only the college-bound ones. The kids who knew they had no shot might not care about anything except graduating. Why bother with trying to get “A”s and “B”s when all you need is a 2.0 to graduate? Or maybe they were planning to drop out; why should they care about a GPA as a freshman when they knew in just 2 years they’d be out of school anyway? Well, what I’ve noticed is that students who think they can’t control something often become apathetic towards it. If a student thinks a GPA is some sort of magical number over which they have no control and no influence, they have no reason to devote any time or energy towards caring about it. But, if you show a student – any student – that THEY control this GPA, it changes a lot. Really, this is true about many things for students. They don’t have a lot of control over things. Give them a little bit of control and it empowers them. It engages them. And that’s what this lesson did for my students – all of them, even the low-performing, unmotivated ones. It gave them the knowledge that THEY controlled their GPA. And that changed everything.

GPA 4

Basic Math Operations Posters

I have found throughout my years of teaching that my students have trouble translating word problems into something workable. I have given them notes and even handouts with reminders about what various words mean, but when the time comes, most of them have misplaced anything they might need. To combat this, I created some simple posters for my room and my students. These posters have common words that indicate the four different basic operations. By hanging these around my room, I can ensure that my students have access to these as they are working real-life situational problems. It helps them decode the problems. Also, I’ve been working on my ELA resources so hard and I wanted to create something for all my math followers!

basic math operations posters

Take a closer look here.

Summer BOGO #3!

Have you been waiting to see what my newest summer BOGO will be? Well, the wait is over! For this week (from today through Saturday, 6/20/15), I have decided to offer a project BOGO. If you purchase my best-selling and highly-rated Probability Project, you will receive my Scale Model of the Solar System Project for free!

June BOGO 3

Both these projects are fabulous ways to assess your students’ understanding in a hands-on, authentic way. In the Probability Project (which is designed to take place at the END of a probability unit of study), students create their own carnival-style games, predict outcomes, play the games, record data, and analyze the data they’ve collected.

prob proj cover

In the Solar System Project (which is designed to take place at the END of a unit teaching scale and scientific notation), students research the planet sizes and distances from the sun in our solar system. Then, they create a scale model of the solar system and discuss (through writing) their processes.

scale model solar system

My students LOVED both of these projects, and I’m sure yours will, too. They are aligned to CCSS (Math), but would apply to any state’s standards regarding probability, scale, and scientific notation.

Depending on your standards and curriculum, these projects would be appropriate for students in grades 6-9.

I hope you’re having a great summer!

Follow this link to the BOGO offer!

Summer BOGO!

Part 3 of my assessment series will be posted soon, don’t worry.

Right now, though, I’m excited to announce that I am having a BOGO on one of my most popular and best-rated products!

From now through Saturday (6/6/15), if you purchase my Independent vs. Dependent Variables 6th grade Math PowerPoint lesson, you’ll get the 6th grade math PowerPoint: Identifying Patterns and Writing Algebraic Equations for FREE! Both these lessons are Common Core Aligned with the Expressions and Equations strand. Both of them are very highly rated!

math bogo 1

Why not stock up now for next year?

You can also get an editable version of these lessons for free if you contact me for details!

Research has consistently shown that PowerPoints have a positive impact on teaching and learning in the classroom. They help keep teachers organized, focus, and on pace during a lesson. They capture students’ attention, improve focus and engagement, and help note-taking skills.  PowerPoint is also an easy way to integrate technology into your lessons, which is recognized to be an attribute of highly effective teachers.

So do yourself a favor: take advantage of this BOGO and be ready for next year!

Summer BOGO offer

Be a Convert!

As a middle school math teacher, there never seemed to be an end to the things my students could not do when they came to me. For instance: I thought that a 7th grader would be able to efficiently subtract double and triple-digit numbers. Wrong. I thought that an 8th grader would be able to at least make an educated guess when taking a multiple choice quiz. Wrong.

Side note story:

My first and second years teaching 7th grade pre-Algebra followed a very strict (flexible when necessary, though) schedule where Monday and Tuesday were direct instruction, Wednesday and Thursday were student practice, and Friday was assessment (short, 10-question quiz, and then re-teaching when necessary). So I knew that not all my students would get 100’s on their quizzes, but I did expect them to at least try. Or use common sense. I swear to you, I got responses back like:

Solve: ½ + ¾

  1. 4/6
  2. 5/4
  3. 3/8
  4. 1

Student answer: “No”.

No joke. I think one time I even got the answer “blue.”

I had to find a better way. I had to give them what they needed. So I started making PowerPoint lessons. One that worked really well for them was on converting among fractions, decimals, and percents. In the 3 years I taught math, I found that my students needed, at the least, a refresher on this concept, and at the most, a full-blown lesson with direct instruction on it. My PowerPoint could serve in both capacities. I found that my PowerPoint lessons engaged my struggling students because it was visual and it was structured. It kept them focused, it kept them engaged, it taught note-taking skills, and it presented a document I could easily turn into a grade (through a notebook check or something similar). Yes, it took time on the front end to create, but it solved so many problems that it was well worth it.

Do you have students who need help with converting among fractions, decimals, and percents? Check out my PowerPoint lesson!

converting fractions decimals percents

Happy Pi Day!

pi day sale

Tomorrow is Pi Day, and it’s time to celebrate! I will be throwing a Pi Day sale and all my math products will be 15% off! It’s the perfect time to pick up a PowerPoint or a project! I hope you’ll stop by! Here are all the products that are on sale (by category):

CCSS-aligned 3rd grade PowerPoints:

Basic area & perimeter

Bar graphs

Recognizing and drawing polygons

Estimation basics

CCSS-aligned 4th grade PowerPoints:

Basic area & perimeter

Estimation basics

CCSS-aligned 5th grade PowerPoints:

Line graphs & scatterplots

Order of operations & inverse operations

Recognizing & drawing polygons

Estimation basics

CCSS-aligned 6th grade PowerPoint Lessons:

Number Systems:

Adding & subtracting decimals

Multiplying decimals

Dividing decimals

Dividing fractions by fractions

Greatest common factor

Least common multiple

Integers and absolute value

Long division

Ordering & comparing integers

The entire Number Systems bundle

Expressions & Equations:

Equivalent expressions

Evaluating exponents

Identifying patterns & writing algebraic expressions & equations

Independent vs. dependent variables

Reading, writing, & evaluating algebraic expressions

Solving 1-step variable equations by addition & subtraction

Solving 1-step variable equations by multiplication & division

The entire Expressions & Equations bundle

Geometry:

Measuring length, area, & volume

Ratios & Proportions:

Ratios & proportional relationships – calculating unit rates

Ratios & proportions

Statistics:

Finding measures of central tendency

The entire 6th grade bundle

CCSS-aligned 7th grade PowerPoints:

The Number System:

Adding integers

Subtracting integers (Brand New!!!)

Multiplying and dividing integers

Expressions & Equations:

Solving 2-step, 1-variable equations

Ratios & Proportions:

Ratios & proportional relationships – proportional relationships

Statistics & Probability:

Creating & using tree diagrams

Probability basics: a PowerPoint lesson

CCSS-aligned 8th grade PowerPoints:

Expressions & Equations:

Integer exponents

Perfect squares and cubes

Functions:

Introducing functions

Geometry:

Angle relationships

Pythagorean Theorem

Similarity & congruence

Volume

The entire 8th grade Geometry bundle

Statistics & Probability:

Direct & indirect relationships

Rational & irrational numbers

Non-CCSS-aligned PowerPoints:

Circle graphs

Measuring length, area, & volume

Stem & leaf diagrams & line plots

Precision vs. accuracy

Statistics bundle

Basic standard deviation, distribution curves, and statistics

Double bar graphs & horizontal bar graphs

Finding percents of numbers

Basic Geometry review bundle

Converting among fractions, decimals, & percents

Recognizing polyhedrons & parts

Extending algebraic patterns

Qualitative vs. quantitative data

Projects:

Geometry in nature scavenger hunt

Probability activities, lessons, & project bundle

Stock market project

Scale model of the solar system project

Theoretical & experimental probability project

Algebra I products:

Fun puzzles for Algebra I

Other:

Math worksheets

Teachers are Heroes!

It’s true, teachers really are heroes! Teachers are leaders, nurses, parents, psychologists, social workers, friends, confidants, and so much more. If you’ve been waiting for the perfect time to check out Teachers Pay Teachers, it has arrived! Today (only for a few more hours!) everything on the site – in every single store! – is at least 10% off! My store has everything 28% off! That’s right! If you’ve been eyeing that perfect lesson, activity, or resource, now is the time to stop by and stock up! There probably won’t be another sale until my birthday (that’s all the way in April, people!), so get test prep, Common Core and LAFS resources, math lessons, writing resources, reading activities, and so much more! And don’t forget, there’s a TON of free stuff on the site, too – not just my store, but hundreds – thousands (literally, there are over 70K stores on TpT!) – of stores with something for everyone. So no matter what or you teach – in a classroom K-12, early childhood, college, or even homeschool, there is something for you! Head on over and check it out!

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Get your teaching resources while the getting is good!

Testing Season!

It’s that time of year – testing season is upon us. I know that in Florida, the season starts with the Writing assessment and then moves on to the state Reading and Math assessments, and then finally the End of Course assessments and semester exams. With so many states (Florida included) tying teacher pay to student performance on standardized tests, it’s to every teacher’s advantage to make sure their students perform at the highest level on these spring assessments.

I happen to be an exceptionally good test taker. I’m not sure how that came about – I don’t remember anyone sitting down and teaching me about test-taking. I know I bought the common AP study guides and ACT/SAT prep materials, so I suppose I learned lots of it there, but even as a young child in elementary and middle school, I just seemed to have a knack for test-taking. I guess that’s why I like my current job so much (testing coordinator for a large school district – I work on all the district exams). Anyway, if I’m a GOOD test taker and I don’t know how I got there, then it should come as little surprise that POOR test takers don’t have any idea how to improve. And I would say that more students than not are in the category of at least “not good,” if not “poor” test takers. There are many reasons that students do not perform to their highest ability on standardized tests. Among these are test anxiety and just not understanding basic test-taking strategies. Basic test-taking strategies are not instinctual. In fact, many basic test-taking strategies go against instinct. The point is, they must be TAUGHT. This is why companies make millions of dollars offering test-prep courses and publishing test-prep materials. But why not make these basic strategies available to ALL your students, especially those who cannot afford professional prep?

Enter my standardized testing preparation kit. This kit has 12 printable classroom mini-posters of basic multiple choice/standardized test-taking strategies, along with how to instruct students in these strategies. It also includes a study guide for students, applicable for all types of assessments! I used this every year as part of what I termed my “bubble boot camp” and had incredible success. I had students (multiple ones, every year) jump up 2 achievement levels simply by implementing these basic test-taking strategies. This kit will not only benefit students in your classes, but will help them in other areas, too. It is applicable for students at ANY level and in ANY subject. I know February may seem like a bit early to be talking about the state tests, but they are right around the corner, and if you start now, you can get through all 12 tips in time for students to internalize them and apply them on all the tests they will be taking this spring.

This kit will be MOST beneficial to your low-achieving or under-achieving students – those “bottom quartile” kids who shut down after the first question and “Christmas tree” the entire test. However, this will also benefit your high-achieving students by giving them tools to slow down and check their work, increasing their performance as well. This truly is a must-have resource for every teacher. You owe it to your students to give them a basic crash-course in test prep. And I know – I KNOW – what you’re thinking! My students already know this stuff, I teach juniors (or seniors!) and they’ve been testing since they were in first grade! Surely they know this stuff! But they don’t. THEY DON’T. I’m telling you, I had seniors who couldn’t bubble correctly to save their lives. I had secondary students who honestly – HONESTLY – did not know they had to put their answers on the Scantron answer sheet and just marked them in their booklet. I swear to you, the tips and strategies in this kit are things that you THINK students know – that they SHOULD know – but they don’t. Not all of them. I promise you that if you have never done a basic test-taking strategies instruction workshop with your students, they will benefit from this. My students did.

test prep kit

Give your students their best chance!

Teaching with Power Point in the Middle School Math Classroom

First of all, I want to apologize for being a little lax with my posting. My day job has been especially hectic for the past month or so and it has just been really difficult to find time to write an entry and get it up on time. So I’m sorry for that. I’ve also done quite a few entries highlighting ELA topics, so this week, I’ve decided to focus on math.

When I first began teaching, I started as a middle school math teacher. My first two years were as a 7th grade pre-Algebra and 8th grade Algebra I Honors teacher. I found that my students did not have the first clue about how to take notes, and it was very difficult to get them to stay on task and listen to what I was saying. I found this more problematic with my “regular” pre-Algebra 7th grade students. I also was involved in a lot of outside-the-classroom activities like district assessment panels, professional development, etc., and I missed a LOT of school. I had a LOT of substitutes. I had to overcome the challenges I was facing.

I found the answer to this through Power Point lessons. I created Power Point lessons for various topics we were studying, and began teaching with them. It was like a miracle had happened in my classroom. Students began taking notes (pretty decent ones, really – the Power Points actually taught them note-taking skills), they began sitting and listening, and it was easy for the subs because all they had to do was play the Power Point and walk the kids through the lesson. Of course, I answered questions when I got back and assessed their understanding, but usually the re-teaching and clarification needed was minimal.

I was SO happy with the success of my Power Points in my 7th grade class, that I began using them the next year with my special 8th grade students who had taken Algebra I as 7th graders and didn’t have any other math classes to take. Our middle school didn’t offer Geometry and there were no high schools close enough to bus them to take the course there, so I told my administration I’d create a curriculum for them that taught/dealt with lots of advanced math topics and would prepare them for Geometry. It was really cool. We did a lot of Geometry prep work (you know, the fun stuff like postulates and theorems!) but we also did some advanced (for 8th graders) Statistics work like standard deviation. There were only 6 of them and it was probably the most fun I’ve ever had teaching. Anyway, I started using Power Point lessons with them as well, and they worked very nicely.

I have since become much more familiar with the PPT software and have updated my old PPT lessons and created new ones. The majority of my lessons are now (with the new CCSS) aligned with 6th grade topics, but I do have PPT lessons aligned with other grades’ standards. Additionally, the lessons that are now “6th grade” could certainly be used with other grade levels either for remediation or enrichment. I have so many of these PPT lessons that I have bundled them by standard. I have a set of 6th grade PPT lessons that are all aligned to the Number System standards.

Another great benefit of these lessons is that it is a way to incorporate technology into lessons. Many teachers find it difficult to use lots of the new technology, but on most new teacher evaluations, the use of technology is a component of being rated an “outstanding” (or some high-level) instructor. PPT is a very easy technology to use: all my lessons require no knowledge of the software other than how to open the file and use the arrow keys or mouse (or remote clicker, if you have one) to advance the slides or go backwards. In this bundle there are ten lessons:

  • Adding and subtracting decimals
  • Multiplying decimals
  • Dividing decimals
  • Greatest common factor
  • Least common multiple
  • Dividing fractions by fractions
  • Long division
  • Ordering integers
  • Integers and absolute value
  • Inverse numbers and operations

Each lesson follows an “I do,” “We do,” “You do” model. There is instruction/examples, guided practice, and independent practice in each lesson. There are visual examples and whenever possible, I try to use “real-life” examples. If you are working on any of these concepts this semester, this bundle may be for you! All of these lessons are available separately, but you save some money by buying the bundle.

If you don’t teach 6th grade or if these concepts aren’t being covered this semester, don’t worry! I have over 60 math products for grades ranging from 3rd to 9th! Power Points aren’t the only thing I do, either, so if they aren’t your cup of tea, there’re lots of other things you could check out!

2015 Mad Eye Moody Productions 6th grade number systems bundle

Check out the bundle!