New Idea for Checking Homework: Math Journals

As the year is coming to an end, I’ve started thinking about how I want to organize next year. I am really trying to include more writing into my geometry curriculum. Screen Shot 2016-05-19 at 10.47.57 AM

I have decided that I am going to create a math journal for my students for each chapter. This journal will include:

  • Pre-assessment Essential Questions
  • Notesheets
  • Homework
  • Blank note sheets
  • End of chapter Essential Questions


During the chapter, I plan to check homework a few times a week. If students didn’t do their homework, I plan to mark the homework in red pen. If students didn’t do certain problems, I plan to circle the problem in red pen. This is the only recording I will do for homework the entire chapter.

At the end of the chapter, I plan to collect every math journal. Students must turn in a complete math journal. The homework that they did not do/finish must also be completed.

My idea is that  when I scroll through their math journals, I can easily see if they missed  a homework by looking for red-pen. If there is no red pen, they receive full credit for homework. If I see red-pen, but the problems were completed at a later date, they will receive a small deduction from their homework. If they did not complete the problems they missed, they will have a larger deduction taken from their chapter homework grade.

My idea is that this will encourage students to do their homework and make them accountable for doing homework they missed.  It also helps that all of their work will in one place.

Collecting the journals will also give me a chance to how my students have grown from the beginning to the end of the chapter. Looking at the pre-and post essential questions will help me easily see this growth.

The journal will also help keep my students organized. I’ve already started putting my first two unit journals together. A lot of my notes are done their PearDeck, but this journal gives me a chance to put in some guided notes and space for my students who like to take notes by hand.

I decided to break up the journals by chapter, so I’m not stuck with certain material all year. I just have to make the lessons for the unit a week before.

I’m looking for feedback, suggestions for this journaling and homework idea.  Has anyone tried math journals before? Do you think grading homework will be effective? All feedback is welcome 🙂




Volume of 3D Shapes with Play-Doh and Water

I love when my students are engaged and visually learning.  After Julie Reulbach told me about how she used Play-doh to create 3D shapes with her students, I decided to try it out. I had students work in groups of two to create 3D shapes.

Supplies per group:

  • One fun-sized Play-doh
  • Ruler
  • Plastic knife

Students were given the following instructions

  1. Create a square prism
  2.  Using your ruler, cut your shape into 1 cm pieces. Cut it away that all of your pieces are the same shape. Specify that you can only cut once to make the shape.
  3. Next, we discussed finding the area of one piece and then multiplying it by the number of pieces to find the volume. They realized that the number of pieces their prism was cut into was the “height”.

We repeated this with a triangular prism and cylinder. Students came up with the formula that volume= area base*height.

Next, I had students create a cone and asked them to cut it into identical shapes. They realized they couldn’t. I wish that I had 3D solids at this point in class (I got some later), but I did the next best think by showing them a video.

I first started out by asking if they thought a cone could relate to any of the other shapes we’ve talked about. A cylinder quickly became the winner because they both of circular bases. I then asked how much bigger did they think the cylinder was compared to the cone. After taking classroom bets we watched a video using corn kernels from a cylinder to fill up 3 cones. This helped us derive the equation for the volume of a cone.  We did this same thing for finding the formula for a pyramid.

This play-doh activity really helped my students visualize the formulas and understand that the height of the pyramid didn’t always go from top to bottom. We described the heigIMG_7787ht as the direction we’d slice the shape to create congruent shapes.

The next day, I did have 3D solids and set of stations around the room.

Station 1: Cone and Cylinders

Station 2: Triangular and Square Pyramids and their prisms.

Stations 3: Octagonal Pyramid and Octagonal Prism.

Station 4: Half Sphere and Cylinder

For stations 1-3, I had students first find the volume of the shapes algebraically. They then fill up the shapes with water and measured the volume of the water using graduated cylinders. They loved seeing their math match up (close enough). This also gave us a chance to talk about percent error (spilling water).

IMG_7791For station 3, I first had them fill up the half sphere with water and measured the water with the graduated cylinder. Next, they had to figure out how many half spheres it took to fill up their cylinder. The cylinder was the same height of the half sphere.

It was then up to the students to derive the formula for a half sphere, then a full sphere. The hardest part for them was making the connection that the height was also the radius.

I loved these water stations. Students got to visualize the formulas for the second time, they got to practice finding volume, and they got to derive the formula for a sphere.

After class, I asked my students if they would have liked doing the water activity on the first day. They told me they liked doing the water later in the lesson because they had a day to let the play-doh formulas sink in and they could reaffirm what they knew and discovered something new.

How Yoga has Influenced my Teaching


To say the least, teaching is exhausting. When I first started in August, I have never been so tired in my entire life. I was climbing into bed before 8 pm! I also started to feel my tension from work in my shoulders, neck, and hips. I typically don’t get stressed, but I could feel the tension taking over my body.

In November, I started taking hot yoga at Yoga One. I’ve practiced yoga a few times before, but my colleagues convinced me to start going with them at 6 am twice a week before heading in for the day. Soon I become a full on yogi practicing every day. My practice became more than a way to exercise but a way of life. Especially within the past month, I have realized how much my practice has affected my teaching.

Getting practice in at 6 am is killer. I am not a morning person, so this only ends up happening once or twice a week. However, when I am able to commit to practice in the morning I start my day energized, positive, and productive.  Starting your day on a good note is SO important for a teacher. I also realized I am more patient with my students when practicing in the morning.

Most days I do not make the 6 am practice and end up going after work. This time on my mat after work has turned some of my worst days completely around. We are taught to breath into the spots of our body where we hold tensionWhen we breathe out, our problems are supposed to go out with it. I know it sounds crazy, but I have learned to direct my breath to places of tension especially my shoulders. No matter how bad the day, I always leave my hour practice feeling better about a situation. This has helped me get rid of anger for a disrespectful student, the feeling of failure for a student I couldn’t help, and anger for a colleague who has views different from mine. The tension in my shoulders, neck and hips are also gone. It’s helped me realize that I shouldn’t take things personally and every day is a new start. It has become my release. 

Learning to breathe has also helped my patience in class. When teaching high schoolers, it is really easy to become frustrated. Once I learned how to control my breathing, I stopped becoming frustrated and created a more welcoming class environment.

Yoga has also helped me inspire and motivate my students. I am constantly listening to my teachers and trying to improve. Yoga teachers are constantly trying to motivate their classes, and a lot of what they say relates to teaching.

“Every practice is a different experience” This holds true in the classroom. No matter how bad the day, the next day is a brand new start. I use this in my teaching, but also to motivate my students. Every day they have a chance to succeed. It’s up to them what experience they take from class.

“Be satisfied with the effort you put in.”   I show up for my students 100% every day. I tell my students that it’s up to them  how much effort they want to exert in class. If they are satisfied with exerting 50% and earning a B then great. They take ownership of their decisions. The teacher can only push them so far and the rest is on them . No one wants to look back on their life and think “Things could have been different if…. ”

Yoga has become a huge benefit in my life. It has helped me find balance. It has helped my focus in work and interactions and has helped me see things through different points of views. It’s crazy how breathing and stretching and exerting energy can have such a positive impact. I highly recommend yoga for any teacher. Since practicing, I have seen a positive change in myself and in my classroom.