Make the Last Weeks of Math Productive and Fun!

A MiddleWeb Blog

Before we finished our final benchmark test, my plan for these last few weeks of school was to get caught up on my pacing guide and do some “serious” teaching.

Instead, we have had an academic signing day, a faculty basketball game, a talent show, and more! (Good activities, but not serious teaching!)

All these interruptions to *My Plan* started to really stress me out. I know the end of the school year is hectic – it was unrealistic to make such rigid plans. However, despite the interruptions, I still wanted to be productive and I wanted my students to continue learning.

It came to me eventually that I also want to enjoy the last few weeks I will have these students. So I decided to create a new plan that keeps my students learning, and helps all of us appreciate the final days of school together. Here is what I decided to do.

Try out some new “fun” things

Desmos – I have talked about Desmos (an online graphing calculator complete with lots of digital math activities) before. In the next few weeks I plan to try out some new activities, using my students as guinea pigs to help me pilot favorites for the upcoming school year.

Specifically I plan to do “Mini-Golf Marbleslides” which is an activity that helps students practice graphing coordinates within a carpet golf simulation. Even though I’m using this in Algebra 2 (mostly 11th graders), this would be great activity for middle school students or possibly even younger students.

If all goes well when I try it next week, I’m planning to use the mini-golf activity at the start of school next fall as a focusing activity for my new Algebra 2 students. It will be a good review for them and help get them acquainted with the Desmos platform.

MAP Formative Assessment Lessons – The FAL collection at the Mathematics Assessment Project includes 100 high quality tasks (ranging from 6th grade to high school). The tasks are designed to both help teachers assess their students’ mastery of content while also deepening students’ conceptual understanding.

The specific task I want to try is related to probability – “Representing Probabilities: Medical Testing.” This is a “high school” lesson, but there is a FAL dealing with probability for seventh graders titled, “Designing a Game of Chance,” which looks interesting. (Use the tabs in the left column of the webpage to explore more than 60 Gr. 6-8 tasks by category.)

Quizlet Live I have used Quizlet in my classroom before but I haven’t had a chance to try out the live experience. The Quizlet Live version randomly groups students into teams of four (with cute names like sea dragons and alpacas) and has them work together to find the correct answer to a pre-selected quizlet. There’s even a playoff option.

For every quizlet problem, only one person in the group has the correct answer on their screen so they have to work together to get the right answer. There are paid and free quizlets, I plan to use the free quizlets.

Get Feedback from Students

Student Surveys. End of year student surveys can provide great feedback. Honestly, I’m always a little anxious about having students fill these out. I’ve developed a thicker skin since I started teaching 13 years ago, but I can still get my feelings hurt! Fortunately, students usually give helpful and tactful feedback.

When I make my end of year survey, I usually take a few questions from several different surveys (see below). My surveys vary from year to year. This year I am interested in whether or not my students felt comfortable in my class. Also, this year I have felt that my classroom management needed improvement so I am interested in whether the students felt like the classroom atmosphere was conducive to learning.

For me, this a valuable use of my class time. The feedback I get now will guide my planning and classroom management procedures for next year. Just a logistical note, I put my surveys on Google docs so that I can readily access the surveys from year to year. Here are some surveys that I’ve used as references.

Talk to your students. Student surveys aren’t the only way to get feedback from your students. I plan to just walk around and talk to my students. Maybe I will ask them to give me their opinion about units or lessons, or maybe I will just to talk with them about whatever they feel like talking about. I want to use this time to strengthen relationships as well as repair those relationships that might have become strained during the year.

Ending the year with smiles on our faces

I want to finish the year out in the right way. I don’t want to end the school year stressed out and irritable; I want the last few weeks to be pleasant for my students and me.

Even when things aren’t going exactly according to my plan, we can still keep learning. By trying out new activities now and getting feedback from this year’s students, I can decide what I want to implement next fall and what changes I need to make to lay the groundwork for an even more successful experience with next year’s math students.

Please share in the comments how you navigate the end of the school year and what you do to keep the learning going in your classroom right up to summer break!

Michelle Russell

Michelle Russell (@michel1erussel1) is a math teacher at Florence (AL) High School, where she serves as the Academic Leader of the math department. She began her career as a student teacher in middle school and has taught students from 7th to 12th grade. For the past nine years, she's taught high school math, including Algebra IB, Algebraic Connections, Pre-Calculus, AP Statistics, Algebra with Finance, and Algebra 2 with Trigonometry. She is currently involved in the Laying the Foundations initiative and the Mathematics Design Collaborative. In her free time, she enjoys reading blogs and tweets from other math teachers.

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