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1) Give your students a TEST!  
You want to know what your students know and what they don't know.  What better way to assess their understanding than a test.  Better yet, you can hand them a test right when they walk in the door.  Tell them where to sit, and tell them to work on the test the entire period.  This way you can look at the tests later and better plan what you need to review with your students.

2) Be super strict and NEVER crack a smile
You want your students to respect you, right?  Well, you better let them know that you are in charge.  If your students see any weakness in you, especially the first day, they will take advantage of you the rest of the year.  Be stern, be strict, lay down the law, and most importantly NEVER crack a smile. 

3) Make your students feel like failures
Give your students some really hard math problems the first day.  Tell them that their understanding of these problems will go on their grade. Better yet, put them into groups and let them talk about these math problems.  Those students who are afraid of math will feel so stressed out, they will feel like they failed on the very first day. 

These are great tips to make sure your math students feel super stressed out on the first day.

I hope you caught my sarcasm in this post.  Many students are afraid of their new math class before they even walk in the door.  Love them, respect them, make them feel like winners and that they can be successful.  Be careful with giving  pre-tests the first day....or even the first week.  Once the relationship between your students and you is more solid, and routines are in place, pre-tests can be given.

Thank you for having courage to teach math.  May you have a great year!

Here is a great blog post about how to have a successful first day in your middle school math classroom. Whether you teach prealgebra, algebra or geometry you need to read this so your students feel comfortable in your math class.


A growth mindset is a powerful tool in a math classroom.  Students need to learn that they are capable people who have control over their own learning.  I created a mindset questionnaire to give to my students at the beginning to of the year to understand their mindset.  You can download a FREE copy of the questionnaire HERE.  Here are 5 keys to a growth mindset that are very effective, especially in a math classroom.

1. When I Struggle my Brain Grows

Growth comes through challenges.  Often time students think that if a concept it not "easy" for them then they have a problem. Struggle should be important, encouraged, promoted and celebrated in your math classroom.  Teach your students that when they are struggling that their brain is growing. This will help them view struggle as a positive rather than a negative. 

2. I CAN learn Math

A common misconception in society is that there are two types of people "Math People" and "Not Math People." If a student has labeled them self as as "Not a Math Person" or even worse, if a parent has labeled their child (which I have seen way too many times) as "Not a Math Person" then this student believes that they are not able to learn math.  Teach your students that ALL people can learn math.  Believe in them as a teacher, remind them often that they can learn math, and they will believe this too. 

3. I don't Understand YET!

Many students get down on themselves because they don't understand concepts quickly.  This is especially a problem if their is that one student that constantly yells out that everything is "EASY!" In fact, the word "EASY" was banned in my classroom for the problems that it caused.  Teach your students that it is OK if they don't understanding everything right now, but that they will eventually understand if they keep working on the concept.  YET is a powerful word.  Use it constantly in your classroom!

4. Mistakes allow me to Learn

Mistakes are often viewed as negative.  Who wants to make mistakes?  This needs to change, mistakes need to be viewed as something positive, especially in a math classroom. Just think about your own life, how many times have we made a mistake, and learned to never do that again.  Encourage students, especially on assessments, to analyze their mistakes.  Rather than just having them do test corrections, consider having them analyze their errors and specifically writing about what mistake they made.  Spend time talking about mistakes, don't ignore them and just talk about the right answer.  Constantly talk about the power of learning from your mistakes.   

5. My Effort and Attitude determine my Success

This one goes along with #2.  Many students believe that they cannot be successful in mathematics because they simply do not have the ability.  They think of it as something you either have or do not have.  Students need to be taught that they can control their success!  They can control their effort and their attitude and this directly affects their level of success.  Some students will need a constant reminder of this fact throughout the year.  

To help my students remember these 5 keys, I made posters for my classroom.  I also made coloring pages with these 5 keys on them so they can put them in their binders or lockers as a constant reminder.  If you are interested in also using these in your classroom you can get your copy HERE


Doing math worksheets is likely not on the list of activities your students or child wants to do this summer.  In fact, I read about a recent study from the Harvard Graduate School of Education that math worksheets during the summer do not actually improve a child's math performance. Instead, the Harvard Graduate School of Education suggests that by helping your child see and use math in every day life you can help prevent summer math loss.   You can read more about this study Here

Here are some great suggestions to keep math alive for your student during the summer. 

1. Take a picture of three examples of people or companies using integers in the real-world.   

2. Go to the grocery store and take three pictures of unit rates on the labels.  Explain how you can use this information to save money. 

3. Interview an adult who is a stay-at-home parent and how they use math in their life.  Write a short report about what you learned.  

4. Learn how to make a budget through research and/or by talking to an adult who uses a budget. Create a fake budget for a salary of $2,500/month. 

5.  Draw a scale drawing of your bedroom.  Include a scale, and at least three items in your room. Use the scale drawing to discover different ways to re-arrange the furniture in your room.

6. Take a picture of three examples of people or companies using fractions in the real-world.   

7. Calculate the surface area of your bedroom.  How much paint will you need if
you want to repaint the walls?

8. Interview a professional who uses math in their career.  Write a short report on what you learned.

9. Search a grocery add and cut out three adds that advertise products as multiples/$, such as 2/$5. Figure out the unit cost of each product.

10.  Learn about the Golden Ratio, and find examples of this ratio in nature. (I had my students do this once, and they loved it!  The Golden Ratio is so fascinating!)

Adults often over look how often they use math in their lives: calculating distances, budgeting, area for gardens or decorating, cooking, etc... Talk with your child or students about how you use math every day and help them open their eyes to the math that lies at their fingertips.  


The exponent properties can be super confusing for students if they do not make sense of them.  For example, when looking at the expression: x5xno where in the expression is their an addition sign, but if you know the property, addition is used to simplify the expression. I want to share some tried and true tips for successfully teaching exponent properties. 

First off, I want to discuss what is NOT effective:  I highly suggest not just telling your students the rules.  Having them simply copy down the rules then practice them will be ineffective, especially for students who struggle with memorization.

What IS effective:  I want to present a four-step process for helping students discover and make sense of the exponent properties. This process includes: helping students make sense of the expression, modeling the expression, simplifying the expression from the model, and noticing the pattern.

Let's look at the expression: x5x
1. Make sense of the expression: 
I would start by asking my students, "What does this expression mean?"  Hopefully they could make sense that it is the product of x multiplied by itself 5 times and x multiplied by itself 3 times.

2. Modeling the expression: 
I would then have them write out the meaning of what they explained in the first step.  (x.x.x.x.x)(x.x.x).

3. Simplifying the expression:
We would then talk about how (x.x.x.x.x)(x.x.x) is the same as x8

4.Noticing patterns: 
After doing a couple of the same types of problems following this method I would then ask the students to look for a pattern.  Hopefully they would notice that the exponent in the simplified expression is the sum of the exponents with the same bases.

Lets look at another expression x5/x
1. Make sense of the expression: 
Ask your students the meaning of the expression

2.. Modeling the expression: 
Write out in symbols what they said in words from the first step.   (x.x.x.x.x)/(x.x.x). 

3. Simplifying the expression:  
You may need to review with your students that x/x=1, just as 2/2 = 1 or 5/5=1.  After canceling out, this will simplify to x.x = x2 

4. Noticing patterns:
Again, do the process a couple more times with similar problems.  Ask the students if they notice a pattern or a "shortcut"  They should notice that the power in the simplified expression is the difference of the exponents in the original expression. 

I follow this method with every exponent rule.  With the negative exponents, I create a table with the positive exponents, and have them notice a pattern and continue the pattern to discover negative exponents. 

By following this method your students will make sense of the exponent properties.    The best part about using this method is that if a student doesn't memorize this property they can always go through the process of modeling and simplifying. Memorization is not required.  If their is an expression such as x50x30, and your student cannot  remember the rule, they probably don't want to model the expression either...that would be a lot of x's.  Instead of telling them the rule, I often write a simpler expression, have them go through the process of simplifying, modeling, and noticing the pattern, then apply their pattern to the larger expression. 

If you are looking for some guided notes on exponent properties I have taken then time to create some.  Students will discover all the rules through this method and apply their learning on expressions.  You can Click Here to check out these exponent properties notes.

In the mean time,
Happy Teaching!
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