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Have you ever wondered, "How can I take my teaching to the next level?" Whether you're a 6th grade math teacher, 7th grade math teacher, or 8th grade math teacher, teaching math in middle school is tough. I want to share one of my favorite math strategies for middle school teaching.  I learned this strategy the summer before my 3rd year of teaching. I was scared to implement it for various reasons, but I trusted the process, and never looked back.

Here is my favorite instructional strategy for middle school math, "If you want to change the way your students think, then change the way you teach." Let me explain further, so you understand what I mean.  Ask yourself this question, "How do you want your students to think?"  While I'm sure your answers vary somewhat, I'm quite certain nobody said that they want their students to think superficially, or that they want their students to be good memorizers. Some answers may have included that you want your students to be deep-thinkers, to be critical-thinkers, or to be good problem-solvers. If that's how we want out students to think, then that's how we need to teach. 

I remember when I first started teaching deep instead of superficial, it took more time. I worried that I wasn't going to be able to get through the content if I taught every topic at such a deep level.  However, I quickly realized something. When I taught at a deep level, the students retained the information much better. I was having to do less review, and I was able to use the "review time" to teach the content in a way that they would retain it. 

If you're not sure with how to start teaching at a deeper level, let me suggest that as part of your lesson plan, you write at least 5 quality questions that you can ask your students about the content. Have the students make connections to other math content that you have discussed. Have them explain why the procedure works.  Ask them to figure out two ways to solve the problem. Have them explain their reasoning to their solution. Have them explain their friend's reasoning. One of my favorite questions...ask them why you can't divide by zero. This turns into such a great conversation. 

If you're a middle school math teacher looking to change the way you teach then I have got you covered. I deep dive into all the middle school math common core topics in these guided notes that I have spent thousands of hours on. Click on your grade level below that you teach to check out the notes.

Use the image below to share this math strategy for middle school with other math educators. 

Middle School Math Valentine's Day Activities

Kids love holidays! In the words of my child, "I'm excited for this holiday to be over so we can celebrate the next holiday."  Valentine's day in middle school math can be just as exciting.  You want to make sure to continue learning the math curriculum, but you can do it in a fun and engaging way.

Heart Puzzle for Solving Equations

This fun heart algebraic equations puzzle focuses on solving equations with the distributive property and integers. A perfect way for your students to practice and review solving equations.  Students connect equations with the same solution and form a heart. Perfect for your middle school math students on Valentine's Day.

Heart Area Critical Thinking

Draw this heart on the board and have your students determine the area of the heart.  Students should justify their work. You can have students present the different ways that they determined the area, and as a class discuss how they are different and how they are the same.  

The Perfect Sugar Cookie - A fun way to incorporate area and volume

If you're ambitious as a teacher you can frost sugar cookies...with math.  Students will love this activity.  

To frost sugar cookies using area and volume complete the following:

  • Give the above heart area problem to your students the day before Valentine's day. Use the approximate dimensions of the sugar cookies you will be frosting. Have them determine the area of the heart. 
  • After they have determined the area, have them calculate how much frosting is needed to make the perfect sugar cookie. They can determine the volume of frosting by calculating the product of the area of the base and the depth of the frosting they think will make the best cookie.  You can tell them this formula, or let them figure it out.  I always prefer letting them figure it out. 
  • If you want to stretch the activity even further, have them determine how many tablespoons of frosting they will need. This can be calculated by converting cubic centimeters into tablespoons.  
  • On Valentine's day, bring heart cookies for them to frost.  Bring a tablespoon and have them scoop out their pre-determined amount of frosting to give themselves the perfect sugar cookie.

Engaging Valentine's Day Math Worksheets

Check out these fun coloring worksheets to keep your students working on math while celebrating the holiday. These are great because they are no prep and perfect to keep your students engaged are reviewing essential skills.

In this Exponential Love Valentine's Day activity students will practice the exponent properties while coloring a fun conversation hearts coloring page. 

In this Change of Heart Valentine's Day Activity  your middle school math students will determine the percent change while coloring a fun heart coloring page. 

Conversation Hearts for Estimation and Probability
Fill a cylindrical jar with conversation hearts and have you students estimate the quantity. Have conversations with your students how they can use math to more accurately estimate. Don't tell them, just ask guided questions.  (Find the volume of the cylinder in terms of hearts.)

Conversation hearts are a perfect way to incorporate Valentine's day in your class with probability. Here are some questions you could use, but the options are limitless. You can take this as deep or as simple as you need to.  
  • If there are 5 blue out of 20 conversation hearts, what is the probability of picking one blue?  
  • What about picking two blues with replacing the first heart? 
  • What about picking two blues without replacing the first heart?  
  • Give every student their own pack of conversation hearts and have the students compare probabilities with their boxes. 
  • How does the sample size of their box compare to the data of the whole group?

Use the image below to share these Valentine's Day Activities for Middle School Math with other math educators. 

Middle School Math Curriculum Review
Reviewing in a middle school math classroom often takes one of three forms.
1) Math review games
2) Plain fluency worksheets
3) Engaging math activities

Games can be great way to review if the game is structured so that every single student is involved.  Teachers need to ensure that some students don't dominate the game, and leave the students who really need the review along for the ride. 

"Here students...here are 20 questions, sit quietly and do them, and don't forget to show your work."  Yikes, what student likes this?  and not that we need to please our students, but if we don't give them something engaging, you're going to lose their engagement. There may be a time for fluency worksheets, but review is not usually one of them.

I have found the best way to review is to provide engaging activities to your students.  Activities that are fun and have a purpose for the students. That is why I created these review packets for 7th grade math and 8th grade math. They cover a variety of topics, and engage your students. 

  • No Prep
  • Perfect for substitutes
  • Engaging 
  • Variety of topics

7th Grade Math Review Packet Topics
    7th Grade Math Review Packet
  • Adding and subtracting integers
  • Multiplying and dividing integers
  • Multiplying and dividing fractions
  • Solving equations
  • Solving inequalities
  • Proportional relationships
  • Triangle analysis
  • Geometry vocabulary
  • Area of circles
  • Composite area
  • Statistics and probability vocabulary

8th Grade Math Review Packets
8th Grade Math Review Packet
  • Rational and irrational numbers
  • Simplifying powers
  • Solving equations with variables on both sides
  • Systems of equations
  • Slope
  • Transformations
  • Pythagorean theorem
  • Volume of cylinders
  • Volume of spheres
  • Statistics vocabulary

Click on your grade level that you teach

7th Grade Button

8th Grade Button

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I've got some great tips for teaching the rules for multiplying and dividing integers.  These three tips focus on discovery, making sense of the math, and extending reasoning.  Teaching this way will help your middle school math students retain the rules of multiplication of integers. Also, if you don't want to make your own products to help your students, I've got some for you below that will make your life easier. 

Tip 1: Discovery
Give them a multiplication chart similar to the blank one below and a calculator. 

Have them use their calculator to complete the multiplication problems. Color the positive products one color and the negative products a different color.  After students have completed their multiplication chart have a conversation with open-ended questions such as: What patterns do you notice?  

Tip 2: Number lines
Before using number lines to teach the rules of multiplication of integers, I always talk about thinking of multiplication as "groups of" then translate the problem into words.
Here is an example: 
  • 5(2): 5 groups of 2
  • 5(-2): 5 groups of -2
Now, you can't actually have a negative group of something. In the case of a negative first, students can think of this as the opposite, and bounce to the opposite number on the number line.

  • -5(2): The opposite of 5 groups of 2
  • -5(-2): The opposite of 5 groups of -2

Tip 3: Extend their thinking
After they have a good grasp of opposites, and how opposites cancel each other out.  Extend their thinking by determining the product or quotient of more than two integers.  The best way to do this is with 1's, so they are not wasting their time on actually multiplying, rather just the signs. You could give them a list of problems like the one below, and have them notice the pattern. Even number of integers = positive, and odd number of integers = negative. Have them explain why this is true.  You could even throw some ones in there, to show that will not effect the sign of the product. 
  • (1)(-1)
  • (-1)(-1)
  • (-1)(-1)(-1)
  • (-1)(-1)(-1)(-1)
  • (-1)(-1)(-1)(-1)(-1)

Tip 4: Apply to division
All of the above tips focus on the product of integers.  Make sure to extend this to division.  Again, use open-ended questions to help your students make connections.
  • How are multiplication and division related?
  • How can  you convert a multiplication problem into a division problem? (i.e. divide by 2 = multiply by 1/2

OK...So there are my tried and true tips for teaching the rules for multiplying and dividing integers.

If you don't want to make your own resources for teaching integers, I've got you covered. 

The integer operation notes cover all the four operations of integers. They teach using number lines, which are all pre-made in the notes. They also include additional practice for the students.  Include great in-depth questioning to get your students critically thinking. Click on the image below for more information. 

The multiplying and dividing integers stations are one of my best-selling resources.  They have students use both the discovery method, and number lines, and extend the knowledge to division. Click on the image below for more information. 

Use the image below to share these tips to teaching multiplying and dividing integers with other math educators. 

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