write a mathography

Math Journal – Write a mathography

write a mathography

Have students write a math a mathography; great icebreaker activity and great for working on growth mindset


To begin every school year, I have students write a mathography.  I want to learn thier history with math. When I taught my 105 minute daily Algebra block class, they brought a lot of baggage with them to my room every day. Most of them hated math and had a bad experience with learning it.

I spent time working on changing how they viewed math and their ability to learn it. I begin with these questions in paragraph 1:

Paragraph 1: I would like to know more about your history with math and you as a learner.  

  • Give three adjectives to describe math and explain why you chose them.
  • As you look back at your favorite math lesson, what were you doing?
  • Describe a great math class.
  • Describe a great math teacher.
  • How do you like to learn?
  • Is there anything I should know to help you be successful in this class?

When they were writing the paragraph above, I stressed that I didn’t want them to write what they thought I wanted to hear. If they used words such as hate, boring, etc., I wanted them to explain why those were their adjectives.

I used their back story to change their viewpoint on math. My goal by the end of the year was to make the class their favorite subject!


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In addition to writing about their history with math, I wanted to learn more about their personal history.

Paragraph 2:  I would like to know more about your family.

  • How many people are in your family?  
  • Do you have any siblings? If yes, how old?
  • Do you have any pets?  If yes, what type and what are their names?
  • What was your favorite family vacation?
  • What are your favorite hobbies?

Paragraph 3:  I would like to know more about your passions.

  • What do you participate in outside of school?
  • What does your family do together for fun?
  • If you could spend time doing anything, what would you choose?

Before they began writing, we created a mapping diagram to help them organize their thoughts. In paragraph 1, we began by generating adjectives about math, then they gave a reason for their thoughts. They used this information to create their sentences for paragraph 1.

I’ve found created graphic organizers helped them write better.

Finally, I had them complete a rubric before they turned in their assignment. I do this with every writing assignment and project. I’ve found I receive higher quality work.



Began letter with  Dear  Yes No

Paragraph 1:

Addressed each bullet Yes No

Written in complete sentences Yes No

Appropriate grammar/spelling Yes No


Paragraph 2:

Addressed each bullet Yes No

Written in complete sentences Yes No

Appropriate grammar/spelling Yes No


Paragraph 3:

Addressed each bullet Yes No

Written in complete sentences Yes No

Appropriate grammar/spelling Yes No


Each Yes is worth 1 point and each No is worth 0 for a total of 10 points.



Grade out of           /10


Grade your paper using the rubric and staple this sheet to the top.



How to play mathland!  If you like this activity, please join our mailing list for an activity like this sent to you once a week, click here. 

Teacher Directions: 

  • Take colored pieces of paper and lay them around your classroom. I used red, yellow, blue, green, orange and yellow and this is the order I laid them out. Choose a pattern and keep it throughout the room.
    • Teaching Note:  I had different pathways but it was confusing to students. I changed my papers to only travel one path in my classroom.


  • On white pieces of paper, have the four math operations (plus, minus, times, and divide).
    • Teaching Note: You only need one copy of each. Spread these out amongst the colored sheets.
  • On the first paper, write start. On the last paper, write finish.
  • Deck of cards, You need to have the four operation symbols + colors of paper on the ground in the card deck for the game.
    • Teaching Note: I used the google documents playing card template to make my deck.
  • To mark the game board, use things already in your room. (stapler, tape, pencil, cups, etc.) Teaching Note: You need enough for each group to have one.
  • Place students into groups of 3-4.
  • Give students a problem set. You could share a Google Document with them, give them a worksheet, assign them problems from their book, hang problems on the wall, etc.)

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Student Directions: 
  • Solve a problem.
  • Check it with your teacher.
  • Draw a card from the deck and move the appropriate amount of spaces.
  • Repeat previous steps until you finish.

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sing it, songs to teach math

Sing It – Using Songs to Teach math

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Check out my good-bye song. I will be performing for each of my classes. Warning before you watch, I CAN’T SING!



I created a mash-up of songs to say good-bye to my students.

I’ve used songs throughout the year:

  • When I taught domain and range from a number line, we sang to Beyonce’s Irreplaceable. This really helped understand negative versus positive infinity. We sang, “To the right, to the right, positive infinity is off to the right or To the left, to the left, negative infinity is off to the left.”
  • At Christmas, our math class participated in an ugly sweater party. I launched our holiday party by singing the famous Christmas classic, “Have yourself an Arithmetic Sequence.”
  • We are currently working on solving quadratic equations. I had students write their own song for the quadratic formula. First, we sang it to “Pop Goes the Weasel.” Then I played for them the following examples from YouTube.

One Direction: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-gwz6d9NYz0

Adele: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z6hCu0EPs-o

Cup Song: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cYpPa3Jt3-I

Journey: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VqU_2y77_eI

Get Low: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZzjiW50l4xg


  • Next, students wrote and performed their own song about the quadratic formula. There were some great performances. My top two were a group who sang to Eminem, and their song began, “If you know the quadratic formula, please stand up, please stand up.” I also had one group sing to Dean Martin’s That’s Amore

As they were working on a quadratic math lib in class today, I heard many of them humming their songs to remember the formula.


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sum it - a quadratic activity

Sum it – solving quadratic activity

We are beginning our ABC countdown tomorrow with Aloha day. I am trying to create a new activity for each day to celebrate our last few days together.

Tomorrow students are going to participate in an activity titled Sum It.

Teacher Directions: 

  • Place students in groups of 4.
  • Assign each student a letter (A – D).
  • Hand out the first problem set.


Student Directions: 

  • Solve the problem that corresponds to your letter.
  • Add all of your solution together.
  • Check your solution with your teacher.
  • Repeat previous three steps until you have finished all 7 problem sets.

I will have a prize for the first team to finish. Maybe I will bring some pineapple!

Once students are finished, they are going to complete a sort for solving by factoring versus solving using the square root method. One problem on the sort has solutions that are decimals which will lead to the quadratic formula on Friday.


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What if your laundry wasn’t categorized?

Can you imagine getting dressed if you didn’t categorize your clothes? How much longer would it take you to get dressed in the morning?

Have you ever had someone else put away your dishes and tried to find something in the kitchen?

Students feel this way with math if they aren’t able to categorize it. One way to categorize is by using signs.


How do I use these signs in Algebra? 

We are currently working on solving quadratic equations. I made signs with the different ways of factoring, (GCF, trinomial, grouping, difference of squares).

I also made signs for different ways of solving (Factoring, Square Roots, Quadratic Formula).


How did I use these signs in AP Statistics? 

Another use I’ve found in AP Statistics is with probability and complements. (These are the ones in the image). I had students that didn’t understand how to identify the complement so I made signs. I needed a way to make the concept of complements concrete.

On one side was the probability from the problem (miss) and the other side was the complement (make).

First, they identified the probability in the problem then they flipped their sign to identify the complement. This helped them write the new probability.


Please comment with how could you use these signs in your room? 

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Math Musical Chairs

I love playing games, whether it is a game of Candy Land with my kids, or a hand of Euker or Wizard so I love bringing games into my classroom.

It is boring to play the same games again and again so I am constantly trying to think of new ones. How can I use musical chairs in my Algebra 1 room? 

Teacher Directions:

  • Place the chairs in the center of your room.
  • Turn on music (I used Youtube). We played this at Christmas and Halloween. At Halloween I played the Monster Mash and Spooky Skeletons. This was a student request.
  • Stop the music and have students who are sitting in a chair solve a problem on the board.
  • If students solved a math problem incorrectly, they were taken out of the game with the students who didn’t have a chair.

What do you do with students once they are out?

  • I split them into two teams to begin the game.
  • Once out they went to the right side or left side of the room.
  • They raced against each other and the winning team chose someone from the other side to be out of the game.

Note:  I took out two chairs at a time because I have large classes (31 students). Otherwise, we may not have finished a game.

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Head’s Up Vocabulary

Warning - Your students will want to play this again and again! Do you want more game ideas? Click on the image:

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  • Type out vocabulary words for current unit, one per page.
  • Copy enough for each group of two students to have a copy.
  • You can have the students split their vocabulary list. I could hold the words up first and my partner can give me clues. Once I am out of words, we switch roles. Otherwise, you can have each student do the entire list. I hold all the words up, my partner gives me clues. We shuffle our vocabulary words and switch roles.



Student Directions:

  • Hold one vocabulary word up to your head.
  • Your partner needs to give you clues until you say the word.
  • Place another word to your forehead and repeat the first two steps.


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Learn to play math land a version of candy land!


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Candyland was one of my favorite board games as a kid so why not bring it to my math room? I didn’t want students to just sit at their desks, playing it on a small game board so I turned it into a full size board game.

The game board takes up our entire classroom. I used the colors purple, green, yellow, orange, blue and red. I placed a rectangle filled with each color on a full size piece of paper. I am going to laminate mine. See the sample below:

Next, I made cards for students to pull from a deck to show how many spaces to move. I made singles for each color. See my sample below:

The red piece, I will cut in half to make two game cards. If they chose one of these, they would move to the next red space.

I made double of each color. The purple I will cut in half and it will make two game pieces. This is two show a double purple move. If they choose this card, they would move two purple spaces on the game board. 

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Students will solve a math problem. This could be played with a worksheet. Once they solve one problem from the worksheet, they choose a card from their deck. You could use a problem set from their book. Once again, solve a problem, check it with you. If it’s correct, choose a card from their deck. Move along the game board. I am going to use small foam dice as markers.


Instead of candy shortcuts, I have the four basic math operations as shortcuts. See a sample of my shortcut cards:

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Easter Card Activity

Materials Needed:

  • Easter Card or Picture from the Internet
  • Scissors
  • Problem Set


Teacher Directions:

  • Place students into groups of 2-4.
  • Find a picture of an Easter Card – or you could buy an actual card. You would need one per group.
  • Copy the card unless you bought a real one.
  • Cut the card into pieces. You need a piece for every problem you are going to have students solve. For example, if they will solve 6 problems, cut the card into 6 pieces.
  • Problem Set – You could use a worksheet or problems from student textbook.
  • As students solve a problem, give them a piece to the card.


Student Directions:

  • Solve one math problem.
  • Get one piece of your card.
  • Repeat the steps until you have all of your picture’s pieces.
  • Put your card together.


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The Amazing Egg Hunt

I don’t know about you but I have a birthday week! Who wants to celebrate for just one day?
So why just celebrate each holiday for one day, if at all, in your classroom. I celebrate each one for a school week with activities planned for each day. I make sure to advertise the activities to pump the students up.
Students have come to enjoy this tradition. I hear “I love this class” frequently as students enter the room to see what event we have planned for the holiday.
At Christmas, we had an ugly holiday sweater to wrap up the week. Students rewrote Christmas carols to include math learned during first semester. I never ask them to do something I wouldn’t. I sang the carol which I’m sure you’ve heard of it, it’s the famous, “Have yourself an Arithmetic Sequence.”
I have some great activities planned for Easter.
  • The Great Egg Hunt
  • Minute to Win It Games
  • Egg Toss
  • Build a Bunny
  • Easter Egg Basket – Fill It Up
  • Easter Card

Do you want more activities like the one below?

Directions for The Great Egg Hunt:

Materials Needed:

  • Plastic Easter eggs.
  • Problem set
  • Sharpie or Pen to write on eggs.

Teacher Directions:

  • Set of problems to place in Easter Eggs – have one for each group.
    • Note – I am going to number each problem and number the egg. If students have clue #1 but find egg #4, they will know they aren’t correct.
  • Write a clue for each egg.
  • Make copies of the clues and cut them apart.
  • Hide each egg where the clue leads.
  • Prize for the winner of the great egg hunt (Optional).
  • To begin the great egg hunt, give each group a different clue
  • Place students into groups of 3-4.

Note, I will have students race with a personal whiteboard, marker and eraser.

Student Directions:

  • Get a clue from your teacher.
  • Decipher the clue.
  • Find the egg, open the egg, complete the problem in the egg. Place the egg back where you found it.
  • Return to your classroom for your next clue.
  • Repeat the previous steps.

Problem Set for my Egg Hunt:

  1.   4x3 – x
  2.  9p – 3pq -6n + 2nq
  3. 6a2 – 9ab – 15b2
  4.  15r3 + 20r2s – 20rs2
  5. x3y – xy + 5x2y – 5y
  6.  42x3 + 68x2 + 16x
  7.  3xy2 – 27x3
  8.  18x – 8x3

Clues for my egg hunt:

  1. We have a big field trip coming up. Your egg is by the board where there would be information for team 8A.
  1.  This is the door that I enter to come into work every day!  Find your next egg here.
  2. Are you tired from walking? Find your egg where you could stop to rest in the hallway.
  3.  Oh man you lost your favorite pencil pouch. Find your next egg where you might be able to recover it!
  1.  Find your next egg near the electrical closet closest to us.
  1.  Find your next egg by door #32 – 6 * (1xy)0
  1.  I’m sooooo hungry and can’t wait until lunch. Find your next egg where I could find a snack.
  2.  Find your next egg by the board for team 8b.
Do you want 5 activities (enough for a school week) for all major holiday? The holidays are such a busy time, let us do your planning for you, Click now. 


You might also enjoy our Easter Card Activity. Read about it here: https://www.themathmentors.com/easter-card-activity/ ‎