In the Trenches

Thoughts and Ideas from a Classroom Teacher

Connecting Math and Literature

Why should I connect math and literature? Literature will help students address the eight standards for mathematical practice. Remember that these practices are not what the teacher will do; these are things that students need to be able to do as fluent mathematicians.

Here are some great ideas for connecting mathematics instruction with children’s literature. Thanks to TL Connected for these great resources.


1. Stand Up / Sit Down: As you read a story aloud to your students have them listen for specific mathematics attributes and stand up or sit down. For example, if you hear a prime number stand up, if you hear a composite number, sit down. Or, if you hear a shape that is a quadrilateral stand up. If it is a triangle, sit down.

2. “Smart” by Shel Silverstein: (PDF) Have students consider the point of the poem. They can also write out the mathematical proof in her defense. Infer what her dad is really thinking. Support his thinking with proof. Additional Shel Silverstein poems and questions are also available from TL Connected.

3. Psychic Math: Have students think of a 4 digit numbers. They earn points by meeting certain place value criteria. Love this! Once you have checked it with your students, have them generate a list of the possibilities to earn the greatest number of points. (see page 5 of  handout packet) The activity came from this book – it looks awesome, despite the title’s relationship to testing.

4. Marilyn Burns: Check out these favorites –  Spaghetti and Meatballs for All and The Greedy Triangle. The Brainy Day series is highly recommended! Here’s a great version of The Greedy Triangle as a Reader’s Theater Script. Here some additional resources for a foldable to go along with The Greedy Triangle.  I love this lesson for Spaghetti and Meatballs for All, too. Instead of showing the kids the illustrations from the original book, you can hand out 1″ square tiles and have kids generate areas and perimeters as you read the story.

5. Counting on Frank: Relating to Volume lesson from NCTM (p. 7 & 8)

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Totally Tangrams

More Tangrams Resources:

Advanced online tangram patterns to re-create

Literature Connections

Tangram Challenges from Illuminations

Tangrams from NLVM

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Perry Who? Spying in the Revolution!

Are you teaching about Colonial America and the Revolutionary War? Are you finding that your students aren’t quite as into it as you had hoped. Try talking “spies.” You’ll immediately have a fresh set of ears. The Revolutionary War was a great example of how the team with the best spies wins, and everyone was doing it. There are tons of excellent trade books out there for children of all ages, but I wanted to find some more resources. Here are a few of my favorites…

Spy Letters of the American Revolution – sections on sample letters, people of the Revolution, methods of spying, stories of spies and more

Spies and Scouts, Secret Writing, and Sympathetic Citizens – from the foundation at Colonial Williamsburg

Spies from the Revolution via eThemes

Spies – Ben Franklin did it too! (PBS)

Even the CIA admits there was  spying in the Revolution

So, take your lessons of spying beyond Benedict Arnold! Your kids will love it !

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Integrating the Arts

At NCCTM today, I attended a session based on integrating the arts into the math classroom. I was so impressed with the presenting dance teacher’s express understanding of the math Common Core State Standards. She specifically designs lessons that help her students reinforce what they are learning and she used the phrase “visually, cognitively, and kinesthetically.” What if we approached every lesson this way?!

Here are some resources on integrated the arts into the regular classroom. Many of our students would benefit academically from our efforts to include elements like these in our teaching. I know we’d all have a lot more fun!


Music and Arts Integration Lessons – super easy, accessible and ready to go

Arts Edge – an exceptional, searchable resource from the Kennedy Center for the Arts

Math, Art, Fun – What more needs to be said?

Math in Art and Architecture

Links and Resources – from Education Closet



Proverbs and Such

We are in the midst of a unit on the Revolutionary War with my fifth grade students. We are making cross curricular connections and blending our social students and english/language arts time. I’ve been collecting lots of resources and realized today that I just need to start sharing them here. I did a big unit on this last year, and my students loved it. The topic hasn’t really changed, but my approach has been modified some due to the changes in Common Core Standards for ELA. One of the things that we are hitting on right now is figurative language and reading across genres, so we are tackling proverbs. The Revolutionary War unit is perfect for this because some many of the proverbs and expressions that we use today originated with Ben Franklin. Here are a few of the resources that I have found…

ThinkQuest on Franklin’s life with a section dedicated to proverbs

Proverbs from Poor Richard’s Almanac

Proverbs and quotes from Franklin

Printable “Complete the Proverb” activity


I’m planning to discuss a few proverbs with my students, and then I’ll hand out papers to each of my student groups. Each paper will have a proverb on it, and they will have to explain what it means and give a modern expression that might be an equivalent. Here’s what they are doing!

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Remind 101

Are you looking for a quick, easy and secure way to message your parents and students? Try Remind 101. In just a few seconds, set up a class distribution/messaging list that you can send as a text message from your computer. Quickly remind students of homework assignments and due dates, share information and reminders with parents, and even send out notes of emergency delays or early releases without having to fight with the busy school phone lines. The messages will be coming straight from your online Remind 101 account, not your personal phone, so you eliminate sharing that personal information. By the way, it’s free!

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Animated Hero Classics

Do you love biographies? Do your students enjoy learning more about historical figures? Consider enhancing your teaching of historical people with the series from Animated Hero Classics. These great videos are about 30 minutes each and provide excellent information about people like the Wright Brothers, Madame Curie and William Bradford, just to name a few. The videos are available on Discovery Education and on YouTube.  Recently, I found teacher guides to accompany each of the videos/people with cross-curricular activities that relate to the person and build greater understanding of the person, the times surrouning his/her life and the contributions he/she made to society. You can find these great resources at Each guide is a downloadable pdf document that is around 50 pages of exceptional resources and ideas for instruction. If you were already using this great series, these documents are a definite bonus!

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