In the Trenches

Thoughts and Ideas from a Classroom Teacher

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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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



School House Rock

Do you remember watching and learning with School House Rock as a kid? Believe it or not, despite the crazy technological advances of today, kids still love them! I knew they were all on You Tube, but my school’s filter blocks YouTube. Finally, I found this collection of many of the School House Rock videos at SqoolTools. If you click on the “filmstrip,” it will take you to the video. If you click on the song title, it will give you the lyrics. Check it out!


One idea to try with your students is to let them watch a particular video three or four times. For example, when my third graders were learning their times tables, they used the “Three Is a Magic Number” to help them out. I divided them into groups and let them come up with a routine to the song, and they made “music videos” to go with each song, which I recorded with my flip camera. They did an awesome job, not to mention mastered their three’s times tables!

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Olympics Fun

I always love the years that the Olympics come around because they are such a great learning opportunity for children, the world over. This summer’s Olympic games will be completed before we head back to school, so I’m trying to find ways to bring them into the classroom anyways.



Some things I might try…


  • Math Olympics game at Math Playground
  • AIMS Math Events for Olympics
  • Have students create their own graphs of the final medal counts of different countries and compare, find range, median, mean and mode
  • Calculate the distances that different athletes traveled to get to the games in London


  • Divide up the class into country groups to research about different countries that entered the Olympics
  • Choose an Olympian to research. Create a timeline of the Olympian’s life.
  • Take a virtual tour of the Olympic village.
  • Research the first Olympics in Ancient Greece.
  • Watch the Time Warp Trio’s “My Big Fat Greek Olympics” and do related activities





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Math Vocabulary

As most of my tweeting and posts have reflected lately, I have been working on finding resources for the transition from the NC Standard Course of Study to the new Common Core Standards in Math. I have always been a fan of Spelling City, but I feel even deeper in love when I realized that they had already created math vocabulary lists to go along with the math standards. They are sorted by grade level, topic, strand and objective. Love, love, love! Click on the image below for a direct link to the math vocabulary resources.


More CCSS Math

I am almost done with all of the resources I’m collecting to go along with the Common Core Standards for 5th Grade Math. I will also post the pacing guide so that it has the other things that go along with the Livebinder. Here is the shelf for all of my 5th grade math Common Core Livebinders, organized by standard and objective.

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CCSS Math Resources

I am currently working on a pacing guide for 5th grade math based on the Common Core Standards. While I am setting up pacing for the year, I am also aggregating resources to use with each strand. I have posted about Livebinders before, and I decided to use one for this. I am creating a Livebinder for each strand, so tonight I tackled 5.OA, which is 5th Grade Operations and Algebraic Thinking. Check it out!


CCSS Math 5.OA
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Common Core Resources

Educators around the USA are transitioning to Common Core national standards in Reading and Math, and we are all learning more about how these new standards will look in our classrooms.

Check out this awesome collection of Common Core resources from a public Symbaloo example.



Symbaloo is a great organizational site that allows you to pull together thumbnails from favorite websites. Check it out for all possibilities for your school and home lives! It’s definitely a whole different blog post!

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Fraction Madness

My students and I have been living in fraction world lately, and I came across this math problem from a graduate level math education course that I took. I decided to pass it along to my students. I believe it originated from the 4th grade NAEP.



I am all for any problem that make kids think, and this one sure does. It requires deep mathematical understanding of fractional parts, common denominators, and fractional conversions. Immediately, most kids say, “Oh. That’s easy. It’s 6/13.” They look at you like you have three heads when you tell them to try again.

I won’t go into too many details about the answer here, but I recommend that you try it with your students. There are several ways to find the answer, and it is fascinating to watch your students work through the problem. You learn a lot about them and their thinking from a problem like this.

At Mathwire, I found an extension of this problem for my students to do to practice and extend their thinking. You can see it HERE. This activity is a bit different because the students can  cover the shapes how they want. They just must have a line of symmetry and use at least 3 colors. I just added a bit more to it. Students had to answer the following questions:

1. What fraction of the shape is blue?

2. What fraction of the shape is red?

3. What fraction of the shape is green?


We did one of the pages together. I wanted to share a bit about what they did with you.



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Snowball Fights

Today we had a 2 hour delay because of snow and ice. When you live on the side of a mountain, it doesn’t take much of either one to cause a bit of havoc. When I got to school, I was putting up some new science vocabulary on my word wall, and it got me thinking about one of my favorite vocabulary review strategies… SNOWBALL FIGHTS!

This one is quick and easy. Type (or write) your vocabulary words so there are two words per standard size sheet of paper. Cut the paper in half. On another color paper, I get a kick out of using yellow (heehee), write definitions or sentences that go with each of the words. Cut these in half also. Mix up the words and definitions, and hand out the papers to your students. Enjoy their faces when you tell them to ball up the paper. Explain to the students that you are going to have a snowball fight. When you call time, each student should pick up the nearest snowball, open it, and find its mate of a different color. You can repeat this several times in one session, and the kids love it. FYI, if it’s a nice day, go outside. Snowballs don’t roll under things that way.


This activity works beautifully with vocabulary words, but it’s also great for multiplication facts, math problems, standard form and word form, equivalent fractions, symbols and their meanings, and more. Your students can also make their own snowballs. If you give them two half-sized sheets of paper, they can make up their problem on one side and put the solution on the other.

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