Teaching math is like a machine with many moving parts, so staying organized in the classroom is a never-ending challenge teachers face. From what to do with all the papers, organizing supplies or storing your lesson materials without a system in place for it all my scattered brain feels overwhelmed. I find calm in an organized system for all of my things. So keep reading to learn about my favourite supplies and ways I use them to keep it all organized.
How to Organize Your Lesson Plans
I love it when all of my binders match and have the spine and cover pockets that allow you to slip personalized covers inside of them.
For our Ignited Math program we 6 units throughout the year so having six binders for our program works perfectly. Each Ignited Math unit can be organized into it’s own binder for easy access and storage.
Now the question is how do you organize the inside to keep everything together.
If each binder represents a unit then inside the binder will represent each week.
Inside each Ignited Math binder is 6 sections. The first 5 sections represent the 5 weeks within the program. However, the sixth section will house the tests and project for the unit.
First is page protectors. These handy binder organizers are helpful for any materials that will need to be photocopied. If you will need a class set of worksheets for the week. Put them inside a pocket protector and then when you need to copy them just pull them out, run them through the copier and pop them back inside the protector sheet.
Sometimes you will have pieces and parts of things that are smaller then a page. While you will keep the master clipped into the binder, you also want to save the task cards, game pieces and other small items in with your lesson plans so you can use them again. Use these pocket folders with a zipper closure to keep all those pieces and parts together, and with the lesson plans they are meant to go with.
Next are binder flags, now these are not math specific, but an everyday classroom item. But these are great when you need to find all the different components for your math program. You can mark where the guided math lesson plan is, where the inquiry math prompt is located, and where the math warm ups are located.
When you have your materials binder all organized from top to bottom it will pay off day to day when you are running around with next to no time between classes to just grab and go to get everything ready. So take your time to prep your binders so that you have everything ready and organized.
Like it or not, we should be teaching with math manipulatives. Regardless of what grade we teach, there are certain concepts that math manipulatives simply make teaching that concept easier. It is hard enough to teach a grade 5 student how to use a protractor. Imagine how much harder it would be without one.
Now the reality is that we don’t all have classrooms stocked with manipulatives, so what can we do? Well one way is to make them yourself. Now I am not suggesting we spend all of our waking hours crafing base 10 blocks out of an oak tree. But there are some simple DIY tools that you can easily make sets of.
Remember when we taught with overhead transparencies? Well those pages that are gathering dust in a closet somewhere are really helpful in math. Create some manipulatives for your students such as a ruler, protractor, hundreds chart, cm area grid and more and print these on the clear transparent overhead page. Use these over and over again with students too. You can easily write on them and wipe off dry erase markers from the sheet.
Now I also like to teach and model using manipulatives. But this can be hard to model with the manipulatives when the pieces are small and students cannot see them. This is where magnetic manipulatives come in handy. You can throw them up on the board and model and demonstrate much easier then if you were to try to hold them up and balance them all in your hand. Just imagine trying to show grade 4 students how to model 5678 in base ten blocks with two hands, you can’t. So these math manipulatives are an easier alternative.
If you are tired of trying to model larger numbers with traditional base 10 blocks I really like using these place value discs to make a vertical abacus. You can buy the discs or simply use coloured poker chips with the values written on them.
There are lots of other manipulatives that you may have inheritated with your room, find around your school, make yourself, or add new ones to your collection. The important thing is that you have a set a manipulatives that help you to reinforce concepts you are teaching in your math classroom.
On Your Walls
You math walls are just as important for your math classroom. I love to have a space in my room that is dedicated to math. There are a few places and pieces in my room that are important parts of my classroom.
First, I love having a central station that outlines what we are doing each week. In my math program, Ignited Math we use a centers rotation system that helps to facilitate guided math. There are 4
different centers that students will ‘rotate’ through. Check out my post on ways you can run your centers. Students complete,
M- Math on Your Own
A – Apply What You’ve Learned
T – Time with Teacher
H – Hands On Math
I also really like having a pocket chart to organize centers rotations. This is a easy tool to put up on your wall and move the cards around as students rotate through the various centers that you might have running in your room at anyone time.
The key takeaways here is to make the math thinking that happens in your classroom visible, and to use your walls to help organize your students.
Stuff…there often is so much stuff that we need to organize. So we have to think of bins and baskets that help us to establish systems and processes that keep everything organized.
These plastic bins come in a few sizes and thicknesses but I like bins that have attached lids so they can be stacked and the lids stay with them. These are also big enough to hold papers that lay flat. Since they are see through you can easily label these with cute large labels.
If you don’t have desks or simply don’t want students to store, and lose their things in their desk then I recommend you try book bins. I really like the paper ones from ikea but these often need to be replaced at least once per year. An alternative is a plastic book bin.
I prefer to grab these in neutral colours, especially black. Black doesn’t show the grim and grit that lives in a classroom as much as white bins.
In these bins I have students put their notebooks, duotangs and supplies needed for math.