Tag Archives: Math

Pinspiration: Pinterest Finds for your Classroom

by Elizabeth Cossick, M. Ed. 

Comment on this post to be entered to win a $20 gift card to The School Box! 

So, you’ve heard of Pinterest, right? It’s a virtual pinboard where you can “keep” all of your online inspirations–from recipes to decorating pics to travel plans to–yup–teaching ideas. Here are our favorite Pinterest-found classroom inspirations…so read, enjoy, and pin to your heart’s content.

And, if you haven’t been formally introduced to Pinterest, yet, you’ll find a good article from USA Today on how to get started here.

Pinsirpiation: Look What We Found On Pinterest

Runde’s Room: The Queen of Measurement

This cute Pinterest pin, left, led us to discover the blog of teacher Jen Runde, who offers a wealth of creative teaching ideas. We love this idea for teaching the metric system by declaring yourself the Queen of Measurement– tiara included.

Mrs. Schmelzer’s First Grade: Sensational Space

The image from Pinterest, below, led us to the classroom of Mrs. Schmelzer, who’s always got a great idea up her sleeve. Love this idea for teaching the moon phases and other facts about the solar system.

One note about blogs, though, should you choose to begin one: make sure you use good judgment and secure parental online photo releases for any children you feature. You never know whose Pinterest board they may end up being pinned to….

Disney FamilyFun

This adorable paper tray, below from Disney FamilyFun, caught our eye on Pinterest. Can you believe it’s just three boxes (think: cereal boxes) taped together and then wrapped with wrapping paper? What a cute idea for art papers at a writing or crafts center!

These examples hardly scratch the surface of the fabulous ideas found on Pinterest. We’ll be sharing more of our favorites from time-to-time. We thought you might appreciate some help narrowing down the really great ideas, since it’s tough to ferret through the good, the bad and the pretty on Pinterest without losing several hours of sleep.

So rest up…and happy pinning!


Filed under Activities, Art, Centers, Classroom Decor, Math, Science, technology

Does Music Make You Smarter?

By Elizabeth Cossick, M.Ed.

Comment on this post and be entered to win a $20 School Box gift card!

The nursery rhymes your mom sang to you when you were little. The hokey pokey at a childhood birthday party. The song you jammed out to while driving your first car. The first dance at your wedding. The nursery rhymes you now sing to your own children. There’s no denying it: music is a powerful part of our lives. But…can it actually make us smarter?

Research says yes. While loud, cacophonous music has been found to–of course–be a distraction and impediment to learning, music done the right way provides a slew of academic benefits. Here are just a few:

  • Body-Mind Integration

When playing a musical instrument, singing a song or learning a dance step, children experience a unique melding of mind and body. In the brain, this means that neurons are firing away, brain activity is moving across both hemispheres, and sensory integration is occurring. So, how does this equate to the classroom? Sensory integration (using and interpreting the senses simultaneously) is crucial for reading, writing and math.

  • Spacial-Temporal Reasoning

Spatial-temporal reasoning is the ability to visualize spatial patterns in one’s mind. It’s a skill needed for engineering, architecture, art, science, games and math. So, how do you improve spatial-temporal reasoning? Through music, according to the MIND Research Institute. MIND did a study where children were engaged in a series of computer games involving math problems; simultaneously, they received musical keyboard training. What researchers discovered was further proof of the “Mozart Effect”–the idea that listening to a piano sonata enhances spacial-temporal performance. Why? Music has a structural pattern that mimics math: listening to patterns and symmetries in music aids in concepts like counting and fractions. The takeaway? Music makes kids better at math.

  • Social/Behavioral

Music has also been found to aid in mood improvement. This concept is a simple one: happy music = happy kids. Calm music = calm kids. Wild music = wild kids! Students take social cues for appropriate behavior from the music they hear.

Incorporating Music at Home and School

So, music is clearly beneficial. Now, how can you easily incorporate it into your classroom and home?

  • CDs: An obvious answer is the good ol’ CD player. Play songs in the car, when your children are your captive audience. One rule: You control the dial! You may even be able to sneak in some Mozart here and there.
  • Instruments: If you are able to provide music lessons for your child (and if they’re willing to participate), lessons are wonderful, especially during the formative elementary and middle school years. But, if formal lessons aren’t in the cards (or budget), opt for some simpler alternatives, like a tambourine, rhythm sticks, or a hand drum.
  • Music Programs. There are also several stellar, research-based programs out there specifically designed to combine music with learning. One of the best is Rock ‘N Learn, a series of over 50 CDs and DVDs that uses music (like really fun, hip music) to teach everything from division to phonics to Spanish. Not only does Rock ‘N Learn set concepts to a catchy tune (read: aids in memory), but it also makes learning very positive for children (read: fun). The CDs and DVDs are affordable, too, ranging from $10-$20 each.

The moral? More music = more learning. Now that’s worth singing about!

Sources: Keith, Kimberly. http://childparenting.about.com/cs/k6education/a/mozarteffect.htm

MIND Research Institute: http://mindresearch.net/cont/programs/prog_stmm_desc.php


Filed under Academic Success, Math, Music, School Readiness

Interactive Bulletin Boards, Part III: Sally’s Seashells

by Elizabeth Cossick, M. Ed.

Comment on this post and be entered to win a $20 School Box gift card!

Welcome to Part III in our series on Interactive Bulletin Boards!

This great idea from www.angelo.edu was designed for a second grade classroom, to allow an interactive area to practice problem solving. It could easily be adapted to other grade levels and concepts, too. And– in addition to shells, you could use pretty much any objects, including items that tie into current science or social studies concepts (rocks, planets, fish, stars, etc.).




Sand paper

Paper for the shells and letters

Bucket to hold the shells

Blue felt

Activity Sheet (click to download)


To practice addition and subtraction problem solving

How To:

Students read the problems on the provided activity sheet, and then they manipulate the seashells on the bulletin board to depict the problem before they solve it.

The great thing about this board is that it combines reading, counting, addition and subtraction skills. Gotta love a multi-tasker!

And, if you think bulletin boards are only for elementary school, check out these super impressive interactive boards, geared toward middle and high school math concepts: faculty.kutztown.edu. Now those are some advanced ideas!


Filed under Centers, Classroom Decor, Math

Summertime = Tweaking Time

by Kelli Lewis, M. Ed.

Comment on this post and be entered to win a $20 School Box Gift Card…. get on your way for a 2012 classroom makeover!

So, it’s summer. Time to chill, relax, unwind…and tweak! The school year is so crazy and fast-paced that, as teachers, our routines can sometimes get stuck in a rut. There’s no time to evaluate and change– only time to hold on and dash for the finish.

But summer is the perfect time to reevaluate your teaching and tweak your classroom procedures. Here are some practical, easy-to-apply ideas for the early elementary teacher.

Classroom Idea 1: Improve Student Writing

Have your students write using “4 Star Writing.” Here are the four “stars” to focus on: (1) “Use a finger space in between words.” (2) “Start each sentence with a capital letter.” (3) “Use punctuation at the end of each sentence.” (4) “Use the word wall to help spell.” Indicate these four concepts on big cutout stars to post on the wall to remind your students what makes good writing. Include illustrations/pictures on each of the cutouts to indicate the concept.

Classroom Idea 2: Word Wall!

Put up an “A to Z Word Wall” for students to use! A great way to get students involved with your Word Wall is to make posters for each letter and allow your students to draw a picture of something starting with that letter on the posters. Then, use note cards to print words that are “no excuse” words for your students to always spell correctly. Write one word on each card, and attach them to the wall under their respective letter posters. As the year goes on, you can make new cards and add to your Word Wall as your students learn more and more “no excuse” words. (For some super-useful pre-made Word Wall items, click here.)

Classroom 3: 1oo Club

A “100 Club” poster can be a real asset to give your young students the goal of learning to count to 100. The poster should state: “I can count to 100!” at the very top. Below, there should be lines where students can sign their name, any way that they would like (silly, a different color, with small pictures), once they can show you that they can count to 100. The School Box carries a 100-pocket chart that’s great for helping them achieve this milestone, as well.

Classroom Idea 4: Make the Most of Calendar Time

During calendar time, introduce your students to the “shortcut date”– writing the numeral for the month, day and year, separated by dashes (6-8-11). Once your students have the “Today’s date is…” concept down, teach them how to use the “shortcut date” on their papers. They’ll feel grown up, and they will learn to associate the date with its numeral equivalent.

For a calendar time challenge, introduce your students to how other countries write the date a little switched up! For example, in Italy, because of the way they speak, they write May 18, 2011, as 18-05-11, with the day first, then the month, then the year. This is because when verbally stating the date in Italy, they also say it differently than we do. They would say: 18th of May, 2011, instead of May 18, 2011.

There you have it: four simple ideas to implement in the fall that will maximize the lessons you’re probably already teaching. More bang for your buck! Now wasn’t that worth thinking about during your summer break? :-)

Kelli Lewis, M. Ed. recently received her masters degree from The University of Georgia and is currently staying busy setting up her third-grade classroom.


Filed under Centers, Classroom Community, grammar, Math, Morning Work, Writing

Summer Learning Ideas (and GREAT Centers!)

Centers… Revised!

by Kelli Lewis, M. Ed.

Whether you’re a parent looking for some fun summer learning activities to keep your children’s skills sharp, or an early elementary teacher who wants to breathe new life into your centers next year, this article is for you!

Rhyming Picture Pairs

Create picture cards for your students to match with words that rhyme. For example, print two cards: one with a picture of a house and the word house printed on it, and another with a picture of a mouse and the word mouse printed on it. Make about 10 sets of word-pair cards, and then scramble them in a box or bag for your students to sort through and pair up.

Here are some rhyming word pairs to get you started: (1) mouse, house (2) bear, chair (3) fan, man (4) moon, spoon (5) horn, corn (6) pie, fly (7) box, fox (8) crown, clown (9) snake, cake (10) car, jar (11) hat, cat (12) hose, nose (13) duck, truck (14) bed, sled (15) ant, plant (16) key, tree (17) soap, rope (18) farm, arm (19) zero, hero (20) check, wreck.


Purchase or create word magnets for your students to group into sentences. Don’t forget punctuation! Students can use pie pans, dry erase boards, or even the front of metal teachers’ desks to place their sentences on. When a student creates a sentence, have them record their sentence by writing it down in a Magnet Journal (a binder filled with lined paper that stays in the center with the magnet words).

For a set of 200 sight word magnets, click here.

Poetry Pages

Familiar students with the great poets and poetic language while allowing them to practice their writing skills. Make a binder of poems (one poem per page), and then have students select a poem of their choice to copy onto paper, illustrate, mount on construction paper and display in the classroom (or on the fridge, if you’re doing this at home).

For an online resource of childhood poems, click here.

Now I Know My…

Create ABC cards (one letter per card) and allow students to put their ABC’s in order. You can also create picture cards that go along with each letter. Then, allow students to place the picture cards on the letter that shows their beginning letter. For an extra challenge, they can also group the cards by their ending letter.


Fill a paper lunch back with random things (a paper clip, yo-yo, a small toy car, small toy animals, etc.). Allow students to choose an item from the bag and draw it on their paper. Students should then write sentences about the object. Encourage them to describe their objects using as many adjectives as possible: How would you describe this item to someone from Mars who had never seen it before?


This center is an oldie-but-goodie. What child doesn’t like to sit on a fun pillow or comfy couch and look at books? Set out comfy chairs, stuffed animals, pillows, and of course, books on book shelves or in baskets. This will be the perfect place for students to build positive associations with reading!


You may already use the computer in your center rotation, but have you visited www.starfall.com, yet? It covers early reading skills/phonics and is great for ages 3 through first grade. It’s the perfect way to make learning to read fun and techy.

For more computer programs that balance educational goals with entertainment, click here (for math activities) and here (for reading CDs).

Whether you use these ideas at the kitchen table or in the classroom, hopefully they’ll make learning fun for your little ones!

Kelli Lewis, M. Ed. recently graduated from the University of Georgia with a Masters in Education and will begin teaching in a third-grade classroom this fall. Congratulations, Kelli! And thanks for sharing all of your great ideas on A Learning Experience.


Filed under Activities, Centers, Math, Phonics, Reading, Summer Learning, Writing

1, 2, 3…Draw!! (a fun math warm-up)

by Elizabeth Cossick, M. Ed.

Comment on this post for a chance to win a $20 School Box gift card! Winners are drawn monthly!

Looking for a fun way to begin your math lessons? Your students will BEG to play this warm-up game every day. It’s easy and can work with pretty much any age group and almost any math concept.

Here’s how it goes:

  1. Have two students stand back to back at the front of the room, with their fingers raised like outlaws with “guns.” (If you don’t like the “gun” part, skip it.)
  2. The students at their desks can follow along with mini white boards or black boards, or paper.
  3. Now, call out a math equation. Every time you add a step in the equation, the students take a step away from each other, while computing the problem silently in their heads. Students at their desks solve the equation silently, as well. (See example below.)
  4. Then, whenever you decide the equation is over, say “Draw!” and the students turn quickly, face each other, and blurt out the answer. The first one to blurt it out correctly wins the “draw.” Simultaneously, students at their desks can silently hold up their whiteboards/blackboards with their answers written on them.
  5. Acknowledge the winner with verbal praise, and also acknowledge the students at their desks who have the correct answer on their boards.

To make this more clear, here’s an example:

Say: 5 + 6 (students step apart and silently compute 11 in their heads).

You keep going: + 12 (they step and think 23).

You say: – 3 (they step and think 20).

Plus 2 (step, 22).

Divided by 2…DRAW!

They spin around and shout out 11!

This can be really easy or really challenging depending on 1) how complicated your equations are and 2) how fast of a pace you keep. You can also write the steps to the equation on the board while you say them out loud, for the visual learners.

This is a great activity to sharpen both math AND listening skills…and it’s just a whole lot of fun to boot.

For some more math games, check out this fun activity book called Math Games that Teach.

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Filed under Critical Thinking, Geometry, Math, Multiplication, Uncategorized

St. Patrick’s Day Interactive Bulletin Board

by Rachel Stepp

Comment on this post to win a $20 School Box Gift Card! Winners are selected monthly!

It’s almost that time of the year when tricky little leprechauns visit classrooms all over the world. Why not welcome him into the classroom with a creative and fun bulletin board?

Here’s how to bring a little luck o’ the Irish into your classroom this month:

1. First comes the spring background.

Start by creating a spring scene on the bulletin board. Create a nice blue background with spring flowers blooming in the fresh, green grass.

2. Then let the rainbow shine!

Have your students trace their hands on paper in all the colors of the rainbow (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet). Once students have traced their hands (the more hand prints you have, the bigger your rainbow can be!), have them cut out their tracings. Then, add a rainbow to your bulletin board with all of the hand prints stretching across the spring sky.

3. Next, add a pot o’ gold.

Don’t forget to add a pot of gold at the bottom of rainbow! You can cut out a black pot and add yellow “coins” covered in gold glitter to come out of the pot. The children will be excited to see the sparkling coins, and you could even add American currency to the pot to reinforce coin knowledge.

4. Where’s the tricky leprechaun?

One of the most important parts of the St. Patrick’s Day bulletin board is, of course, the leprechaun! One simple way to get a leprechaun that is large enough for your board is to trace it on large butcher paper. Take a piece of green paper and tape it over your SmartBoard or on your white board. Then, use a SmartBoard projector or overhead projector to shine a picture of a leprechaun on the paper. Trace the picture to the size you want it. It might be easiest to find leprechaun clip art or coloring pages, so that it will be easy to trace. Once you have traced it, go over the lines with dark marker and then cut it out. Put the leprechaun on the bulletin board in various places throughout the month of March. The tricky guy can keep ’em guessing!

5. Now, set it to song!

Add some interaction to your bulletin by adding this short song (to the tune of BINGO):

There was a little leprechaun,

He lived under a rainbow.




He lived under a rainbow.

Teach your students this song and have different students perform it daily. Remember to stay true to BINGO. Each verse, remember to take a later off of ‘rainbow’ and clap in its place.

6. And, finally, read all about it!

St. Patrick’s Day by Gail Gibbons is a great book for Kindergarten through second grade that explains the origins and symbols (shamrock, leprechaun) of the holiday, including the life and works of St. Patrick. The colorful watercolor illustrations are engaging for students of all ages. (The book is available at The School Box for $6.95, by the way. Here’s the link to buy it online: St. Patrick’s Day by Gail Gibbons).

The children will enjoy reading and singing about St. Patrick’s Day during March, under a rainbow of their own hand prints!

Rachel Stepp is a graduate student at The University of Georgia who regularly contributes to A Learning Experience.


Filed under Activities, Art, Centers, Classroom Decor, Math, Music

Count ’em one, two, three…!

Getting the Best Out of Your Bears

by Rachel Stepp

Comment on this post to win a $20 School Box gift card. Winners are chosen each month!

It is not unusual to see a set or two of counting bears in an elementary school classroom. If you haven’t ever seen a set, they are small, colored bears that come in different sizes and colors. They are used to promote sorting, counting, patterns, and much more! But it is easy to let them become dust collectors if you are not careful! So, here are a few ideas about how you can use these colorful plastic critters in your classroom.


To promote sorting in your classroom, you can give each child a handful of bears. Ask the children to sort the bears in the following w

ays: by size (big and small), by color (blue, red, green, yellow), and by size and color. You can also use color coordinated bowls or plates to sort the bears. For example, ask your students to put all of the red bears in the red bowl.


Since the bears vary in sizes and colors, you can use them to make patterns. If you are working on AB patterns, you can let your students create many different patterns based on colors or size. Ask students to pair up and make patterns. Then have students work with their partners to guess the different patterns or continue the patterns.


If your students are beginning to count and explore numbers, have them count the number of bears in a bowl and then record the number. You can have several bowls set up around your classroom with different numbers of bears in them. Have students walk around the room and “collect data” from the bear bowls. Students can practice counting and writing numbers. Have students compare their answers with others and recount the bears if necessary.

Book Connection:

One of my favorite books to use with the bears is Teddy Bear Counting by Barbara Barbieri McGrath because it depicts most of these aspects into a picture book. You can work with this book as a whole group or individually. You can have students at their own desks with an assortment of bears so that they can follow along with you as you read. Have students create the same pattern that is shown throughout the book. This will incorporate following directions, listening and comprehension skills. The book is available at The School Box for less than $10!

Now it’s time to go find your favorite little bear friends and put them to work!

Looking for a good set of counting bears? Check out these cuties from The School Box: Three Bear Family Counting Bears.

For more counting games and activities, click here.

To toss your name in the hat to win a $20 School Box gift card (which would pay for those cute counting bears), comment on this post below!

Rachel Stepp is a graduate student at The University of Georgia and a regular contributor to A Learning Experience (lucky us!).


Filed under Centers, Math, Reading, Uncategorized

Interactive Math Warm-Up Idea

Comment on this post to win a $20 gift card to The School Box! One winner is selected each month.

by Elizabeth D. Cossick, M. Ed.

So, you’re looking for a fun way to begin your math class each day. It needs to be quick, engaging and easy to execute. Well, look no further because we’ve got a great one that students of ALL ages love–and it seriously couldn’t be easier.


Mini white or black boards (one per child)

White board marker or piece of chalk (one per child)


  1. Pass out white/black boards and respective writing instruments to your students. Tell them that they will use their board to participate in some fun math races.
  2. Then, simply call out math equations that are on-par with your class’s ability level or current topics of study. Everything from simple addition to complex long division and algebra equations will work for this activity.
  3. The students solve the problems and write the answer on their boards as quickly as possible. When they have their answer written, they silently hold their board above their heads.
  4. Award small prizes daily (or keep track of points and award a larger prize, like a full-sized candy bar, to one “Math Champion” each month). Prizes can be awarded for: first correct answer, second correct answer, third correct answer (to keep students working even after the first board gets raised into the air), neatest writing, or best display of steps (if “show your work” is a necessary instruction).
  5. At the end of the activity, you can collect the boards or allow students to keep them in their desks for drawing and writing when they finish their work.

Your students will look forward to this fast-paced activity…almost as much as they’ll look forward to writing on their own white/black board!

Helpful Hints: Laminated pieces of white poster board, cut into 9 x 12 sheets, also make good erasable boards for use with dry erase markers. They may have to be replaced after a few months, but they’re cheap and easy to make. And, old (clean :) socks make great erasers, as well as holders for chalk and white-board markers.

To purchase mini white or black boards and pens/chalk, visit The School Box…or check out these links:


Filed under Geometry, Math, Motivation, Multiplication, Test Prep

Educator’s Day!!

by Elizabeth Cossick, M. Ed.

Okay, so you just have to know about this event: This Saturday, January 29, is the biggest sale at The School Box all year. Did you hear that? ALL YEAR, ladies and gents. I am more than a little excited.

But, wait, don’t tune out if you’re not a teacher. The School Box is also the PERFECT place to get craft supplies, kiddie room decor and furniture, the best book titles for all ages, tutoring & extra practice materials for home…and (my personal fave) birthday and baby shower gifts. Have you seen their awesome toy and game aisles? Quality stuff sans the lead paint (like Melissa & Doug). And now it’ll all be ON SALE!!! “Stock up” is the golden rule for a balanced birthday budget.

The Details:

Date: January 29, 2011

Where: At *every* School Box location. To find one near you, check out www.schoolbox.com.

Discounts: Available for parents, teachers, home-schoolers, aunts, uncles, grandparents, third cousins twice removed…everyone! Draw an apple at checkout, and the apple will determine the discount on your total purchase (10%, 20%, 30%, 40%).

Oh Goody Goody: The first 40 customers will receive special goody bags.  Drawings will also be done for $50 prizes, and one lucky duck will win a $250 Gift Certificate!!!

This is one of the best (and most fun!) sales for quality children’s games, supplies and the like. Just thought you should know about it!

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Filed under Activities, Classroom Community, Classroom Decor, Critical Thinking, Free Stuff!, Games, Geography, History, Holidays, Parenting, Phonics, Reading, Science, Study Skills, Teacher Inspiration