Category Archives: Uncategorized

The Easiest, Most Customizable Seating Chart and VRG Generator Ever™ #SundayFunday

Updated 9/4 to add easier specialized seating and an awesome “randomize” button.

UGH, this was SUCH a simple idea that I’m mad at myself for taking this long to figure it out. But at least I figured it out in time to share for #SundayFunday’s Teacher Hack week!

I needed to make a seating chart for a class that has a really weird seating arrangement-it’s two conference room tables mooshed together, so 8 students on each side, two on one end, and then a group of six at a different table. We skype with another teacher so I wanted to be able to share it easily with her and also make it easily randomizable so we could change it if we wanted. I tried some online options but it just wasn’t happening. But thinking about flippity and then doing a little googling led me to The Easiest, Most Customizable Seating Chart and Visible Random Grouping Generator Ever™.

Step one: Enter your names.

Step two: Make your layout. If you have group tables, but want to assign seats, I suggest making a border around the number of cells for each group. You could also just make rows/columns if that is how your class is set up, or make group names.

Then for each “seat,” reference a cell from your name column by typing =A1, =A2, =A3, etc.It should look like this when you’re done (I did an example of tables and of rows).

“Uh, Meg, hate to point this out, but those are in the same order as the list you entered. Not very random.”

Step three: Oh, did you want random? I’ll show you random. Click the little arrow at the top of the column and….

How do you like them random apples?! Project this at the start of class and, boom, you’ve got your VRGs right there! Randomize repeatedly as needed. You could also use this as a random student name generator, to assign partners, or OOH! even to randomly assign topics for a project (make a list of topics, then add the =A1, etc to column next to them).

UPDATE: Bonus Step Four: Mark Kaercher developed a script to make a “randomize” button. Make the students’ names white, press the button, and they will they are at Hogwart’s with all your wizardry.

Here is his post: and he includes the file to download and customize.

Complaints I’ve had about every other seating chart program:

“I’d like to put them groups” Ok:

(Ironically, there is not one corgi in the corgi group.)

UPDATE: Great suggestion, Michelle! Two birds, one sheet!

“But what if someone is absent/moves out of the class?”

Click the box with their name and use backspace to delete it (do not try to right-click and delete or cut), then randomize again. It will automatically put the blank cells at the end. If they’re just absent, make sure to undo it at the end of class (or you could make a duplicate sheet just for that day, then clear the name.) If you think you’ll use this option a lot, be careful about how you arrange the reference cells in your layout (do you want all the blank spaces in one group/column, or spread out in a row?).

“But what if I have students that have to sit at a certain spot?”

If it is in a specific chair, you could take their name out of the list and just type it in that location. Or, if you have multiple students that need to be in the same area (for example, 4 kids that need to be at the front and 3 kids that need to be by the ESL aide), group them together in the column and use the appropriate cell reference in your layout. Then, you can select each group separately and randomize that group.

UPDATE: Teresa McCarthy came up with a much better plan, put the students in different columns, then you can randomize all columns at the same time:

“I really wish there were more corgi pictures.”

Also, for those of you that already made this discovery, why did you not tell me?!?! UPDATE: Thanks for all of you that let me know I was not the last one in the world to figure this out, and thanks to all of you who took the the idea and ran with it!

Category: Uncategorized

New (Improved?) Way to Make Math Figures

I saw this tweet from Jenn today:

I replied:

But then! I remembered a trick I learned a couple months ago about inserting a Powerpoint slide into Word.

I made the drawing in Powerpoint, using 6 point weight for arrows and 45 point font for labels. (You guys know about clicking on something, holding control, then dragging to copy/paste an object, right? So you only need to set the formatting once, then just copy the arrow or label and move it around to where you need the next one).

At this point you could do a screenshot, which in all likelihood would probably be easiest. BUT maybe you’re like me and make a mistake now and then? Or maybe you go to open the file next year to change something and–darn it–you have to draw the whole thing over again.

Well, with this new trick, if you double click on the image, it brings up the Powerpoint menu within Word. It’s like witchcraft. Watch and enjoy!

Gif made with (it’s free!)

The steps to insert the slide are:

Select the slide in Powerpoint, right click, copy.

Go to Paste dropdown menu in Word, select Paste Special, then Microsoft Powerpoint Slide Object.

At this point I like to go to layout, wrap text, choose in front of text. You can also resize.

You can also copy and paste the object and it will act like a separate slide that you can modify independently of the first one:

I just printed them and they look super pretty!

Let me know if you try it out and if you like better than just using a screen shot (or not).

*Side note: Yes, Desmos has geometry now!!!  But no labels or ability to change colors (yet), which is why I offered up this option. I used Geogebra quite a bit when I taught Geometry, but I always have to relearn it every year.

Category: Uncategorized

Stars of the Week Vol 6 #SOTW

Since my last SOTW post was over a month ago (!!!), perhaps I really should take Pat’s suggestion from my last post and rename it “Stars of Whenever I Want.”

If you’re a #SOTW, grab the badge using the code below if you’d like it for your blog!

Stars of The Week
<div align="center"><a href="" rel="nofollow" title="Stars of The Week"><img src="" alt="Stars of The Week" style="border: none;" /></a></div>

Remember you can always use the nomination form and I will put it in my next post!

If you teach Geometry, you definitely need to be reading  @lisabej_manitou‘s Crazy Math Teacher Lady blog. She has tons of great ideas, but also realizes that sometimes you just need some no-frills, get-the-job-done, quality materials (a girl after my own note-taker-maker heart). Check out her quadrilateral collection. (BTW, if you interested in more materials like these, be sure to check out the comments on @k8nowak ‘s post that Lisa linked.)

I know we’re not supposed to have favorites in the #MTBoS, but I do, and @TPalmer207 is one of them. Ever since our TMC14 dash-to-get-cupcakes-before-the-store-closed, her great outlook and humor have always been something I look forward to seeing on Twitter (and in person!). Not only that, but she’s definitely the type of teacher I wish I could be – in the moment, not afraid to try new things, and constantly creating great discussions in her classroom. Check out this gorgeous teacher move of slowly revealing all the information with the absolute twist at the end that no one saw coming (not even Tina!). I know what you’re thinking, sure, everyone gets lucky once in a while, but no, Tina makes her own luck, as you can see in this segment addition postulate lesson.  You know, she only has about 60 posts so if you’re looking for a way to up your teacher game, spend an afternoon reading the entire collection. You won’t be sorry.

Speaking of teacher moves, if you teach ELL students, @heather_kohn is your gal. She is a great advocate of doing what it takes to bring the ELL student up to the goal, instead of lowering the goal down to where they may be now. Her post on scaffolding open response questions will make you rethink how you can help your struggling students (who may or may not be ELL).

Hey, here’s a great teacher move that easy to implement into any lesson on Monday: Ask Me a Question from @dsladkey. It moves the “Do you have any questions” to “What questions do you have” change to a whole new level.

Another one that’s so easy to implement, but can change the whole classroom climate: @a_schindy‘s Nevermind Strategy.

Wait, you want more teacher moves? This next post comes with a warning: This article will lead to great feelings of inadequacy and make you think most of what you’ve created is crap. So if your current mood is: ugh, I suck as a teacher, you might want to skip the @Desmos Guide to Building Great Math Activities. But if you’re feeling pretty good and want to pick up some ideas that will help make your next lesson planning be a little more thoughtful, go read it.

If you did read it (or even if you didn’t) and you’re looking for good examples of rich problems, check out @algebrasfriend‘s Algebra II examples. I LOVE the parabola one!!

Speaking of parabolas, you know function transformation are near and dear to my heart. @jreulbach created a wonderful Desmos marbleslide for them, but the key move here is the creation of an additional real-life worksheet for students to reflect on their learning and can have it for reference. (Also check out her Function Notation QR Stations–great practice problems for something my students always struggled with)

Ok: One more teacher move: let’s make mistakes a starting point for rich discussions. @Dave_Sabol shows how he used the results from a Desmos Activity Builder to decode mistakes in Calculus. (Also I think Dave should be in the SOTW Hall of Fame for his How I Teach series.)

Man, I don’t know about you, but now I’m overwhelmed by all the new teacher moves I’m supposed to be doing. So let’s take a brain break, sponsored by @mathequalslove‘s brainteaser collection.

And then let’s eat our feelings by baking these Salted Caramel Pretzel Crunch Bars from Sally’s Baking Addiction.

Now onto some starred tweets!

For reals, take David’s advice:

Yes, Zippy won (Adorable) Scruffiness of the Week!

Joel’s smartass reply (does he have any other kind?) to the discussion of how to say “apothem”:

Speaking of smartass replies:

I cannot tell you how many times I’ve looked at this tweet and laughed out loud:

I told you Heather has the pro teacher moves:

And speaking of that pause feature:

And other features:

You know I love my shortcuts:

And this one was brand new to me and I’ve used it every day since then!!! I’m even using it RIGHT NOW.

It always warms my heart to know that people enjoy my stuff; especially when it’s someone who has so much great stuff herself!

And when someone uses my suggestion and then the result is heartwarming:

And then when someone uses an idea I had and their students do so much better with it:

Be sure to send some encouragement to Kristin next weekend!

Do I like CalcDave because of his gifs or in spite of them?

Insert picture of two beautiful math teachers here.

Now I know what the first 91 books I buy as a librarian will be.


Genius Part II.

Genius Part III.

And I think I’ll let Casey wrap this (extremely long) edition up:

What? I’m not crying. YOU’RE crying.

#MTBoSBlaugust How I Teach

Stars of the Week will be a day or two delayed this week. I currently have 100+ posts to read in my reader! #FirstWeekProblems, amirite?

giphy (1)

But I do have one fun post to share with you today-Dave Sabol (@Dave_Sabol) has started a “How I Teach” series on his blog based on the Lifehacker series. And since I was one of the people who urged him to do it, I thought I should volunteer as tribute. So head on over to Dave’s blog and read all about my 2 favorite life hacks! Thanks Dave for starting this, I’m definitely looking forward to reading about how all the MTBoSers work!

Category: Uncategorized

#MTBoSBlaugust First Day Free Verse

So as not to break my Blaugust streak, I submit my free verse poem:

First Day

3rd Period computer lab

Of which only 3 computers work.

Which we found out today

During 3rd period

When students were going to take a google form and learning styles test.

Oh, just have them use their phones, you say.

Except did I mention the computer lab is in the middle of a cinderblock school?

And therefore is a cellphone dead zone?

Oh, they can use the school wifi, you say.

Except it hasn’t been configured for student use yet.


Keep Calm And Carry On

And talk about how you need to order

(yet another)

poster that looks like a window because it really does





You casually mention maybe this one will be of the beach.

Cut to end of class.

All the students are leaving.

And then one comes up and hands you a silly sketch of

a sun, clouds, waves, and palm trees

surrounded by a window frame

And says, “here’s a window for you.”

And you’re reminded

(yet again)

why you can’t quit this job.

Category: Uncategorized

TMC Takeaways #MTBoSBlaugust

Just a quick post with my notes from some great sessions! Thanks Sarah, Kathryn, Wendy, Sam, and Tina!

From Sarah & Kathryn’s morning session:

New Doc 41_1

New Doc 41_2

New Doc 44

From Wendy’s Problem Solving Class thirty minute session:

New Doc 42_1 New Doc 42_2

And Tina & Sam’s brainstorming session of how to #ExpandMTBoS

New Doc 45

Hey, look! I did one of the things I said I’d do! I started a #myfavorite except it’s #SOTW! I’m awesome.

(Quickest blog post ever!)


Category: Uncategorized

Favorite Podcasts #MTBoSBlaugust

I should finally admit it: I’m addicted to podcasts. Last year, when I was doing my 500 miles challenge, I would only allow myself to listen to them as I was walking or running. But now that I’m mostly doing workout videos, I allow myself to listen to podcasts at any time and now I can’t stop. I basically listen to three podcast brands (networks?) so here they are with my favorite podcasts and episodes.

My newest addiction is Common Room Radio, and I’ve been working through the episodes of two shows:

Odd Man Out: Two of the three gang up on the Odd Man Out to try something new (television show, movie, food). I always think, “man, how are they going to talk about ___ for an hour?” but then the time just flies! Favorite episodes: Alan and Cooking, Alan and Marvel’s Agent Carter, Gotta Love It: Parks And Rec, and Liz and Dr Horrible’s Sing-a-long Blog (side note: I found out at TMC that there are people that have not seen Dr Horrible and/or its commentary musical? WHAT ARE YOU DOING WITH YOUR LIFE?!?)

Disney Princess Death Match: Who will be selected as the best Princess? Anyone that grew up watching Disney will enjoy these. Favorite episodes include Mulan, Belle, and Merida.

The network I’ve been with the longest is Storywonk. Lani and Alistair were my constant companions last year while I was running. My favorite thing about listening to them is their positivity and their motto, “Love what you love.”

(hmm, looks like their having some technical issues on their site, so here is the link to the main podcast page.)

Story and Star Wars: It may even make you not hate the prequels! Obviously you should listen to whole series.

The Light Bulb (sadly discontinued): This was by far my favorite of theirs, just a pop culture conversation each week. Favorite episodes were We Know Her Value, Technically Correct, and SGU, We’ll Never Be Done.

StoryWonk Sessions (sadly discontinued): All the Pixar films! Fun times!

They’ve also just started a Marvel discussion podcast and will soon be restarting their Dear Mr Potter podcast with book 2!

I like most everything from Gimlet Media, but especially:

Reply All (h/t to @mrdardy) Two dudes that are just fun to listen to. Some fave episodes: A Simple QuestionIn The Desert, Raising the Bar (last one would definitely be of interest to #educolor)

StartUp Three seasons about starting a startup. First season is the best, along with any other Gimlet updates.

Surprisingly Awesome is surprisingly uneven, but the Frequent Flyer Miles episode is a classic, and just waiting for someone to make a lesson plan around it. Some other good ones were Tubthumping, Concrete, and Mold.

Mystery Show I want a Starlee Kine in my life. Seriously, the mystery is WHERE IS THE SECOND SEASON? There’s only six, so go ahead and listen to all of them, but my favorites are Britney, Belt Buckle, and Source Code.

Try one of them out while you’re setting up classroom, commuting, or talking walk and let me know if you liked ’em! And be sure to comment or tweet me your faves as well!

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5 Ways to Accessorize Your Function #Alg17 #MTBoSBlaugust

My first contribution to the AlgebraTEEN magazine!

5 ways to accessorize grey

(word file here) What started as a joke reply to Julie soon turned into a real thing with an AlgebraTEEN website and everything!  Make your own “article” and submit it! (It’s doesn’t have to be all graphic-design-y but it can be if you want!) Or if you just have an idea for an article submit that, too! I totally want to take the submissions and turn them into a real print magazine! Wouldn’t that be too much fun? Thanks to Julie and Mattie for taking a silly idea and running with it!

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First Day Materials #MTBoSBlaugust

Spurred by this tweet:

I thought I would share some of my first day materials. (Side note: Ali is starting up her first year teaching! Go give her an encouraging shoutout! She’s going to be awesome!)

Our first day is usually chopped up quite a bit, what with a super-long first period for everyone to find their place, then grade-level assemblies, crazy lunch, etc, so I usually don’t like to plan an activity for the day because it will just get all jumbled. I know, I know, not cool, but sometimes it’s easier to just go with the flow. I always have Four Fours ready if we have extra time at the end of class! We usually start on a Thursday, so I spend Friday doing the “fun” first day stuff then we’re ready to jump in Monday.

All that to say this is my “not fun but necessary” first day stuff.

My syllabus (2 to a page because trees):


File here  I also had a different version that had 10 tips for success that just got too wordy and me-talky:

steps to success

Maybe spread them out and talk about 2 each day as a warm up? Or just copy the genius of Becca Phillips:

For the survey, I usually have directions for the students to start the survey on their phones when they get into class (and yes, I understand a url and QR code are redundant, but I found many students didn’t have a QR reader installed). I also have my phone and my computer available for those that don’t have one. The survey is a google form that starts with last name, first name, preferred name, class period, grade level, then some get-to-know-you questions:

student survey

I also need to add birthday so I can do something fun for them!

I also liked Sarah & Kathryn’s idea of having the kids introduce themselves on a padlet–maybe upload a photo too so I can get to know names?

As for the parent survey, most of the teachers have parents sign the syllabus the first day, but I tell my students that they need to take the survey instead (and yes, some students respond pretending to be parents but you can usually sniff them out, and really, didn’t some students sign their parents name when we did it the old fashioned way?  I also tell them that they can pick up a paper form on the way out if getting online is a problem.

parent survey

The “proud of my child because” one? That is teacher-parenting communication gold right there! I do the “terms of service” for anything that I routinely get emails/phone calls about. (For my precal, I have that they do need a graphing calculator and can rent one from the school if needed.)

I also do a fun “getting to know Mrs Craig and man she is really weird and makes really stupid jokes” powerpoint:

I just updated the states page (Thanks, TMC16 for #27!) and the countries visited page (14!). It seems like a cheat to count both Sint Maarten (Dutch side) and Saint Martin (French side), but they are separate countries!

Will have to come up with something different for ACT prep this year…maybe have a goofy multiple choice test?  Like Mrs Craig has (a) a cat (b) a pig (c) a gerbil (d) a corgi?  Things to think about next week!

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Next Year #MTBoSBlaugust

Just a quick update on what I’ll be teaching next year! (and I wanted to keep my Blaugust record going but kind of tired after moving furniture and boxes all morning)

I have one class 1st semester of my problem solving course! Really small class (<10) so I’m super excited to do a lot of fun stuff with them!! Also thinking of giving them an assignment of coming up with some puzzles or problems solving we can do! Like assign each person 3 days to fill with fun math stuff? Plus lots of make it stick and crossing the river with dogs!

I’m going to have 3 ACT prep classes 1st semester and 4 2nd semester. They’re thinking about getting a computer course that supposed to be really good but I think it comes with teacher training too so it wouldn’t be all computer-based. I have some other ideas as well if this doesn’t pan out. Also plan to have Make It Stick Mondays in here, too!

I’m going to have 2 periods where I’m supervising or monitoring students taking virtual learning couses. Most students will be taking a virtual class because their schedule didn’t work to take the real one, so they’ll be in my classroom when they have the free period to work on their coursework. A few students are home-school students who, under our new Tim Tebow law, can take one virtual course offered by a school to be “enrolled” at that school and therefore play football. I don’t really understand it, but then again, the only way I can talk intelligently about football is quoting FNL (“Do they run the spread or an “I” defense?”), so maybe I’m not supposed to understand it. Anyway, I’ll just monitor that they’re getting their work completed and proctor tests.

My new room is a computer lab. It’s pretty big, but most of the space is taken up by rows of computers, with no real way to do groups (side note: it made me really sad to see the groups in my old room replaced by rows). Also there’s no window (totally buying a window decal like Melynee Naegele tweeted last week!). And there’s no cell phone service. And the room the teacher that was in there was supposed to move to isn’t ready yet so she hasn’t moved her stuff out so I can’t unpack yet. But, um, at least it’s close to the library?

So that’s what my year is going to look like. I also volunteered today to help with prom so that will give me something to occupy my mind and hopefully be creative. Any suggestions about virtual learning, ACT prep, or problem solving are greatly appreciated!

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