As it is almost time to start preparing classrooms for the coming school year, I thought I would share my top 10 list of things I couldn’t live without as a middle school math teacher.
10. Class sets of rulers, protractors, and compasses
We don’t use these all that often but they definitely come in handy when we get to geometry, graphing, and pie charts. I don’t ask students to supply their own because by the time we get to the units that require these tools, many of the kids have lost theirs.
9. LARGE supply of pre-sharpened pencils
I either get packs of pre-sharpened pencils or regular packs of pencils that I sharpen over the summer. Regardless of whatever system you have for pencils, students are going to show up for class without a pencil or with a pencil that needs to be sharpened at some point throughout the year. It makes my life easier if I can just give them a pencil that’s ready to go that they can use for class instead of waiting for them to sharpen one.
8. Pencil-top Erasers
Kids make mistakes all the time. It makes sense to have erasers on hand to give them when they no longer have one on their pencil. I LOVE these ones from oriental trading – they’re cute and there are enough to last at least a year. (The kids love the smiley faces on them, too)!
7. Expanding File Folder
(This is one of those things that I never knew I needed but now that I have one I don’t know how I survived without it). You are going to have a lot of papers to grade. My old system was to just throw all the papers I had to grade into my bag to take home. Now I have sections in my 13 pocket file folder from Staples for all the different papers I need to grade, and I have sections for each class where I put the graded papers to give back. I am SOOO much more organized with it.
My favorite go-to manipulatives are two-color counters and algebra tiles. The two-color counters are awesome for teaching integer operations and the algebra tiles are great for simplifying algebraic expressions, adding/subtracting/multiplying/factoring polynomials. I also LOVE my 3-d figure manipulatives. I have foam ones (that are fun to throw at the students) and ones with removable nets that are great for teaching surface area. I also have lots of dice, coins, and spinners for my probability units.
5. Looseleaf and/or Scrap Paper
You can never have too much paper! My students are always required to show all work so I go through paper like crazy.
4. Good Grading Pens
I LOOOOVE my papermate flair grading pens. I love all the colors, they don’t bleed through papers, and they just write nice. I get a new pack each school year and it is always my favorite summer purchase!
3. Fun, Nerdy, Math Decorations
I like my room to set the tone as a fun place to learn math. I have math comic strips up around the room (Frank and Ernest have a bunch of good ones), cheesy math posters (such as “Life without geometry is pointless”), and my new addition that I am VERY excited about is an algebra alphabet set that I made to hang around my room. It’s colorful, fun, and educational!
If you are interested, you can get a set of my Algebra Alphabet Cards at my TpT store.
2. Graph Paper
If you are teaching pre-algebra or algebra your students will be graphing lines so you will need graph paper. Depending on whether you use binders or notebooks, you may want different types of graph paper. If your students use binders for their notes, you can just use regular 3-hole punch graph paper. If you are using notebooks, then I highly recommend these awesome stick-on graphs that I discovered a couple of years ago! Just stick them into your students’ notebooks and they have a nice, neat place to take notes on graphing! (I don’t remember where I got these ones, but Amazon has a similar set for sale).
1. Mini Whiteboards, Expo Markers, and “Erasers”
Every math teacher needs a good set of mini whiteboards. Have students work out problems on them, showing their work, and then have them hold them up to show you. Such an easy formative assessment! They are great for review games, too. I definitely recommend getting a set that includes a coordinate plane side, as well, so that students can use them for graphing. I have been using these ones from EAI Education for a few years now and love them! They are thin and lightweight and barely take up any room. If you don’t want to invest in a good set of mini whiteboards you can always make your own. My first year of teaching I took a piece of cardstock and a printed out coordinate plane and put them in page protectors. I taped them shut, and had my own little makeshift whiteboards. The nice thing about the homemade ones is that since they are in 3 hole punched page protectors, students can each keep one in their binders (if they are using binders) and always have them on hand. I use old rags as erasers for the whiteboards, but paper towels or actual whiteboard erasers work, too.
I hope you found this list helpful. Do you have any must-haves for your middle school math classroom that weren’t on my list? Please share! I will send a FREE set of my Algebra alphabet set to the first 2 people to comment (be sure to leave an email address for me to send it to).
Thanks for reading,