Finding Perimeter & Area of Irregular Figures

I’ll be honest, I HATE working on perimeter and area of irregular figures!  It is such a challenge for students and the perfectionist in me can’t deal with the mess that these drawings quickly turn into.  This year, I did something extremely basic but so close to my heart; color coding!!!  I have found this method to be very effective for teaching students to visualize how to find the “missing” measurements.  It can also be done quickly, on the fly, and without ANY preparation.  

I begin this mini-lesson by telling students to grab two markers of their favorite color….talk about instant engagement!  I have them draw the irregular figure in pencil as I draw it on the Promethean Board.  Then I slowly have them color code the lines.  I usually begin with the horizontal lines only.  After color coding the horizontal lines, I ask the students to visualize what the shape would look like if we could somehow shove the “4 in” in the picture above down to be even with the “6 in”.  I usually get responses like, “It will look like a rectangle…” and “Then it would be the same size as the ‘unknown’ purple piece at the bottom…”.  All of which are *perfect* for solving the problem.  Using their responses, we begin discussing how to find the measurement of the unknown piece.  Then, we switch gears and do the vertical lines in another color.

I also like to give plenty of examples where students are given the long side and must use the colors to figure out one of the short pieces using the same process.  If you can teach your students THIS in a snap, then you deserve a serious reward!  
I also wanted to share a link to my Perimeter and Area Task Cards.  This packet of task cards includes ten sets of cards covering the following skills:
  *Finding Perimeter {with basic math facts and working towards double digits}
  *Finding Perimeter {with double digit numbers working towards triple digits}
  *Finding Area {with basic math facts and working towards double digits}
  *Finding Area {with double digit numbers working towards triple digits}
  *Finding Perimeter & Area {with basic math facts and working towards double digits}
  *Finding Perimeter & Area {with double digit numbers working towards triple digits}
  *Finding the Area of Triangles
  *Finding the Area of Parallelograms
  *Finding Missing Numbers in Irregular Figures
  *Finding Perimeter & Area of Irregular Figures

Math Warm Ups!

What morning procedures do you have each day?  I have the standard ones, such as turn in homework, sharpen pencils, and go to the restroom.  From there, rather than the typical morning work that I have previously used, I have began to implement Math Warm Ups.  If you followed my Guided Math Book Study this summer, you know that Math Stretches are part of Laney Sammon’s Guided Math philosophy.  {On a side note, I LOVE her!}

At the beginning of the year, I began using Math Warms Ups to start our day by using chart paper and scented markers.  {Side note, thank you Sentos!  You make math even better!!!}  I would pose a question related to the topic that they had from the previous night’s homework.  In the picture above, my students had watched a math video for homework about multiplying three-digit by three-digit numbers.  Why not begin the following day with a little warm up to refresh and wake up our minds?!?!  In this particular warm up (and many others), each student creates a component of the problem and they work together to solve it.  I really like this because it allows them to self differentiate as well as work cooperatively with others.  They typically have different partners each day which allows them to work and help many friends.

After they complete the problem, they record their initials next to their work.  I love this because when we meet to discuss the Warm Up after morning announcements, I have them explain what they did to the class.  Most of the time, their answers are spot on and I love hearing them put their mathematical actions into words.  Other times, they are pretty far off and it provides a chance to teach from common mistakes that students make.  Either way, I love it!

As the weeks passed, I realized that I was going to go broke if I kept on the chart paper kick.  So I moved the Math Warm Up to the board.  The process is the same but no scented markers.  *Sniff*  The students really seem to enjoy these and I love getting the opportunity to see their ability to follow directions, work as a team, and most of all, review a grade level skill.

After completing these Math Warm Ups on the board {sitting right next to my Promethean Board} for months, I felt like an idiot when I realized….I could do these digitally!!!  Duh!  So using Power Point, I created Math Warm Ups that are able to be done on our Promethean Board while mastering the same objectives and saving paper, chalk, and lots of time.  Plus, what child doesn’t love the opportunity to come write on one of these boards?

Now, if you’re interested in trying these on your own, I have a sample copy with VERY basic Math Warm Ups that you could use to see how they fit into your classroom.  These are typically the types of warm ups I use on days where we are in between skills, right before breaks, or other awkward days that just don’t “fit” into a typical warm up.

If you enjoy the sample or think that this is something that you would like to incorporate into your classroom, I also have Math Warm Ups designed for specific skills.  I currently have decimals, fractions, and measurement & geometry.  They are perfect for complimenting your daily instruction and allowing students to “warm up” their brain before diving into math class!  Each set comes with a PDF version of the Warm Ups as well as an editable Power Point for inserting your own Warm Ups.

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Math Journals!

This year, I have tried to put a strong emphasis on having my students be able to describe the processes and concepts behind each of our skills that we work on.  I’m not going to lie, this has been HARD!
As I plan for each unit, I develop a prompt to support the daily skill that we work on.  Now, I am pretty proud of these prompts and I love how it allows me to see exactly what each student knows or understands about a given skill.  And then there are days, where you are so excited to see the student responses and get something like this…..


You are one of my top math students and THAT is what you thought was a good response to my absolutely fabulous prompt?!?!?  I can’t even tell what the prompt was because your response was so short and sweet.  So week after week, I would write, “More detail!” or sometimes I would even say, “More detail, please!!!”  And I didn’t get anything more from him and many others in my class.  I even said please…. :/

So I decided that they were truly giving me all that they could.  That although they could verbally tell me these beautiful answers in class, they simply weren’t able to form an amazing response independently in writing.  So I started doing a little searching; trying to find a product on TpT or idea on Pinterest that would help my students become better ‘math writers’.  I was sadly disappointed when I couldn’t find anything.  So I had to put on my big girl panties and begin researching in a different way.  Ya know…..the kind of boring stuff that they make you do in college.  Gag!  But I actually found several really good research articles that had great criteria and ideas for incorporating writing into mathematics understanding.

What I developed from this research was something EXTREMELY simple but I have loved giving my students a criteria in which to follow when writing their responses.  When I introduced this to the class, we wrote three responses together over the course of three days.  We used this time to make sure that they were using the checklist to help develop responses that are “up to Mrs. Wilp’s standards”.

You’ll be glad to know that “Mr. I’m-Gonna-Write-There-Both-The-Same-And-Think-That’s-Ok” is improving in his Math Journal responses.  After introducing the criteria to the Math Journals, this is one of his entires.  You can tell that he restated the question or prompt, used key math vocabulary, illustrated his thinking, and made sure that his response actually answered the prompt.  The only thing that he may be lacking in my “Don’t Forget to:” checklist is the fifth star: USE YOUR BEST HANDWRITING!!!

Recently, I had an idea to transfer my journal prompts into a booklet to make it easier for students to utilize throughout a unit. I cannot wait to roll this out next year! ๐Ÿ™‚

Mastering Math Facts!

Hey there!  I’ve missed you all!  My post today is one that I have slaved over for WEEKS!  Seriously.  I don’t know about you but many of my fifth grade students are really struggling with basic multiplication facts.  It’s sad to see them understanding HOW to do things but not be able to complete them correctly on a consistent basis due to math fact mastery.  So as any teacher-author would do, I set to creating a solution!

Now, maybe I’ve been helping my kindergartener with her book club where they use these folders to transport books to and from school; but I felt that I just had to create a self-paced system that would allow students to master multiplication facts and build mathematical confidence.  Or….MAYBE I just wanted an excuse to use these ADORABLE folders!  Either way, I set to work!

Last year, I found an old copy of Dr. Carl Seltzer‘s book Multiplication Facts in Seven Days.  I loved the way he broke up the facts and allowed students to use the commutative property of multiplication to lighten the load of fact mastery.  Why spend time learning your 1’s, followed by your 2’s, and 3’s?  By the time they get to the 6’s, they are DONE!

So I set to work making printer friendly flash cards and assessments for my students to begin using.  I passed them out and explained the system to parents at Parent-Teacher Conferences to ensure that they understood that the program is self paced and what my expectations were.  I also included a parent letter incase they didn’t attend conferences or needed a refresher later.

Inside each folder is a ziplock baggie with the facts for Set One.  Set One is the largest set but only includes eight facts.  When the parent feels that they are able to fluently answer each fact in the folder they return it to school.  I then assess the students using quick, printer friendly assessments.

My students have actually enjoyed doing these.  Since I am only doing it with about six students in my classroom and six students in the other fifth grade classroom, they feel a little *privileged* to have something that the other students don’t.  My fear was that the opposite effect would happen.  They have handled it well and have been very motivated to move through the six sets.

If you’re interested in using this system in your own classroom, you can grab the Addition and Multiplication Editions by clicking the images below!  You might also find them on sale!!! ๐Ÿ™‚

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Teaching with Intention {Chapter Three}

So I think it’s safe to say that classroom environment is
important.  I am also willing to bet that
something stated in your beliefs on education that you have been pondering
about (and hopefully recording :D) regard the environment of your
classroom.  The environment sets the tone
for what happens in the classroom throughout the entire school year. 

But how the heck do we begin to create a classroom
environment that fits all of our hopes and dreams?  That’s a difficult task.  Debbie Miller suggests that you start by
purging and organizing all of the things that sometimes clutter our
classrooms.  If you’re a hoarder or hate
organizing, I’m sorry….don’t hate me, but it must be done.  (Don’t
worry, I’m right there with ya.)
by making three piles.  I also do this
when I’m cleaning out things at home. 
Make a pile of the things you know you need to keep.  And be honest
with yourself; don’t store junk just because you have a hard time letting
go.  (I’ll
think about taking my own advise on that later….)
  Make another pile for things that someone
else in other grade levels or positions might like or need.  Worse case scenario, if they can’t use it,
Goodwill is always accepting donations. 
Load it up in the back of your car (or
truck….or U-haul…..or semi trailer)
and PURGE!  Don’t be afraid to throw things
away.  If it is old, worn out, or hasn’t
been used in years, THROW. IT. OUT.  You
are just cluttering your classroom and making it harder for both you and your
students to be productive. 

Next, begin thinking about the set up of your classroom.  I think many of us do this without even
thinking about it based on our teaching styles. 
You know what you want and that’s great.  Debbie suggests asking the following

*Do the children and I need a meeting area?

*Do the children and I need areas for small group work?

*Do the children and I need a library area?

*What about the configuration of kids’ desks or tables?

Now, here is a little challenge for you posed by Debbie in
this chapter:  Walk out of your room and
come back in with a fresh, critical eye. 
By clicking on the image above, you can download a freebie to help you
complete her challenge but you could do the same with a piece of paper.  When you walk back into your room, ask
yourself, “What are the things I like
about my classroom?  What is working well
here?”  Record all of these things on the
right hand column.  Don’t make any
changes to these areas.  Instead, try to
think about what makes these areas so perfect!

Next, ask yourself, “What doesn’t make sense in my
classroom?”  Record all of the things you
feel don’t make sense in the center column. 
Start looking for possible reasons why they don’t make sense and begin
thinking about solutions.

In the last column, record what you would like to see.  If I were you, I would toss the budget out
the window for this column.  After all,
you’re just jotting down ideas not signing a contract to actually do it.  But it could help you to develop creative
solutions to achieve the look and feel you want without the price tag.  After all, when I get a crazy idea, I search
eBay, Craigslist, post on Facebook, go to garage sales, scour sales ads;
ANYTHING to find what I’m wanting without paying full price.

Now, the challenge gets even more difficult….are you
ready?  This could sting a little but could
also be the most helpful.  Ask a colleague
to fill out the second page of the freebie above.  These questions are pretty deep and you need
an honest opinion, so choose someone who will be honest with you.  Don’t pick me….I’m a sugar coater.  :/

Have your colleague tell you:

*What do you know I value based on looking around in my

*What do you know I believe about teaching and
learning?  What’s the evidence?

*What do you know about the kids in the room?

Now, if we’re only talking about environment, don’t ask your
best friend to do this.  Their opinion
will be a little skewed.  They KNOW how
what you value.  They KNOW what you
believe about teaching and learning.  You
need someone to be honest with you and see if the environment of your classroom
actually matches what you are striving for.  

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