6 Insanely Useful Tips for October in the Math Classroom

Oct 16, 2021

 6 Insanely Useful Tips for October in the Math Classroom

When looking at the gorgeous scenery from my sister's hiking adventures, a spark of envy stirs inside me. How did she get to the place where she exerted so much energy to climb mountains and find that exhilarating? Slow, steady, and friends climbing with her. Knowing what she would see once on top helped her keep focused. That's how!

It reminded me of Gerry Brooks' Keynote; click here to listen. I again realized that we all need to slow down, keep a steady pace, be in a supportive community and focus on the beauty.



  There are many things the educators I am coaching are trying to juggle. How to do it all is continually circling in their heads. You know those thoughts that keep interjecting themselves as you run from meeting to meeting, in between classes, when you fall asleep at night, and as you wake up in the morning. How about you? Are these twirling around in your mind?



While coaching teachers and administrators, the theme that keeps   popping up over and over - Kids have forgotten how to interact   with their peers and "do school." They just can't seem to self-regulate. Of course, we often think we don't need to teach students how to "do school," especially in upper grades, but these past few school years have been unlike any other.

Coaching is NOT about "shoulding you." You "should" be doing this, or you "should not" be doing that.

Here's the thing I love about coaching

  • The personalized process that occurs
  • Having fun in the process
  • Discovering workable solutions



 Get on the waitlist to join High Impact Math Teachers Club, where we:

  • Question practices, gather data, reflect, and hone our skills
  • Try different techniques, adapt to the personal styles and needs of the teacher and students.
  • Practice, reflect, adjust, and practice again.
  • Explore choice, so passion is reignited

So, if this sounds like a community you want to be a part of, click here to join the waitlist.

Here are some techniques to help students get "recentered" and back on track to self-regulate.

Before you panic and say you don't have time…

  • These techniques are easy to implement.
  • They won't cost you a thing.
  • You can adjust them to your teaching style.
  • You can adjust them to your students and class needs.
  • You will have regained time and energy!


Follow me on Instagram @themathteacherwhisperer to hear and celebrate teachers' wins or to watch live videos. Click here.


Be Wise as a Sloth!  


Sloths ONLY use the energy they have.

They don't expend energy they don't have.

They conserve their energy.




Create a classroom where you are not expanding the energy you don't have—classrooms where students own their learning and self-regulating their behaviors.

"No Opt-Out"

This technique allows students to state what they think the answer is while giving them space to self-correct. When asking students a question, you do not allow them to "opt-out" of answering the question. If the student replies they do not know the answer, there are a few options for the students can take:

  • They can ask a friend for a clue or hint
  • They can ask you for a clue or hint
  • They can ask for the next step in solving the problem so they can finish solving the problem.
  • They can find the answer in their text or interactive notebook.


"Batter, Batter Swing" 

You have probably done pepper steps while exercising (quickly stepping to the tempo of the instructor, or you may have seen it at football games as players warmed up.) But did you know baseball players also use Pepper as a practice strategy? They hit and throw the ball in fast-paced action to review fundamentals. What if you take the same approach and use it in the classroom? You can get double your efforts, building relationships with your sports fanatics while reviewing content.

Here's how it works.

  • Place a Baseball Diamond on the board (you can quickly draw one) 
  • The class can play in 2 teams or as a whole.
  • Throw the baseball to team 1. (I use a large foam dice.)
  • The person who catches the ball answers the question (or you can create a lineup like the major league).
  • If team 1 answers correctly, they roll the die in place as the batter.
  • Team 1 continues until they have 3 outs.
  • Then Team 2 is up to bat.

Roll of Die

1 = First Base

2 = Double

3 = Triple

4 = Home Run

5 = Strike Out

6 = Pop Fly Out

Batter, Batter Swing is a great way to review content from class. The questions you ask are always a review of material that has been previously covered. So, you can keep adding questions each week until you have completed the unit.




Open doors to build relationships



 2 Minutes for 10 days

Identify 1- 2 students who need a connection. Examples are the students who often do not appear to be engaged; they may be disruptive in class or not completing their work.  For the next 10 days, invest 2 minutes talking and connecting with these 1-2 students. Asking questions such as these:

  • What is their favorite TV show
  • What do they do in their time away from school (play sports, watch a sibling, work a job, play video games…)
  • Asking about their family in a non-investigative manner can be follow-up questions based on their answers to other questions.

Typically, I keep the questions to things outside of school in the beginning to build rapport. I also jot down a few of the students' responses so I can follow up the next day. I might even "google" something to follow up with the next day to continue making a connection. I don't keep an extensive log. I am just using a class list to ensure I connect with all students and jot a connection to follow up later.

"Everyone in your class has a story that leads to misbehavior or defiance.

Nine times out of ten, the story behind the misbehavior won't make you angry;

it will break your heart." Annette Breaux


SEA of Choices & Attribution Gone Wild

Quality feedback is a top 10 contributor to student achievement, but not all feedback is the same.  Your ideal uses specificity, with actionable steps and a strong "why" (all embedded in a trusting relationship).

You can get even more significant gains in student achievement when you add an attribution. Attribution is the "why," It happens when you attribute an effect to a specific factor. "When you did THAT, you got THIS!" For examples of how to flesh this out in your classroom, download the Navigating Middle Math Guide here.


Keep from creating broken relationships

Social Contract

Creating a social contract in class builds community and student buy-in. Of course, some teachers I coach build the Social Contract a little differently, but that is what I love. YOU adapt it to make it work for you. Here is the general process.

You ask the students 4 basic questions. Students can respond orally as you or someone scribes the responses exactly as the student states them. Students write their answers on post-it notes then put them on poster paper under the question or the carrousel chalk activity.

4 Questions:

  1. How do you want to be treated by me (the leader)?
  2. How do you want to be treated by each other?
  3. How do you think I (the leader) want to be treated by you?
  4. How do you want to treat each other when there is a conflict?

Why does the Social Contract work?

  • It encompasses 4 ideas: effort, listening, no put-downs, and respect
  • Everyone has input in developing the Contract
  • With the behaviors, you refer to the agreement that was established so that the conversation is nonjudgmental
  • The Contract can be revisited and adjusted as needed

Nonsensical Strategy

Teaching students that it is okay to make mistakes is crucial. There are times when everyone experiences things that don't make sense, and you need to ask questions. In addition, building trust in the class helps during times when we slip up. For the Nonsensical Strategy, click here.


Need an 'On Ramp' to help students get recentered and back on track for "doing school" so your class is more manageable, and you are having more FUN!


Want to talk through a strategy or how to adapt it for you and your students? Jump on a FREE coaching call here. 



When you have worked your magic, I want you to SNAP a picture and celebrate on social media with enthusiasm. Be sure to tag me in all your successes so I can celebrate with you!



 I am rooting for you!