How I'm starting the school Year.

How I'm starting the school Year.

I used to open up the school year with some nice get to know you activities. For example, I might randomly partner students together and have them interview each other. After the students asked each other a few questions, they would introduce their partner to the rest of the class. This was always a nice way to ease into the school year and get to learn a bit about the kids.

As much as I (and the kids) enjoyed these opening day activities I always felt something was lacking. There seemed to be this disconnect with these activities and math. (Also, it seemed like every teacher in the building was doing some variation of this. So the students were doing this all day long. The novelty was lost by the time many got to me.)

Last year I tweaked how opened the school year. 

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Making 3D Shapes and Similar Objects using Scale Drawing

Making 3D Shapes and Similar Objects using Scale Drawing

Creating 3 Dimensional Drawings

One of my favorite activities each year is using scale factor to create three dimensional drawings. We do this activity when we are studying Unit Rates. There are a variety of reasons why this is one of my go to lessons.

Hands On

This activity gives students the chance to create something. The act of drawing, measuring, & designing is a nice change of pace from the usual worksheet avalanche. The actual act of creating this object allows students to see the relationship of sides all changing proportionally.


This lesson gives students the opportunity to showcase their creative/artistic side. We have some basic guidelines, but in general students are free to design what appeals to them.


Many students are visual learners. For some students it easy to see difference between an object drawn to scale and an object that does not have a constant proportionality.

Connections with other classes

Art, Social studies (maps), industrial tech, and computer science classes are some of the classes that we are able to show a connection with.  For example, our art classes use one point perspective drawings which share a ton of similarities with our scale drawings.


The activity allows you to increase (or decrease) the difficulty. For example, if you have a student that is struggling you can use a very simple shape such as the letter "L" or use a very easy scale factor such as 2.  If you want to increase the intensity you can have students measure everything in inches (not centimeters) or require a very unusual scale factor such as 3/8 or 1.75.


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Prang Power!

If you work at any school in America I sure you are well aware of the Box Tops for Education Program. It's a super program and provides a lot of great resources. At most school I've been to the Box Top program is done as a school wide fundraiser. This certainly makes sense, there is strength in numbers. 

But what if you are a teacher and you are looking for an easy way to earn free items for your class? You don't want to do the Box Tops for just your class because that would undermine your schools efforts. It would be nice to find something that the other teachers in your building are not doing. The answer: PRANG POWER

What is Prang Power? Prang Power is an educational program created by Dixon-Ticonderoga the pencil company (which includes all Dixon, Ticonderoga, Lyra, & Prang products). Very few teachers are even aware of this program (I am the only person at our district). So how does this program work?

Step 1 - Sign up for the program

Signing up is easy and free. Just go to and sign up for the program. The whole process takes less than 2 minutes.

Step 2 - Collect UPC Codes

This is real easy to do at the start of the school year. Many of your students are going to have brand new boxes of pencils. Simply ask them if you can have their UPC codes. Most students are glad to get rid of the boxes. 

Ask you fellow teachers. Just like the students, teachers are loading up on pencils, chalk and other school supplies at the start of the year. Make the rounds at your school. Again most of the teachers are happy to get rid of their boxes.

Check in with your administration (this includes the secretaries). Often your school will purchase large amounts of pencils for testing and general use. Just like the kids and teachers, they are happy to get rid of their boxes.

Bonus Points - You can earn bonus points from prang for different things such as mentioning Prang Products on your school supply list.

Step 3 - Mail in UPC codes

As you collect UPC codes you can mail them to the Prang Program. Each UPC code has a point value approximately equal to the suggest retail price. So a $5 box is worth about 5 points. Prang will keep track of your points as you send them in.

Once you have earned 300 points you can begin cashing in your points for pencils, art supplies and other items.

Step 4 - Cash in your points for free Product.

At the start of this school year we received nearly 500 free pencils as the result of this program and we are close to getting more!

Todd Hawk is a middle school math teacher and the Founder of the Land of Math LLC ( You can reach him at or follow him on twitter: @landofmath2.



8 Reasons why Teachers Pay Teachers (TPT) is creating a grassroots disruption in education.

If you are involved in education you probably have heard of Teachers Pay Teachers (TPT). If you have ever tried to pin something educational on Pinterest I know you are aware of TPT. TPT was started by Paul Edelman, a New York teacher, in 2006. Today Teacher Synergy (the company behind TPT) has evolved into a major disruptor in the world of education.

Teachers Pay Teachers is a marketplace for teachers to buy and sell different educational material. Initially, TPT was a really cool place for teachers to make some extra cash on the side but it has turned into a major game changer in the world of education.

Five years ago only one or two teachers at my school ever heard of Teachers Pay Teachers. Today, TPT is just part of normal conversation in the teacher lounge or during staff professional development. There have been multiple times that teachers will laugh when they realize that they downloaded the same product from TPT.

The Impact of Teachers Pay Teachers is far greater than simply making some money for selling a few worksheets. TPT is helping fuel major change in the world of education. Below are few of the ways.


Because of TPT, teachers are now building different products. The act of building gives teachers a deeper understanding of the content they are teaching. We are striving for students to improve their problem solving skill, but teachers also need to work on this skill.  As teachers try to create new products it gives them a feel for what their students are going through.


If you are going to sell things on TPT, you can not just create boring run of the mill worksheets. You need to think differently. You need to make products that are unique and get students (and teachers) excited. What can you do to make a fraction lesson fun and challenging? Can you transform a traditional lesson into a hands on lesson? What about a game?

The process of being creative forces you to make the ordinary extraordinary.

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