Here's an idea for getting your math year off to a great start...

When I posted about Math Journals & Notebooks, I mentioned that I loved the idea of having children make covers relating math to themselves as Courtney shares at A Middle School Survival Guide. Ideally, I'd begin the lesson by reading aloud a book that relates math to everyday life. (I mention several suggestions here.)

When I first considered what might go on a cover, I didn't have a lot of ideas. I just thought about # of siblings or children, year of birth or age, height or weight, etc. But the more I considered, the more ideas multiplied! I'd definitely want to do this as a brainstorming activity with students rather than giving them a list. See what your collective brain energy can come up with! How is math related to our daily life? Here are some of the things we thought of:

- time you wake up/go to sleep
- # of favorite ____________ (sports, colors, hobbies)
- # of years _____________ (teaching, being a student, playing an instrument or sport)
- time each day that you ___________ (exercise, go to school, watch tv, read, play video games)
- # of _____________ that you own (pets, video games, books)
- # of years until you (finish school, turn 21, want to get married or have kids)
- cost of your favorite (restaurant meal, soda, candy bar)
- amount you spent per week on (lunch, snacks, coffee)

These covers then become a fabulous jumping-off point for PROBLEM SOLVING.

After students finish their covers, have them generate several problems on 3x5" notecards that use the information they created. For example, on my cover, I posted the following:

I went ahead and wrote my problem on the cover itself, but would have students write on cards. My question, "How many hours do I sleep each night? Each week?" could then be posed to other students. In the classroom, I could put my cover under the document camera and ask students to answer the question posed on my card(s). They could then share a variety of strategies for solving the problem. In a homeschool setting, children could write problems for siblings or parents to solve. Problems could be written at a wide variety of levels, making them grade and age appropriate.

At the Northwest Math Conference I went to a workshop entitled, "Taking the Numb Out of Numbers" by Don Fraser (Ontario, Canada). He began by telling the group of 30 of us, "Did you know that in a group of 23 or 24 there is a 50% chance that at least two people in the group will have the same birthday?" He then gave us a graph showing us the probability of sharing the same birthday in groups of varying sizes. In a group our size--30 people--the likelihood was 70%. We graphed the days/months for birthdays in the room. Interestingly enough, none of us shared the same birthday...we were in the 30%. After looking at the data, Don asked us to come up with problem solving questions--real life questions--based on the information we'd collected. It was amazing to see how many questions we could generate, at all different levels of mathematical knowledge and proficiency.

Don encouraged us to begin each day by reading a "story" and having kids make up a question/word problem. Going back to the math notebook covers, imagine the possibilities if you put ONE child's notebook cover up each day and asked kids to generate questions from the "stories" found there. The problem solving possibilities are endless!

Do your students make personalized math notebook covers? What interesting stats have they included? Comment below with your stories and then visit Mrs. Balius and read what she has to say about setting up daily math routines!!! :)