Burned Out, Beaten Up, and Fighting Back (Book Review)

Burned Out and Beaten Up…let’s do something about this!

It’s quite telling that decades of education reform has really resulted in a loss of the professionals who give everything for students.

Math teachers, do you feel burned out, overexerted, and stressed to get student scores higher and higher?

This is a great book review to take back the narrative that has demeaned and demoralized education for so long.


Burnout is not what you think is it. It is real, and it is not shameful to confess it. You are no less of an educator because of it…in fact, you might just be too much of an educator!

In her new book, Dr. Latoya Dixon tackles the issue of burnout and confronts the narratives and mindsets that cause it to happen.

I decided it was time to tell the truth. It was time to end the narrative of the superhero educator whose dedication and committment to positivity was everlasting and unbothered by the demeaning education narrative.

Confession of Burnout

She begins with a strikingly honest confession of her own burnout as a highly successful school principal. It’s a confession that is all too often looked upon as shameful and embarrassing. Educators overexert and overextend themselves and are shamed when they burn out, predictably.

Over the past decade or so…

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Action Research Update

The journey of action research began in my mathematics classroom several months ago. I had already started focusing on small group instruction, but I wanted to find research based strategies to support my approach.


Researching articles to support small group instruction was a very interesting task. I wanted to find peer reviewed articles that focused on student performance and growth in small group settings, as well as strategies to support small group instruction as an intervention. The research showed that students from all levels show increase when supported in a small group setting. Students preferred the one-to-one instruction, and were more engaged in the lesson.  Additionally, the research I reviewed stressed the importance of using data to drive the small group instruction.


I was on the right track! I used date from formative assessments to drive my small group instruction. I am focused on students of all levels who need focused support as an intervention. Students are engaged in the learning process, and ask if they are going to be part of the small group. So far the results of using small group show growth in my students academic achievement as well as in their mathematical confidence levels. I look forward to see how they perform on their state assessment…not just for them, but for me to strategically plan my small group instructional practices going forward.


Sum Fun…Task Cards Game

I found this Area, Perimeter, and Volume Task Card Game and loved how rigorous and engaging the activity was for my students. The activity kept my students on task, talking about the problems, and…

I stumbled across this resource and loved how rigorous and engaging the activity was for my students. The activity kept my students on task, talking about the problems, and working together to determine the correct answers for each set of cards.

What is Sum Fun?

I almost overlooked this teaching resource initially, because I thought that it was an activity for students to practice addition problems. Yes!

Yes! They will have to “sum” in the activity…

…but only after applying their knowledge of perimeter, area, and volume.


You can find the Sum Fun Task Card Game on TeachersPayTeachers

How do Students Play Sum Fun?

  • Students find the answers to a set of problems on the task cards.
  • They add all of their answers together and check with the teacher to determine if their sum is correct.
  • If the students are correct, they move to a new set of cards.
  • If an error was made in their calculations, the students will re-work the problems to find which part of their sum is not correct.

This process allows for collaboration about the mathematics, and teacher support as needed.

Ways to Use Sum Fun

The best part of Sum Fun is the collaborative nature of the task cards!

Groups of Four

I had my students work in groups of four for this activity. Each set of cards has four questions and that allowed each person in the group to be accountable for one problem.

The accountability in this task card game increased engagement. There were no students off task.

Students who struggled had the support of their teammates to help guide them through their problem as needed. Students were working their problem, trading and checking each other before asking the teacher to confirm their sum.

Paired and Individual Practice

I could also see this working for pairs of students, individual students, small group instruction, or split entirely and used as a task card activity.

Sum Fun is definitely an activity I would want to use again. I look forward to seeing what other topics will be available using the Sum Fun teaching activity.  Check out this

Check out Sum Fun on Teachers Pay Teachers.

Here is the link to the Sum Fun set I bought, Area, Perimeter, and Volume Task Card Game.

Guest Post: Increase the Impact of your Feedback as Instructional Coach

A teacher was talking to me this week about her instructional coach. She said, “You can’t just give feedback to me. Giving feedback in the wrong way has no impact.” Wow. You have so many delicate r…

Source: Guest Post: Increase the Impact of your Feedback as Instructional Coach

I’m a Teacher, You Want Me to do Action Research?

What is action research?

As an aspiring administrator, I had no idea what it meant when my principal said to base my professional development on action research. I had no idea as to what it even entailed.

I envisioned researchers with lab coats and paperwork. Where was I suppose to begin my path to action research? How would it benefit me professionally within my classroom?

I started off by reading a few chapters in the book Action Research: Improving Schools and Empowering Educators. I was wowed at what I learned and how it can truly benefit my classroom instruction, my students, and my own professional growth.

When Professional Development Doesn’t Make Sense

As educators, we are forced to sit through professional development that we find irrelevant and unrealistic. It just doesn’t fit with our day-to-day interactions in the classroom.

We are presented with educational best practices that are so high-level. It feels like we are given the impossible task of implementing things we don’t clearly understand. And we are not given enough time to truly implement the task.

Taking Ownership Through Action Research

Action research has one focus: improvement. It gives you permission to focus on your issues. Take the challenges you are facing in your own classroom, study them, and understand how to improve them.

Action research is a way you can critically reflect on your teaching practices. You will use data to analyze your instructional approaches and  logically increase your own effectiveness.

Going through this process is real professional development. It is not just sit-and-forget training. It is not pie-in-the-sky research. It is about action.

How you can do it!

Action research is a cycle in which you plan, act, develop, reflect, and repeat or improve as needed. Find something that you want to improve in your classroom. Then study the impact. Because yes, you have an impact in your classroom!

You have an impact in the lives of your students!

Action Research: Finding My Impact

Action research is about measuring your impact and increasing it. Here’s how.

  1. Plan: Create a simple plan. What teaching strategy do you want to improve? What do you think is having the best impact on student learning? Start there.
  2. Act: Implement an adjustment or small change to your teaching strategy. Use the changed strategy with one group of students. Use the older version with another group of students. That’s the research part.
  3. Develop: Gather data to measure the results. Give a pretest to each group. After a few weeks of developing the new strategy, give a posttest to each group. Average the scores for each group.
  4. Reflect: Which group had the biggest growth from the pretest to posttest? Why do you think this is so? Do you or the students think the changed strategy was part of the cause?
  5. Repeat: Do the cycle again. Keep the change if there was evidence that the newer strategy is having a bigger impact. Discard the changed strategy if it is not having a bigger impact. Make one more adjustment and continue the cycle.

Action research is about continual improvement and growth. It is about innovating new teaching strategies to help students learn more.

My Action Research in Middle School Math

My principal and I have decided to research the effects of small group instruction in the secondary math classroom. I’m tweaking a few aspects of this strategy. Hopefully, the students will learn more and learn deeper as a result.

Tap here to read more about Small Group Math Instruction.

I’ve used small group instruction in my secondary math classroom for the past year. I work with middle school students, some of whom struggle in math. I have seen success with using this approach, but it’s mostly been trial and error. I have not done any research.

Is there a way to gain even more success in my classroom using this small group approach? Timing, previewing, direct instruction, spiral review?  What works best? What combinations of strategies should I use? These are the overarching questions guiding my action research.

What is it that you are hoping to improve in your classroom? How could you use action research to take your students to high levels of learning? Do you already use action research in your classroom? What advice would you give? Please share your thoughts. Thanks @mafost for co-authoring!


Cool Math Games


As a math teacher, you strive to make your classroom engaging for students.  I began trying to make my classroom more engaging for students by taking ordinary worksheets and turning them into a cool math games!  Here are some of the cool math games we play in my classroom.Cool Math Games

  • Revenge of the Nerds
  • Task Cards
  • Speed Mathing
  • Kahoot
  • Quizzlet Live
  • Quizizz
  • Desmos
  • Nearpod

These cool math games are fun and engaging for students.  When I use these games, I see increased participation and students who are enjoying math.

To find more information and ideas on Why Games in the Classroom, check out Team Tom Education.  For more on Cool Math Games, keep reading below.

Revenge of the Nerds

This is a review game that I play with my students.  I split my students into 6-7 teams (approximately 4 students per team).  I draw 10 colorful nerds Revenge of the Nerds is a Cool Math Game(using Expo Markers) under each team name on the board.  I randomly call out a number from their review sheet.  Each student in the group must work the problem on their desk with an Expo Marker.  If one of the students does not get the same answer, they have to work together to make sure each person has the same answer.  All teams that get the correct answer are allowed to erase 1-2 nerds (teacher’s choice) from another team or two separate teams.

Speed Mathing

This is a fun twist on Speed Dating.  You give each student a problem to solve.  They are the experts of that problem.  Once everyone knows how to work their problem, you rotate either the inside group or outside group to another partner.  The students will switch cards.  If they do not know how to work the problem, they ask their expert.

Technology Games

Kahoot, Quizizz, Quizlet Live, Desmos, and Nearpod are all websites that offer a variety of ways for you to insert your worksheet and use your questions, or search by topic/standard and find ready made practice and review problems.  The sites are user friendly and easy to use.  These work nicely in one-to-one classroom settings, but can also be used with a classroom set of devices, cell phones, or in group settings with one device per group.

All of these cool math games are engaging for students.  The students enjoy coming to my math class because it is not a boring lecture and worksheet.  Practice is fun and exciting, yet challenging and beneficial.

I hope you find this information helpful.  Please share and comment below.




You Have That Student…Good Luck!

Every year begins with a fresh set of names on your roster, students you don’t know, and past teacher inputs. I find the later the most difficult and frustrating part about getting to know my new group of students.  Previous teachers mean well when they stop by your room and say “watch out for that one” or “oh you have so and so…good luck”.  Itina-fey-rolling-eyes-gif automatically get the feeling of dread before I have ever met the student or had a chance to see how they fit into my classroom.  I am just as guilty!  I have had difficult students over the years and when the new grade asks for recommendations about the student, I would unload all of my frustrations about the students behavior and not give them enough credit for the areas that they did well in.  I have made the face above when talking to other teachers about a particular student.  This year I decided I am not going to influence other teachers about my past opinions of students; I was not going to allow their input to influence my opinion of my new students.

I saw this quote on a friends Facebook page and it really spoke to me. “Don’t be the teacher that relies too heavily on what the previous teacher said about that kid. Maybe that child just needs a fresh start and…YOU!!” – @teachingandmuchmoore

In January last year, a teacher on my campus came to me to let me know I was getting one of her students. She was apologizing because he was no longer eligible to stay in her class and he had to be moved to my classroom.  talking-in-classShe let me know her concerns about his math skills and that he had always been difficult in her classroom, talked a lot, slept, and that he was a fighter.  That same week, his other teachers were sending out emails asking if he was disruptive in others  classes or sleeping the entire period.  I was now really concerned. After meeting this student, I realized he was harmless.  He loved my classroom and did all of his work for me.  I never had to redirect him or make him wake up to do his work.  I was worried for nothing.

On the first day of school this year, the bell rang at 4:00 and in came running this student.  It was his first day of High School Algebra and he wanted to thank me for being a supportive teacher last year. teacher_heart_apple-238x238 He said I made a difference! He had a rough home life, and he felt like I truly cared about him.  For me that is what teaching should be about. Not relying on someone else’s judgment of our students, but building relationships with students to show them your passion for teaching and that you care about their success and future.  Let’s work this year to build our own relationships with our students, and give them a chance to grow in our classrooms. We make a difference!