Designing a Math Focus Wall for Your Classroom: The Planning Stage


Part 1: 12 Essential Components of a Math Focus Wall

In Part 1 of this series, I explained how I wanted to create a math focus wall for my classroom.  I came up with 12 items that I think are necessary components of a math focus wall.  Since I teach intermediate students, the math focus wall I am designing would look different than many of the primary math focus walls I have seen.

To set the scene, I have five bulletin boards at the back of my classroom.  The SMART Board covers the bottom half of the middle bulletin board.  I decided to spread out my math focus wall over the three centre bulletin boards.  Since I want to incorporate several items into my math focus wall, I really needed the space to do it justice.

So after quite a bit of copying, cropping, and pasting, here’s my plan:


I’ve managed to include all the 12 items I had mentioned previously. These are the items that are ready to go:

  • my SMART Board is at the centre and is ready to be incorporated into my math lessons
  • on the left hand side, I have my math talk sentence starters…there are 52 sentence starters and I will be changing them on a regular basis.  They will be used to help guide students during their math discussions (I will post a link to this new product of ours soon!)
  • at the top left hand corner, the four posters help student decipher math word problems and determine which operation to use (I will post a link to this new product of ours soon!)
  • on the right hand side, our GRASS posters help students to break down word problems.  The white boxes along the poster set will show student solutions to problems we are working on…these will be changed on a regular basis as well
  • along the top of the board you’ll find our posters “What does a good mathematician do?” to help students become mathematical thinkers and apply various skills when solving problems

The items shown in white on my plan will be co-created with or created by students:

  • learning goals and success criteria will be co-created with students for each new lesson
  • the white tiles next to the GRASS posters will contain student problem solving steps

I still need to work on the following items (the items shown in blue on my plan):

  • make a sign for my math talk prompts
  • find examples of math in everyday life
  • find funny math comics
  • an eye catching border and title
  • work on key terms for each section (term: definition, diagram, examples)
  • math reflection questions for their math journals
  • challenge question of the week (University of Waterloo’s Problem of the Week and Math Circles are great resources for this)
  • and math strategy posters (e.g. work backwards, draw a picture, solve a simpler problem)

Any other suggestions? Any areas for improvement?

Tune in for more updates on my math focus wall!

The Tuesday 12: 12 Essential Components of a Math Focus Wall

Welcome to another edition of The Tuesday 12! I recently had a SMART Board installed in my classroom and I’d like to incorporate it in my math lessons.  Then I began to think of creating a math focus wall on the bulletin boards that surround my SMART Board.  I looked through Pinterest and couldn’t really find the perfect plan (which is odd because Pinterest has everything!), but I did find one picture to use as inspiration:

Lots of great ideas for an interactive math bulletin board

(Aside: I tried linking the picture to the original source, but I can never get that page to load properly)

Based on previous experiences teaching grade 7 and 8 math, some research, and some creative thinking, I’ve come up with 12 items I’d like to include on my math focus wall.  Some things will be static, while other things will be dynamic.  This list isn’t carved in stone…until I get into my classroom at the end of August and begin to put everything together, it will be hard to imagine.

I’ve decided to turn this into a series of posts from the initial ideas to the final creation!  So join me in creating a math focus wall for my classroom and then adapt the ideas for your own grade levels!For my next post, I’ll draw some pictures to help me visualize my ideas.

math focus wall thumb

12 essential (for now…lol) components of a math focus wall:

1. A number line…really a no-brainer for a math focus wall, but it will probably be from around –45 to + 45, since integers are used throughout the grade 7 and 8 math program

2. A spot for our learning goal and success criteria which we will be co-creating with each new lesson.

3. A section with math accountable talk sentence starters (I’m working on a set now!)

4. Challenge question of the week

5. Steps to problem solving…like our lovely GRASS posters!

6. Help in decoding math word problems (e.g. multiplication-of, product, twice, times, multiple)

7. Key terms and definitions for the unit we’re working on

8. Our posters—what does a good mathematician do?

9. Different problem solving strategies (e.g. work backwards, draw a diagram)

10. Examples of math in everyday life

11. Bright and colourful parts—I’m thinking a blue or green background, a patterned border, and something really cool for the title (maybe just the word MATH done in an interesting way)

12. The SMART Board…I just need to start incorporating it into lessons regularly!

Do you have any suggestions?  Let me know! As I said before, until I can go into my classroom and begin arranging all the different sections, this list can—and most likely—will change!

Tune in next week for another edition of The Tuesday 12 and more on my math focus wall!

Don’t be upset by the results you didn’t get with the work you didn’t do {FREE POSTER!}

Hello and welcome to another edition of Words to Live by Wednesdays!

This week’s {FREE} poster is a all about accountability. Often, students complain about the outcome of tests, feedback from projects, and marks received on report cards.  Sometimes, the complaints are substantiated, but more often than not, these students are upset they did not reach their goals when they really have invested minimal effort into their work. Some students are not willing to put in the time, effort, and determination to complete their work to the best of their abilities. It is important for students to understand that only through hard work and determination will they achieve their goals and reach success. If they decided to avoid studying for a test, produce a lackluster project, or submit incomplete assignments, then they are responsible for the poor marks they will receive.  By teaching students that they are responsible and accountable for their achievements, then they will begin to understand that they have the power to change their actions and reach their goals.

Just click on the image below to open up the free poster!

don't be upset poster thumbnailDon’t forget to check back next week for another free poster on Wednesday!!

What Does a Good Mathematician Do? A Seven Poster Set!

After the success of our six poster set “What Does a Good Scientist Do?”, we created a corresponding math poster set!

This bright and colorful seven poster set helps teachers introduce math process skills to their students. The following math process skills are included: problem solving, reasoning and proving, selecting tools and strategies, reflecting, connecting, representing, and communicating. Each poster provides prompts and keywords to help students understand the skill.

We have been doing a lot of research in order to begin working on our TLLP project this upcoming school year.  One of the key components of our project is getting students to think mathematically and communicate their ideas.  Having students learn these seven key mathematical process skills will be instrumental in improving their understanding of math concepts.

An excellent addition to your classroom! Just click on the image below!

thumbnail mathematician posters

And here’s a link to our science skills posters!

what does a good scientist do badge


The Tuesday 12: 12 Essential Resources for Math Teachers to Read

Welcome to another addition of The Tuesday 12! Since Lisa, Elita, and I will be working on a TLLP math project this year, we will be using our blog to review useful resources, the progression of our project, challenges to overcome, and successes we achieve.

The following list of resources is on my summer reading list (haha…it seems to be quite an endeavour, but I hope to check off as many as possible).  If you’ve read any of these resources or if there are others you can recommend, please leave your comments below!

1. Good Questions: Great Ways to Differentiate Mathematics Instruction (K – 8) by Marian Small

2. Turn and Talk: One Powerful Practice, So Many Uses (2011) by Lucy West and Antonia Cameron

3. Communication in the Mathematics Classroom (September 2010) by the Ontario Ministry of Education-Capacity Building Series

4. Writing in Math Class: A Resource for Grades 2-8 (1995) Marilyn Burns

Writing in Math Class: A Resource for Grades 2–8

5. Big Ideas and Understandings as the Foundation for Elementary and Middle School Mathematics (NCTM Journal, Spring-Summer 2005) by Charles Randall

6. Teaching Student-Centred Mathematics (2013) by John A. Van de Walle, Jennifer M. Bay-Williams, LouAnn H. Lovin, and Karen S. Karp.

7. What Great Teachers Do Differently: 17 Things That Matter Most (2011) by Todd Whitaker

8. Math Sense: The Look, Sound, and Feel of Effective Instruction (2012) by Christine Moynihan

9. Small Steps, Big Changes: Eight Essential Practices for Transforming Schools Through Mathematics (2012) by Chris Confer and Marco Ramirez

10. What’s Your Math Problem? Getting to the Heart of Teaching Problem Solving (2011) by Linda Gojak and Laney Sammons

11. Supporting Numeracy (Special Edition #28) by the Ontario Ministry of Education—Capacity Building Series

12. Asking Effective Questions (Special Edition #21) by the Ontario Ministry of Education—Capacity Building Series



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Words to Live by Wednesday: Mother Teresa

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