Exponential Functions Quick Check and Warm-Up Template

Exponential Functions Quick Check and Warm-Up Template

I love math templates because of their versatility. They are great for warm-ups, quick checks for understanding, exit tickets and even as a way to keep students in their seats those last 5 minutes of class

Exponential Functions Quick Check and Warm-Up Template close up

This template is set up for graphing exponential functions and finding their key information: parent function, shifts, domain, range, increasing, decreasing intervals, horizontal asymptote, and whether the function is a growth function or decay. Students can then graph their functions on the grid at the top.

Graphing Exponential Functions Cheat Sheet

This template is based on an exponential functions reference sheet that I had made for students to help with the steps of graphing. Students can add the sheet to their notebooks or it can be enlarged for a classroom math word wall.

You can find the exponential functions template here (free).

Scaffolded Math and Science top blog posts

Integer Rules Visual References for Addition and Subtraction

We learn how to add and subtract in kindergarten. And this is about the last time addition and subtraction are easier!

When we get to the integers, there are some pretty concrete rules to follow for multiplication and division. But this isn’t so true for addition and subtraction. 

This trips kids when working on integer operation problems, solving equations, finding inverses and any other time numbers on either side of zero need to be combined. Kids get to thinking they “can’t do Algebra/Algebra 2/Geometry, etc” when really it’s all integers.

So when I came across this pin leading to Don Steward’s blog post Directed Number Arithmetic Sped Up, it was exactly it. This was the visual I had been searching for to show students the relationship between positive and negative integers when combining. 

I reached out to Don to see if he’d allow me to make pdf printables of his visuals, and to my happiness and excitement, he was open to it. What I love most about Don’s visuals is that the integers’ relative sizes are shown with the sizes of the circles, generalizing the “rules” for kids who need it.

visual math word wall references for adding and subtracting integers

The pdfs I created for a classroom math word wall based on the integer visuals in Don's blog post can be downloaded for free here

visual math word wall references for adding and subtracting integers (black and white version)

There are 8 pages (4 in red/yellow and 4 b&w if you'd like to choose your own color scheme). They cover all of the +/- combination situations when adding and subtracting integers. 

More number sense ideas can be found in this post: Can we really teach number sense?

Integer Rules Visual References for Addition and Subtraction

Download the integer visuals here.

Scaffolded Math and Science top blog posts

7 Ways I Improved My Classroom Management

7 Ways I Improved My Classroom Management

Classroom management, ie: behavior management in my case, was always my biggest struggle. The kids seemed to like me, I seemed to be getting through to them and encouraging them to like math, but man oh man my classroom sounded more like a cafeteria than it did a math classroom.

But I got better! A lot better! And if you struggle with classroom management, you will too.

Here are the 7 ways I was able to improve my classroom management:

1: The Teacher Stare

7 Ways I Improved My Classroom Management - the Teacher Stare

Holding eye contact is always super uncomfortable. Forcing myself to embrace the Teacher Stare helped me improve my classroom management. 

There's no smile associated with the Teacher Stare. The goal here is to make the unruly student uncomfortable without losing your cool. Here's how it works for me:

Unruly student: Throwing stuff, talking, making noises, looking at the back corner of the room (what is even back there?), on phone, etc.  

Teacher: Calmly and silently stares at student as if time itself has stood still.

Unruly student: Notices and stops behavior.

Teacher: Continues to stare for an additional 5 seconds. 

That additional stare time after the unwanted behavior has already stopped is key. The Teacher Stare is nothing without that moment of awkward silence. 

2: "Stop talking."

It took a long time for me to be able to say these two words. I would say please. I would give reasons. Kids don't need reasons to stop talking when it's not time to talk; they just need to stop. Here's how it looks for me:

Unruly student: Talking to friend instead of listening to mini-lesson or working.

Teacher: Calmly walks over, crouches down to eye level of student, looks student in the eye. "Stop talking."

The crouching and talking just to the student is the part that makes this effective. 

3: Allow students to save face

7 Ways I Improved My Classroom Management - allowing students to save face ad not be embarrassed

My favorite principal gave me two really good pieces of advice:

"Kids just want to save face".

"Kids will win every time."

Yelling at a student, especially in front of other students, never, ever, ever works. They win. They always win. Their one goal in life is to look cool in front of their friends, and what could be cooler than winning an argument against the teacher? The Teacher Stare and "stop talking" are both based in me remembering to allow students to save face. 

4: Consistent warm-ups

7 Ways I Improved My Classroom Management - consistent warm-ups

Every veteran teacher will emphasize some sort of routine. For me, classroom routine starts with our warm-up. When I first started teaching, I didn't even know what a warm-up was. It was actually on my evaluation to improve my warm-up routine! Oh man.

I use warm-ups to review from the previous day. Students know exactly where our warm-ups are (in a basket at the front of the room) and I'm always there pointing to it when they accidentally forget to grab one. 

I have created a bunch of math warm-up templates that can be downloaded free from this post:

4 FREE Algebra and Algebra 2 warm-up templates

(There are now a lot more than 4)

5: A timer

7 Ways I Improved My Classroom Management - using a timer to create a little urgency

I use a digital one or this online candle timer. I don't time everything, just assignments that seem to be taking longer than they should, if students are socializing a little too much or if I just need to keep myself from running out of time. The timer isn't meant to penalize the students for talking; it's meant to add some urgency. Here's how it may look:

Teacher: "OK kids, let's get moving on the activity."

Students: (chatter, chatter, chatter)

Teacher: OK kids, I'm putting 6 minutes on the timer and then I'm collecting your work.

Students: "But what if we need more time??"

Teacher" "We'll talk about that in 6 minutes."

In my experience 10 minutes it too much time. It's not an urgent enough time frame for kids who are used to things happening instantaneously. At the end of the 6 minutes, if students were putting in a good effort and are still not done, I will always extend the time. Some kids need that urgency to push themselves and that's what the timer is all about.

6: Quick checks and closers

The same principal who had given me the best advice of my career also liked to come in with his clipboard the last 5 to 10 minutes of class when my students were milling around the room and lining up at the door. How stressful! This is how I learned to keep the kids in their seats (for the most part):

Students: Starting to get up from their seats 5 minutes before the bell.

Teacher: "I'm handing out this quick check. it's worth 10 points."

Students: "What? Class is over!"

Teacher: "Not quite yet. We have 5 minutes."

Those last 5 minutes can feel like an absolute eternity. The quick checks and closers I use are the same ones from "4: Consistent warm-ups" so the kids know what to expect. Like the timer, I never use closers to penalize, just to keep everyone in their seats in case admin walks in. I do grade them but may or may not enter them into my grade book.

There are more free ideas for closers in this post:

7 hacks that will change your disrupted math class

7: Word walls

7 Ways I Improved My Classroom Management - adding a math word wall to my classroom

Of any change I've made to improve my classroom management, adding a math word wall to my classroom made the most difference. 

When students have questions unrelated to the current topic, I can quickly point to a reminder on our word wall to move them past their confusion. Here's a scenario that happened a few times the year before I added an algebra word wall to my algebra 2 classroom:

Teacher: "The a value in the graph of an absolute value function is a lot like slope."

Confused Student: "What is slope?"

I used to stop class and draw a linear graph on the board to remind that student what slope was. This freed up time for my other students to completely derail. I could have just moved on and left that confused student to keep wondering, but he wouldn't have heard a thing I said past "slope". So I do stop for these kids.

With our math word wall I don't have to take the time to draw to explain to that student (and the 3 others who are too shy to say anything). I can just point to the wall, take 15 minutes to link back to that previous topic and move ahead with our current lesson. Our classroom math word walls have changed so much about the way I have been able to manage my class.

During independent work, students can use the word wall for help, allowing them to work and feel more independent and allowing me to work more closely with students who need more help. That independence is empowering.

I'm in no way a classroom management expert but I have improved so much since 2004 when my classes were absolute train wrecks! 

I hope you have a great year!


Scaffolded Math and Science top blog posts

Math Word Wall Frequently Asked Questions

In this post I'll answer some of the questions I have been asked about math word walls. If you have any questions I haven't covered, I'd love to hear from you!

1: "Should I put the whole math word wall up at once or put some up at a time?"

I like everything up all year. Having all the visuals displayed has allowed me to quickly answer student questions when they come up, point back to topics we have already covered and even to point forward to make links to upcoming topics. 

One example of this was during our absolute value unit. I was able to point ahead to our quadratics and radicals graphs and say, "When we learn about these functions we'll see their vertices shift in the same way." I feel this manufactures a bit of background knowledge. Also, kids are smart. When their eyes are wandering around the room, I like knowing they may be picking up some information on their own before we even get to it.

But this is a personal preference. Any decision a teacher makes that is in the best interest of his or her kids is the best choice. 

2: "Do you cover your math word wall when testing?"

Thankfully, our state test was never administered in my classroom. But for my own assessments, I have never covered our word walls. 

This is also a personal preference and we may differ here. A school's requirements and its culture will also play into this decision.  

I feel that knowing how to use information is more important than memorizing. Here in Massachusetts, students are given a reference sheet for our state test so it already feels to me things are shifting away from memorization. 

Some students have a pretty difficult time memorizing because of learning difficulties. And kids will naturally choose the fastest ways to do things (just like us adults) so if they don't need the wall, they won't use it. For all these reasons, I allow students to use all of their references on assessments.

3: "How big is one word wall?"

I photograph the word walls on a 4 foot x 10 foot wall. With spacing, this works out to the size of about 40 pieces of paper. 

4: "I don't have a lot of wall space. How can I make a math word wall work?"

The pdfs can be printed 2 per page to shrink things down. A teacher mentioned making posters out of related pieces that can be stacked, moved around and stored. I thought this was a great idea.

5: "I don't have my own classroom. How can I have a math word wall?"

I've been a cart teacher many years of my career. A teacher mentioned using foam board to make posters. This way they are light, can be propped up on the whiteboard tray and stored away on a cart or in a corner when it's time to switch classrooms.

6: "How do you stick the pieces to the wall?"

I like the blue loctite fun-tak. A probably better idea comes from Amy from the blog What Happens in First Grade

First, Amy puts the painters tape on the wall. Then she uses hot glue on the painter's tape. So genius. You can read Amy's blog post with more details here.

7: "What is included in your word walls?"

The preview of my All Math Word Walls bundle gives all the topics included in each grade-level math word wall. You can download that file here.

8: "Do you have more photos to help with setup?"

I do! Here is a folder with photos of all the math word walls to help with setup:


9: "What font do you use?"

Most of the fonts I have used are from Kimberly Geswein on Teachers pay Teachers. All of her fonts are free for personal use. 

More math word wall posts:

5 ways math word walls have changed my teaching

Middle school math word wall ideas

High school math word wall ideas

Scaffolded Math and Science math word walls