New Year’s Resolutions

At the end of the calendar year we make (and quickly break) new year’s resolutions. But as teachers, I thought it might be fun to make — at the end of the summer and the end of the academic calendar — some resolutions. Okay, geez guys, maybe “fun” isn’t the right word. But inspirational maybe? Okay, okay, maybe just a lark.

In order for them to be effective, I’m throwing down three simple rules.

  • You should come up with at least 1 but at most 3 resolutions. This is so you don’t get overwhelmed.
  • They have to be easily doable and sustainable throughout the year. This is so you don’t get overwhelmed.
  • You need to publicly announce them – whether it be on your blog, on twitter, on the comments here. This is so you have some external accountability.

I will make mine here:

1. I read on someone’s blog (forgive me for not searching to find and link to it) an idea to keep students engaged. If students point out mistakes that I make, I will visibly tally them somewhere in the room. The student who caught the mistake will hopefully feel good about themselves and students will hopefully always be second guessing me. And after 30 mistakes are pointed out, the students get to have a “candy day” or something where I bring a little treat for them. I will do this in my Algebra 2 and Calculus classes.

2. I will do this random acts of kindness thank you card activity again in my Algebra 2 and Calculus classes.

3. I will decorate the classroom that I will be teaching 3 of my 4 classes in so it will be colorful and kitchy, but not elementary school-esque. I will have this done by… no, not the first day of school… by the end of the first quarter.



UPDATE: I am going to have to nix goal 3. Even though one day I would like to do this, apparently this year my rooms have been switched beyond recognition, so instead of teaching in 2 rooms, I’m teaching all 4 classes in 4 different rooms. I will be running around the school like a chicken with my head cut off. And although I’d like to decorate all 4 rooms, I honestly don’t have the energy to create and maintain something in 4 different rooms, and I won’t have “priority” in these rooms because other teachers will probably be teaching in them more and want to do something.



  1. This is not my resolution comment, although I will pick up the gauntlet. Tomorrow.

    Just wanted to be the cheerleader for decorating your room and for the thank you card idea which I did last week and loved! I think I may try it once a quarter or something.

    Yay for fun ideas!

  2. Hi Sam, Maybe you got your first idea from my blog. I call it donut points. I tally them on the board each day, and copy them into my class folder before I leave the room. I wrote a very long post over at Math Mama Writes, with a bunch of my first-day ideas, and class routines. I’m tickled you like it.

    1. @Sue Yes, it was from your blog! Sorry about being too lazy to find it. In fact, I now remember that I actually “starred” it as one of my favorite posts on GoogleReader!

      I read it, and felt this sense of “WOW!” even though it was like 2 sentences buried in your post. In those sentences was everything I read blogs for, but rarely find:

      1. Simple idea to battle a common problem (focus, atmosphere)
      2. Math related
      3. Easy exportable to my classroom, even though I’m sure my class is different from yours.

      The other recent post I read that gave me the same feeling was Kate’s on trig:


  3. >blogs we all read

    Is there a list somewhere of all the math teacher blogs? If there isn’t, I’ll start one. What would be the best place to do that? I just saw something today called RingSurf, that looked like it *might* be good…

    1. Scott McLeod has been trying to get ppl to put math teacher blogs on this wiki:

      Personally I enjoy looking at the blogrolls (though admittedly I haven’t done that in a while bc my GoogleReader is full enough now) of ppl whose blogs I enjoy reading because they are handpicked and filtered. Which means there’s a bit of quality assurance. I don’t have to sort through a lot of noise to get to the gems.

      I would like to revive the idea of writing blog reviews or pointing out other blogs for the heck of it every so often:


      1. I agree w/Sam that looking at Blogrolls is a good way to go. Other lists, that are not what an individual personally reads, are generally crap.

      2. I’m another vote for blogrolls vs the list of blogs. Also clicking on the names of people who write interesting comments.

  4. I do something similar to Sue’s donut points in my class. I start a chain of paper clips at the top of the whiteboard. When students catch a mistake I add another paper clip, then when it reaches the floor they receive an award. I use one chain for all classes and it usually reaches the floor 2-3 times a year. It’s highly motivating and a visual reminder each day.

  5. I don’t have a blog, so maybe I’ll be the first to post resolutions here in the comments:

    1. Post the focused skills on the board before class. I’ve gotten around this in the past by thinking that a math class should really be a story where one chapter leads to the next fluently and labeling sections just interrupts the flow too much for me. (We’re in chapter 2, so it must involve limits and not derivatives.) But, I think leaving it out has left students feeling bewildered as to what skills the focus on and what they actually know.

    2. Provide more self-monitoring opportunities for students on homework. I hate grading homework, but I want the students to do it and give me some sort of feedback on where they are and what I need to look at again with them. So, I am thinking of putting together a template with columns for question number from the homework and a specific question related to it. They can see what they need to relearn and I can help them do it at the same time without having to scour through everything myself. Possible issue: They get the right answer by the wrong reasoning or method and don’t realize it.

    3. (following your idea) I will have students bring in things to decorate the room in a math theme. I have already been doing this in years past, but I never really request any decorations; just hang what people bring. In the beginning I never decorate my room and my reasoning stems from the book “Utopia” by Thomas Moore. In the book, he says the churches are all dark and almost windowless to keep the faithful focused not on the pretty statues or stained glass, but on the important things going on inside the building. I wanted my classroom to be the same way…no distracting posters from TI or “inspirational phrases” (when I moved into this room there was a poster that said, “Math is the problem, hard work is the solution” — what math teacher wants to call math the problem?!) that cause student eyes to wander around the room rather than focus on the content we’re learning that day. On the other hand, I can see the value in having other math-related objects around the room for things like before class or if a student actually IS distracted, then they can at least let their mind wander about math.

  6. I love the paper clips!

    I’ve been exploring Scott’s list. It’s pretty good. I posted about that, and fixed my blog to show the math blogs I follow. Resolutions, huh?

    1. Maybe I should resolve to review my preps for the day before I start reading my blogroll! ;^)
    2. I’m not teaching at the college this year (sabbatical!), but I am teachign at my son’s school. We don’t do grades, but I want to keep the kids’ work in well-organized files to show their parents, and…
    3. I want to observe the kids more carefully.

    Ok. I printed this, and I’m also going to put it on my (computer) desktop. No way I’d remember if I don’t remind myself.

    Thanks, Sam!

  7. I also like the tallies or paperclip ideas. I’ll certainly acknowledge when I’m wrong and give the student credit for catching it, but I haven’t given a reward for it.

    Students will often ask if I wrote something on purpose and sometimes I did and they didn’t see the reasoning, but sometimes I did make a mistake. Giving a reward for the students being right may help encourage an environment where they will be more willing to ask questions about things they don’t quite understand…who knows, maybe they get a treat for it.

  8. I’m enjoying seeing each person’s resolutions. They’re so different from one another. Thanks for getting us going on this, Sam.

  9. Dear Sam:
    Warm Fuzzies are absolutely great and most motivating. When I took my lovely daughter to her 1st day at 1st grade I was very nervous (even apprehensive) of letting go of my little princess to some strangers.

    The teacher Ms. Lubarski, unknown to her, made me very comfortable. As she was explaining to the parents how she conducts her class; she pointed out some 24 small tubes with names along the wall. She said that the students will be taught how to give warm fuzzies to each other during the year. And all parents were required to write a warm fuzzy for their kid and leave it in the tube for them to get first thing in the morning. We learned how to put warm fuzzies in kids lunch box! They were absolutely morale boosters for young kids.

    There was another teacher Ms. Chihorz in 5th grade who gave an interesting warm fuzzy to my son. When I went for his Parent Teacher Conference she told me that my son had A in everything but he was missing by a point in Math. The she added that she decided to give him an A regardless.

    When I came home and showed the grades to my son he said, “Dad, I promise that now I will always have an A grade.” True to his own internal promise by this unknown warm fuzzy he went on to to MIT and UCLA and became a Math teacher!

    Same Ms. Lubarski told my wife (who was concerned about her son) at another Parent Teacher Conference, “Do not compare your son to your daughter. God made all flowers. And ALL flowers bloom, but at their own time. Your son will also bloom and he will bloom better than your daughter.” and she was absolutely right, he bloomed and bloomed better than my daughter and both are still blooming!

    Go ahead and give warm fuzzies as random act of kindness and give an A if the kid is missing it only by a point or so – it will do a whole lot better in creating a new, better person!

  10. baby steps:
    *finish a chapter of *anything*
    *have a plan to sell it
    *play and sing for strangers

    this is the coolest comment thread
    i’ve found in ages and i’m only halfway through.
    thought i’d get my resolutions down so i could
    listen to the other peoples comments better
    (it helps to quiet the chattering in my head sometimes
    if i get something done… usually this fails like
    everything else though…); i’ll be back i bet.

    i’m probably not teaching anything this fall
    as you might have guessed.

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