Give Your Students Hope on a Math Test

Semester finals are coming! Of course you will review and try to prepare your students, but time is limited. How can you help your students do better and still keep your standards high?

USE   AN   ANSWER   BANK.

If you have a 20 question test and you have 20 answers in an answer bank, your test is still challenging but you are giving your students hope which means they will put more effort into trying! That’s what we want, right? EFFORT! 

Will some students guess by using the answer bank? Absolutely! When I give an answer bank, I have two rules:

  • Students have to keep the test for a certain amount of time before turning it in.
  • Students have to show work on all of the problems. 

Try it this year. I think that you will be pleasantly surprised. If students feel like they have an advantage, it makes a big difference in their attitude. Please let me know how this goes for you.

I have two final assessments with answer banks if you would like to try them. (My Algebra 1 Final with an Answer Bank is in the works. Be on the lookout for it soon!)

Finals with answers banks are below:

7 Reasons to use Bell Ringers in High School Math Classes

I’ve used bell ringers (sometimes called Do Nows or Warm-ups) my entire teaching career until the pandemic. For over a year, I quit using them. I was juggling too much to add bell ringers to the mix, but I’m happy to say that I’m using them again. I debated over whether to start using them because I do have a few cons that bother me.

One of my cons for using bell ringers is that it requires a transition from one task to another and sometimes transitions in a classroom are hard to deal with. Another con is that you have to think of what you want your bell ringer to be and that requires time which we as teachers have very little time.

The pros far outweigh the cons when it comes to bell ringers. I have 7 reasons why I feel like bell ringers are worth the struggle. It makes sense to me to continue using them because of what bell ringers provide.

  • #1 – Get the students busy from the start! As a teacher, the beginning of class is a chaotic time. We need to get the students settled and do attendance. If students are in a routine to come into the class and get started on the bell ringer, then the chaos is limited and the teacher has time to get organized.
  • #2 – Use bell ringers to recycle information or to review information. Maybe you want to review the first grading period during the second grading period using bell ringers. I’ve learned that 3 or 4 problems is the limit. A quick way to create something is to use material that you were not able to use during the first grading period. You might have run out of time to do a worksheet or maybe you did not get to go as deep as you wanted. Divide that worksheet into days and give it to your students at the beginning of the week. Students get the worksheet out at the start of class each day and work on it. (I have my students tape everything into their journal so they do not lose it.)
  • #3 – Use bell ringers as a quick check to find out what students know. For instance, before a lesson on the properties of exponents, you decide to see if students remember how to use integer operations or if they remember that 5^3 really means 5*5*5. Before any lesson, think about what might cause some issues. Do not assume that students remember their math from past grades. Give them some problems and see what they remember. This will guide you to take a moment to reteach some concepts before you get started.
  • #4 – Bell ringers can simply be a way to get your students thinking or “get the wheels turning” as they say. Some teachers call bell ringers warm ups. That’s a good name! Before you run, don’t you warm up. You want to get the blood flowing and the muscles stretched. The brain is no different. It’s great to have students focused and thinking before you begin a lesson.
  • #5 – This reason is related to #4 above… Use bell ringers as a lesson opener. To get the “wheels turning” use a problem to spark interest in the topic you are about to teach. Real-life problems are a great thing to use. It really doesn’t have to be anything but a picture or a simple question. For instance, before a quadratic lesson you could have a picture of a football player throwing a pass. You could ask students to predict if the throw is accurate or how many yards the ball will travel. The great thing about this kind of question is that anyone can answer it. All kids are on an equal playing field. All students can be successful on these types of questions.
  • #6 – Here’s a biggie… Use bell ringers to fill in gaps. Welp, we all know how important that is at this time. Think about the students you teach. What’s missing in their learning. What did they NOT learn the past few years that you can practice through bell ringers? You could literally pull material from the previous grade level and reteach it. If your state has standardized testing, go pull from old tests. You could even go back a couple of grade levels. Think of the good this would do!
  • #7 – Use bell ringers to prepare students for standardized tests. Not all math teachers think about preparing students for college entrance exams or college placement exams. Your students will be taking tests such as the ACT, SAT, PSAT, TSI or ACCUPLACER. Why not give them a taste of what they will see on these tests? Students are not familiar with the questioning used on these types of tests. What a great service you would be doing for your students if you helped prepare them for what they might see on college entrance exams.

I hope I’ve given you some ideas. To me, bell ringers are another learning opportunity. To provide the best thing for your students, you need to think about your particular groups. My Algebra students need something different than my Geometry students most of the time. The only time that I may give them the same bell ringers is if I’m in the mode of preparing them for the TSI or PSAT.

My biggest concern for my Geometry students is how much Algebra they lost last year. I created an Algebra bell ringer resource just for them. When I’m doing these bell ringers with them, I’ll ask them to raise their hand if they remember certain things. It’s terribly disappointing how little they learned last year. I’ll link this resource below if you are interested, but here is a freebie related to those bell ringers. Each day there are four problems. I work two with them and then they do two on their own.

Your next question might be, should you grade bell ringers? I usually grade on completion. I have students keep the bell ringers in their journals, so sometimes during a journal check, I might refer back to certain bell ringers and ask them questions about them.

I’ve attached some of my bell ringers below that are in my TpT store. Half the battle is having time to create them. Remember, bell ringers do not have to be something you create. It can be an old worksheet that you didn’t get to or it can be review material that you have. I’ve used my TSI material a lot as bell ringers. I’ll pull a page out of a lesson and it will become my bell ringers for the week. The great thing about TSI or ACCUPLACER material is that it covers a variety of content that students should know from past math classes.

Here’s what I’m currently using with my Geometry Classes:

These next two resources are for college entrance exams:

I use any of my TSI resources to pull from for various reasons. I recently pulled from this activity for my Algebra class bell ringers to help recycle previous concepts:

I have all of my bell ringers including in one bundle so you can save:

If you like my ideas and tips, then consider joining my email list. If you chose to do that, then you will receive a free exponential function hands-on activity. Join Now!

Good luck with your bell ringers. If you are not on board, I understand. I have my reservations at times too. You need to do what is best for your situation.

Please follow me at my TpT Store so that you know when I upload new resources. All my new resources are 50% off for 24 hours.

Real-Life Exponential Functions

Exponential functions are right around the corner for my math classes. I always look forward to this time of year. The best part about exponential functions is the real-life aspect. Students are more interested if they can make a connection. Draw your students in and they will enjoy this topic without realizing how much they are learning.

One of the first real-life examples that I can think of right now, is COVID-19. Remember when the saying was, “Flatten the curve?” What an interesting thing to talk about with students. A flatter curve means what? A steeper curve means what? What a great thing to talk about!

Here’s a great research letter I found on the CDC website. This has some wonderful references to “doubling time”. The research brings in some formulas and if you look at some of the appendices, it gets pretty technical, but it is fascinating.

The Coronavirus is a topic that I’m sure will get the attention of your students. Another topic that students may not be as familiar, but it is definitely worth mentioning is the stock market. Let your students read this article from Forbes. They may not think the stock market is very exciting, but after reading this article, it might spark some students to consider how they can one day invest in stocks.

A really fun exponential growth activities is the paper folding activity. I’m sure most math teachers have used this when teaching exponential functions. I love that Myth Busters tried to fold a giant piece of paper to see how many times they could fold it. Check out this video below:

We’ve been focused on exponential growth, but what about decay? Carbon dating is a topic that is also fascinating. This article can help students and teachers alike to understand carbon dating a little better: What is Carbon Dating? This might help students understand how scientist can estimate the age of an object. Below is a nice video that explains carbon 14 and half-life.

If you’ve read my blog before, you know how much I love exponential functions. I’m always on the lookout to learn more and find interesting things for my students to do. Below, you’ll find some of my resources that I sell on Teachers Pay Teachers. I’ve got all kinds of exponential function activities to keep your students busy and interested. Go take a look and I hope that you will want to follow my store and join my email list!

9 Exponential Functions Activities That Are A Must!

I could do exponential functions all year. I really enjoy them and think they are super fun. When I got my master’s degree, I did a study on exponential functions. I learned so much and I found that I was really interested in them. I created this first lesson more than 10 years ago and have been using it ever since! Creating that first activity sparked me into creating more and experimenting with some other ideas. I’m excited to share with you my list of 9 Must Do Exponential Function Activities!

(1) Exponential Function Poster Activity:

This is my very first exponential function activity that I ever created. It’s not the first lesson I teach when I’m starting this content, but it’s my favorite. This activity is the ultimate collaborative and differentiable activity. There are so many interesting exponential function situations! It’s been tried, tested and tweaked. Basically this lesson is a collaborative activity where the students are given an exponential scenario. The groups must create a multi-rep poster where they collect data, draw a graph, write an equation and answer a question.

The lesson opener is a bacteria problem. I want every student to get a feel of how they should work through one of these scenarios. The bacteria problem talks about what bacteria are and how they can multiply very quickly. I help the students go through the multi-representations to make sure they know what is expected of them when they start their poster.

Next, I show them their choices which are:

  • A Chain Letter Problem
  • A Zombie Situation
  • A Tournament Bracket
  • A College Football Situation
  • Making Friendship Bread
  • A Lovely Cockroach Scenario

Every situation usually gets chosen. You can entice students to create their own situation too. The college football situation was a student idea from years ago that I have improved upon to make it work better. Your students are amazing and creative, so don’t think that they wouldn’t be able to make up a situation of their own. The student of mine that created the football problem was not one of my top students, but because he was the one that thought of the scenario, he was interested and did a great job of completing the task.

After the bacteria problem, I turn the students loose and let them start their work. They are told to be creative and display the information in a way that is interesting and pleasing. I tell them to title the poster and make sure every person in the group writes on the poster. I supply the poster paper, the markers and the scenario sheets.

I’ve learned to watch out for misconceptions. Some students when creating graphs, will take the exact y-values and place those numbers on the y-axis. Here is an example below that I didn’t catch until it was too late. I cringe when I see this! (Not a very creative poster either…ugh!)

Once the posters have been created, it’s time for the Gallery Walk! I want the students to check out at least 4 posters. I’ve created a page that students fill in while looking at the posters. They have to write the title of the poster, determine the domain and range, decide if the situation is growth or decay and then write down one thing they may wonder about the situation. The conversations that I hear are amazing. They love getting to look at the other posters and they love to critique them as well.

I’ve had feedback from teachers that have taken my activity and changed it to fit their needs. One teacher used a speed dating strategy where the students worked through a problem on their own and became the expert. The possibilities are endless. Each teacher has their own unique way of teaching and their own unique classroom situation. If you have a group of rowdy kids that you don’t want up running around, then let them do their own problem on notebook paper or graph paper. You could even let them create the table and graph in excel and present the problem in a PowerPoint.

Check out this activity in my store: Exponential Functions Activity

(2) Exponential Function Activity in Google Slides Form

Out of necessity last year, I created a Google Sides version of the lesson above. I’m having a hard time deciding which one to use this year. Instead of making posters, the students create the table, graph and equation in Google Slides. This doesn’t sound very exciting except that my whole class was in the same Google Slides all working at the same time. I was 2000 miles away monitoring the activity. They asked me questions and I could see them working in real time. I loved it so much that I’m honestly going to have a hard time deciding what I should use. Maybe I’ll let one class do the posters and one class do the digital form and compare the two. If you are big into digital resources you will love this. I now have this version in my TpT store: Google Slides Exponential Functions Activity. Below is one of the slides that I graded. Looking at this now, I should have asked the students if this situation was discrete or continuous.

(3) Tower of Hanoi

Find a Tower of Hanoi game on the internet or have the students download an app on their phone. The object of the game is to move the discs from one stack to another stack in the least amount of moves. You can never put a larger disc on top of a smaller one. The number of discs and the least number of moves is an exponential function. It’s fun to let the students play a while and get them to create a table of the number of discs and the least number of moves and then see if they can figure out the exponential function.

(4) Twizzler Decay Activity

Tasty and fun. This is a freebie I’d like to share with you! I love using this as a quick lesson opener. Students measure a Twizzler and jot down the data in a chart. The student folds the Twizzler in 1/2, cuts it and measures it. Each time the student continues this step until there is not enough Twizzler left to work with. They plot the table and then lots of discussions can take place about decay or even the concept of half-life. Click Here for the Freebie: Exponential Function Twizzler Freebie

(5) Exponential Function Unit

This is the first thing I start with when I introduce Exponential Functions in Algebra 2. I refuse to stand up and lecture over this topic so I let the students work through this unit at their own pace. I copy the pages as a booklet. Students can use a calculator and even partner up if they want to work with someone. I let them work through the unit and figure out most of the information by graphing and using the information that they have already learned earlier in the year about transformations and domain and range. I do have to talk about asymptotes because we have not discussed this concept much up to this point. I teach on a block schedule and it takes most students a good 2 class periods to get this packet done. Topics covered are transformations, e, compound interest, 1/2 life, growth, decay, domain, range, y-intercepts, asymptotes, an inverse problem, writing equations from tables, growth and decay model scenarios, a paper folding activity, assessments and bell ringers and lesson closers. There’s a ton of information. I usually get the students to trade and grade after all is said and done. I feel like they learn a lot by working through this on their own. Students need to see that they can work on their own and figure things out. If you are interested, click the link: Exponential Functions Unit.

(6) Exponential Function Task Cards

I have a set of 20 Exponential Functions Task Cards. For some reasons, students do very well with task cards. If you put these same 20 questions on a worksheet, some students will be bored or are overwhelmed with thinking about doing a 20 question worksheet and they will give up. Take the same 20 questions and put one on a card, now they will sit there and work through them. It’s amazing! This set of task cards would be a great review right before an assessment. The task cards cover recognizing growth and decay from an equation, transformations, key features of graphs, the growth and decay model and compound interest.

(7) Sierpenski’s Triangle

How do you get all of these activities done? Part of my strategy is to do them in stations. Really math labs or centers would be more accurate. It would be hard to time these stations and expect students to be completely finished with each task. The Sierpenski Triangle activity, the Tower of Hanoi and several more exponential phenomena are discovered and tinkered with during my Exponential Stations Resource.

I love the Sierpinski Triangle activity because not only do the students create beautiful art work, they have to collect data on the number of shaded or unshaded triangles. We then put all of the triangles together to make a giant Sierpinski Triangle!

(8) Compound Interest Study

Students are told that they have inherited some money but to receive it, they must follow some rules. Every student in the class will probably end up with a different situation. Each student gets 4 cards that tell them how much money they inherited, how long they have to invest it and 2 different compounding options to compare. They work through their problem and then share their information. This study sparks lots of good conversations and helps the students realize that compounding doesn’t make much difference but time invested does make a difference! Get the Compound Interest Study Here!

(9) Marble Slides Exponential Function Desmos Activity

If you aren’t using the Desmos Graphing Resources, you need to start. I love the Marble Slides Activities and so do the students. There are several Marble Slides Activities for various functions. The object is to change the equations so that when the marbles are dropped, they travel the correct route and hit all of the stars which means success. Students learn how to manipulate the equations so that the marbles do just what they want. Very fun and engaging!

So there you have it! If you can get most of these activities and lessons done, then your students will know tons of awesome math content. I have all of these activities bundled (except for the google slides activity) into one package for 20% off. If you are intersted, then click on the pic below. If there is something that you can’t find, please let me know. I’d love to add things that teachers are looking for. Thanks for visiting this article.

Happy Teaching…