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Math Rotations – The Why


I am so excited to start this new blog series for the month of February.  This series will focus on all things Math Rotations.  Look for new posts each Sunday, Tuesday, and Thursday during the month of February.

Blog header for Why Math Rotations

For today’s post I am sharing with you my why for switching to math rotations.  I have taught math the more traditional way for many years and made the switch two years ago to using math rotations.  I was finding that I was having difficulty reaching all of my kids during math lessons.  With the majority of the traditional math lesson being done in whole group with independent practice, I wasn’t able to reach my struggling learners or my learners who were ready for a challenge.  Due to that, students weren’t as engaged as they could be and weren’t really getting what they needed.  So… I decided to make a change.

Here are my reasons why I use Math Rotations:
  • Math rotations allow you to differentiate daily for EVERY group.
  • Whole group lessons still exist, but are more of a mini lesson with the majority of the instruction taking place at the child’s independent level during small groups.
  • Math rotations offer opportunities to review and fill in gaps for students who are struggling while also an opportunity to challenge students who are ready to be pushed.
Coming Up:

Thank you for checking out today’s introductory post for Math Rotations.  Stay tuned for information on:

  • Creating Math Rotation Groups
  • How to Start Math Rotations
  • Math Mini-Lessons
  • Rotation Process and Management Tips
  • Teacher Time Ideas
  • Seat Work Ideas
  • Tech Time Ideas
  • Game Ideas

Check back Tuesday for more information about how I group students for Math Rotations.

Pin image for Why Math Rotations Blog Post

Elapsed Time Strategies


Elapsed time can be a tricky skill for students to learn! But, with the right strategies they’ll understand it and be able to master it in no time!  Today I’m going to share my two favorite strategies for solving elapsed time problems.  These are elapsed time strategies that my second graders loved and helped them understand and easily solve these problems.  Now, I know the two strategies are very similar but they are laid out differently.  Some of my kids preferred the empty number line visual and some preferred the T-chart.

Quick Tip

When working with elapsed time I like to use word problems.  I know you can give problems with a start and end time or a start time and elapsed time, but I like to use word problems. I find giving it in a story problem format helps kids visualize the problem because there is context.  This then makes the problem easier for them to solve.

Strategy #1 – Empty Number Line

Empty number line strategy example 1

For empty number line, students start with an empty number line. Then, they place the start time at the beginning and end time at the end.  Next, students need to make jumps on the number line to figure out how much time has passed.  I suggest students always start by looking at hours since it is a larger chunk of time and then moving to minutes. Students may make jumps in different ways. For the problem below, some students might add five minutes to get to 8:00 and then make the jump of 42 minutes.  Other students may make jumps in increments of ten or twenty to get to the final time.  There is no “one” right way and what I like about this is students can make jumps that they are comfortable with given their math understanding. Once they have made their jumps they add the hours and minutes together to come up with the total elapsed time.

Empty number line strategy example 2

This problem has the end time missing.  Students create the empty number line and put the start time on it.  Then using the elapsed time given – 32 minutes – they make jumps to find the end time.  Students can jump 30 minutes and then 2 minutes. Students can jump 10 minutes, 10 minutes, 10 minutes, and 2 minutes.  Students could also jump 20 minutes, 10 minutes, and 2 minutes.  Again the number line provides a visual strategy and then students can make jumps depending on their number flexibility and math foundation.

Strategy #2 – T-Chart

T-Chart Strategy Example 1

The T-Chart strategy is very similar to the number line, but a different way to lay it out.  This strategy works better for some students.  To start, create a T-chart and write time on one side and hours/minutes on the other side.  In this example, the start time is written below the time side.  Then, students add time to the start time to get to the end time.  Students can start with hours or minutes, but I always suggest hours since it is a larger chunk of time.  So in this example, the student added an hour and got to 7:55.  Then, they added 5 minutes to get to 8:00. Next, they added the 42 minutes to get to 8:42.  Then they added the hour and minutes together to get the total answer. Again like the elapsed time strategy students can add the times in different increments.

T-Chart Strategy Example 2

In this problem, the T-Chart is set up the same way as above.  The start time is written down and then the student adds the elapsed time given in the problem to find the end time.   The increments can be added in different ways (30 minutes, 10 minutes three times, 20 minutes and 10 minutes, etc).  Once the elapsed time is added the student will arrive at the end time, which is the answer.

Now there are more strategies than those two, but my students in the past have gravitated towards these two and found them to be the most helpful when solving these problems.  These two problem types are common, but the start time could also be unknown. In that case, students can use the same strategies and work backwards to find the beginning time.

Here is an anchor chart I created with my students when learning about elapsed time.

Elapsed Time Anchor Chart


If you are interested in providing your students with some elapsed time word problem practice, check out my two resources below.

Elapsed Time Worksheets

These worksheets are easy for teachers to use because they are already differentiated!  There are three different levels for each worksheet. I’ve used these as homework, practice, and formative assessments.

Elapsed Time Worksheets

Elapsed Time Task Cards

Task cards are a great addition to math stations, math centers, or math practice time.  These are differentiated with three different sets!  I love using them because you’re able to meet the needs of all of your learners and they are able to all practice the same skill, but at their level.

Elapsed Time Story Problem Task Cards

Pizzeria Room Transformation

Math, Reading, Writing

Today I’m excited to share my second room transformation with you!  This one was a Pizzeria Room Transformation.  Our pizzeria was called Village Pizzeria.  I’m going to take you through the decor and the different activities that we did during the day.

Decorations and Room Set-Up:

Picture of Pizzeria with lights off and candles on

Here you can see the set-up with the lights out.  The tablecloths are from the dollar store, the battery candles are actually from my wedding registry, and my teaching assistant made the flowers out of tissue paper.  On the Smart Board I had a photo of a pizzeria and played Italian music to help set the mood.  They have tons of great options for this on YouTube!


Picture of Pizzeria set-up


Picture of pizza banner and pizzeria decor

On the back bulletin board my teaching assistant made the cute banner of pizzas.  We also found pizza and pizzeria pictures online and hung them on the walls.


Picture of Village Pizzeria backdrop

My teaching assistant also traced and made this sign from one we found online. We used this as a backdrop to take each student’s photo with their chef hat and mustache that you will see later in the post.


Costume and Staff Roles Idea:

Picture of teacher dressed up as server in front of welcome background

For the pizzeria room transformation I decided to be the server.  Since I wasn’t a teacher that day, I decided to have the kids call me Giana and that would be my pizzeria server name. I wore a name tag, had a server apron, and glasses at times.  My teaching assistant dressed up as a chef with a chef hat and apron.  We also got my assistant principal involved. She helped with the first activity below.  She was the owner of the pizzeria and her name was Barbara.  She dressed up, had an Italian accent, and had a lot of fun with her role in our pizzeria!

Opinion Writing Activity:

Picture of Oreo cookies and writing piece

We have been working on opinion writing in class and I wanted to tie that in to the pizzeria room transformation.  “Barbara,” our owner (our assistant principal) came in and asked them if they would help taste test two different Oreo’s to see which should be added to her menu. The kids were excited to do this and enjoyed trying both. I was surprised because red velvet won and I was sure that many of them would go for the peanut butter. After testing both cookies they wrote their opinion and had to give reasons to support the cookie they picked.


Menu Math:

Picture of math menu and worksheet

I created pizzeria menus that we used for our math lesson. I also created differentiated story problems for three different groups to work on.  All story problems fit around the menu theme and definitely made them think outside the box.  My goal was to push all of my students/customers and these problems did just that.  They loved choosing their own items from the menu for question 2 and did a great job showing work for how they got their answers.


Picture of Menu Math story problems

Above and below you can see the three different story problem pages.  As you can see they are similar, but differentiated to meet all of my learners.

Picture of Menu Math story problems


Book Tasting:

Picture of book tasting table set-up

Picture of book tasting table set-up

The book tasting was another perfect event for our room transformation.  After lunch the kids came back in and I had it all set-up.  There were six tables and three different genres – fairy tale, fiction, and nonfiction. Students were assigned as a specific seat by the hostess (me) and then given directions.  They had about 5 minutes to “taste” their book and write the title and genre.  On the page they also could give their book a rating with stars.  A 5 star book was a fantastic book that they wanted to read again and a 1 star book was one that they were not interested in. They were very honest with their reviews and also had a chance to read books from a variety of genres.  Below you’ll see the book tasting form.

Picture of book tasting form

Making a Mini Pizza:

Next came the part the kids had been waiting all day for! Each student got to make their own mini pizza.  We used english muffins, marinara sauce, mozzarella cheese, and pepperonis.  Our chef (my teaching assistant) did a demo cooking lesson and then each child got to make their own mini pizza.  They wore the cute chef hats pictured below and also each got a mustache.  I took pictures of them in front of the backdrop with both props and they turned out adorable!

Picture of chef hat and mustache


Writing a How To:

Picture of how to writing piece sample from a student

After creating their own mini pizza, each child wrote their own “how to” explaining how to make a mini pizza.  They loved that they got to write down their recipe so they could make them again at home.


All in all it was a wonderful day and the second room transformation of the year was a success! Stay tuned for future transformations and ideas!


Football Room Transformation

Math, Reading, Writing

So today I am super excited to share with you my room transformation that I did a few weeks ago.  For my first room transformation this year I decided to do a football theme. What started out as just a transformation for a math review turned into why not make the whole day football themed! Go big or go home – right?? So this room transformation took on a life of it’s own and I couldn’t be happier with how it turned out!  In this blog post I’ll take you through the decorations and different events of the day.  I had a blast and my kids had a blast! It was probably one of the best days we’ve had this school year so far.


Room Transformation Info:

For the room transformation I got items from Amazon, Party City, and we made many of them too.  The football backdrop and football runner were from Party City. My ref shirt came from Amazon. I printed and made the football logos.  My teaching aide made the tablecloths with a football stamp and the other football signs.  The decorations definitely helped set the mood!

Each child had their picture taken in front of the backdrop. The posed with the football. I so wish I could show you the pictures because some of them took it rather seriously!


If I Were a Football Player Page:

During morning meeting, which I called a team meeting, we discussed some of the questions on the page above. Students then got to create their football name, pick their number, decide the team name, mascot, etc.  They had fun being creative and coming up with some interesting mascots and names!


Jersey Design:

Next students got to design their own jerseys. I showed them a few examples of real NFL and college jerseys and then they got to work. They used their team colors and number on the jersey. The t-shirt page was from Heather Toomey.


Football Math Review Game:

When students came back from PE I had the game set-up for them. I used a long football yard-line table runner on the floor and that was how we showed we each team earned a point (10 yards) for each correct question. When they came in the room I had the Sunday Night Football song playing to get them pumped up and ready!

I broke the class up into two teams for the math review game. Each team had a designated “captain” who came forward for the coin toss. Another teacher happened to stop by so she became our NFL commissioner and actually tossed the coin for us!  Heads won and off we went!

The review game included some of the questions above. This unit in math covered items such as: combos of 10, counting and adding on, solving word problems, identifying and labeling numbers.  Teams worked together to figure out the answer and a different child gave the answer each time to make sure everyone was included. Each time they got an answer correct they earned 10 yards. I planned it ahead of time so that each team would end up with the same points so we had no hurt feelings.  At the end of the game, each team added up all of their tens to see who won! Since each team won, each player got a football bracelet from Party City that had sports sayings on it.


Football Math Stations:

To continue reviewing for out test we also completed math stations with activities practicing the different skills.  The football popcorn holders held the activities and these were from Party City. Each group rotated to each station as you can see below.


This activity was completed with my teaching aide. She would give the kids a number and they would fill it in on the ten frame. Then she would ask further questions like how  many more would you need to make 10.

This tens frame Around the Room activity I got on TPT from Resource Ranch. Students would add the two numbers together and record their answer on the recording sheet.

Students worked on football story problems when they came to my station. I created similar problems but differentiated the numbers to meet the different levels in my classroom.

Students worked on ordering numbers at this station. There were baggies with ten numbers in it and the kids had to put them in order from least to greatest.  The football numbers are from Teacher Trish.

At this station students played Memory with the football cards.  This was a great way to practice combos of 10!



During reading we read and discussed the story Football Dinosaurs.  Then, during snack we watched the Tiki Barber story on Tumble Books.



To tie in writing, students wrote their opinion about their favorite sport. We brainstormed all the different kinds of sports and students picked one to write about. They also had to give a reason for their choice.  This page is from The Simplified Classroom.



All in all this one was of my favorite teaching days ever! We had so much fun and was I tired at the end of the day!  You exert so much energy during days like this that I had no trouble going to sleep that night!


Stay tuned…I have another room transformation coming in a few weeks! Be sure to follow me on Instagram to stay up to speed with all of the latest in my classroom!



TPT Bonus Sale TODAY

Math, TPT

Today- Tuesday, August 21 is the TPT Back to School BONUS Sale!! My entire store – Team J’s Classroom Fun- Jordan Johnson – will be on sale for up to 25% off with the code BTSBONUS18!

Here are some math resources you might be interested in:

Learning About Line Plots – Geared towards second grade math standards. Students practice answering questions from a line plot, creating a line plot, and includes a project!

Line Plot Practice and Activities

Themed Word Problem Task Cards – Geared towards second grade. Includes addition and subtraction story problems for Back to School, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Winter, Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, Easter, and Summer! Perfect to throw in a math station or use as a formative assessment!

Themed Math Word Problems BUNDLE

Differentiated Elapsed Time Worksheets – Just print and go!  Great for homework or a formative assessment. Each page includes 3 versions to provide opportunities to differentiate to meet the needs in your classroom!

Elapsed Time Worksheets

Happy shopping! Remember to leave feedback to earn credits that you can use towards future purchases!

Strategies for Multiplying by Multiples of 10


One of the skills we cover in second grade (which I know is often a third grade skill) is multiplying by multiples of 10. This can off scare kids as you are using larger numbers, but I knew my kids could handle it. To make it a little less scary, I introduced it using a story problem. I put the problem below up on the board and read over it with the kids.

Then, I told the kids to solve it on their white boards at their seats. I didn’t give any prompting or suggestions, I wanted to see what they would come up with on their own.  Boy was I pleasantly surprised! They had amazing strategies! As you’ll see below they came up with multiple different ways to come to the answer.  They all understood it was equal groups and they used strategies we had talked about with multiplication – drawing out equal groups, skip counting, repeated addition, breaking apart numbers, etc. I was so proud of them. After giving them time to solve I had students bring their white board up to explain their strategies to the class.

This honestly was the best way I have ever introduced it. Instead of me telling them how to figure it out or only showing them the trick (8 x 3 = 24 so 8 x 30 = 240), they really took them time to try to figure it out for themselves. And it helped because on future problems they knew multiple strategies they could use to solve it.

See their awesome strategies below…




Test Prep Review Ideas

Math, Reading

It’s getting to be that time again….the dreading testing season is about to begin! I know April and May can be quite chaotic for teachers with all of the end of the year activities, but it is also chaotic with all of the testing!  We test in early May so April tends to be a lot of review. And, while reviewing can be boring, I’ve done a few things the last year or two to spice it up a bit.

Reviewing content is important throughout the year, but refreshers are always good as testing approaches. Last year I wanted to freshen things up a bit and try to make reviewing as fun as possible.  One way I did this was by changing up the way we reviewed each day.  For example, in math, we reviewed different skill areas each day. One day we worked on place value, one day operations, one day patterns, etc.  To keep it fresh, we reviewed these skills in different ways. This way no two days was the same. And – it helped! The students enjoyed reviewing more and were more engaged (which is the whole point of this :-)!)

Here are some ideas for how to review math skills…these can be applied to different grade levels and skills:

  • Egg Hunt – Yes, I know Easter is over, but an egg hunt is fun for everyone. To practice our operations skills (addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division) I created an egg hunt for my kids.  They were able to go around the room hunting for eggs and then they had to solve the problems inside the egg on the recording sheet. They loved it!  I also differentiated by putting more difficult problems in certain colored eggs and more on-level problems in others. This way I was able to challenge the kids who were ready.

  • Match-Up – Another activity I did was a match-up activity with partners. Students had the multiplication or division problem and had to match the problem with the answer card.

  • Around the Room – Kids need to move and they especially need to move as we get closer and closer to the end of the year. Last year I created an Around the Room activity to review place value. It included expanded form, place value model, comparing numbers, and writing numbers in standard form.  Kids were up and moving and able to review the different place value skills we worked on. You can find Place Value Review – Around the Room in my TPT Store…here.  I also created an Around the Room activity to review the pattern skills that we did a different day to avoid repetitious review activitie

  • White Board Review – Another skill we reviewed was understanding story problems. Our standards include being able to solve story problems, but also being able to identify the operation and the number sentence that matches. I put a PowerPoint together and the kids would respond to the question on their white boards and then we’d do a quick show and discussion.


  • Kids Sharing Out – This was an idea I saw on Instagram last year and I wish I could remember where because it is genius!  I put different operation and story problems on larger poster paper around the room. Students then went around and solved the problems on their own recording sheet.  Once they finished that, I partnered the kids up and gave each partnership one of the hanging poster boards.  They had to solve that problem on the chart paper. Then, they had to get up and present to the class how they solved it.  Great way to practice math communication and review!




I know many of these ideas are focused around math, but you could still use the same review activities, but with reading or ELA skills. I will also be doing language arts and reading review with lots of task cards.  For reading – I also highly recommend looking at ReadWorks. They have tons of multiple choice passages like the students will see on many of these standardized test.

How do you review for standardized testing? Share your ideas in the comments…

Be sure to sign up for my email list below! This Tuesday (April 10) I will be sending out a FREEBIE to all of my email subscribers with some cute testing signs you can use during testing season!

March Madness Fun

Math, Reading

So a little bit of background info about me.  I used to be a huge Phoenix Suns fan. I was such a big fan that my room back in AZ was decked out in basketball and Phoenix Suns decor.  This is also where the name Team J’s 2nd Grade Fun came from.  My husband is also a basketball coach. So – basketball is very important in our household and this is always a fun time of year with all of the March Madness excitement.  Today I want to show you a few ways you can bring some of this excitement into your classroom.

Classroom Decor:

My awesome room moms last year decorated my classroom with all kind of March Madness goodies. I know they found some of these items on Amazon and some at the party stores around town.


The room decor also carried on outside to my hallway bulletin board. I decided to have students solve a math word problem – basketball themed – on an actual basketball cut-out that would be attached to the bulletin board. To differentiate, I had different types of problems (addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division) with varying degrees of difficulty. I let the students pick which problem they wanted to solve.  It turned out amazing!




I also created a task card version of these story problems and they are in my TPT Store.  The product is called Basketball Bonanza Story Problems.


This year I am also doing a Tournament of Books March Madness Challenge with my students.  Last week was Reading Week, which fit in perfectly with this activity! I found the bracket board online and picked out the picture books myself. I tried to pick books that had similar features, characters, or storylines to go against each other in the first round. For example – Chicks and Salsa and The Big Chickens. I also tried to pick books that were unfamiliar to my kids.  This past week we finished up the Sweet 16 Round. I would read both books going against each other to my kids and then they would vote.  The winner moves on to the Elite 8 Round.


Do you celebrate March Madness in your class?  Comment below and let me know.

Choral Counting – Introduction to Skip Counting


I recently taught multiplication to my 2nd graders. We spent time really understanding the foundation of multiplication and the why and how it works. We learned multiple strategies and were finally to the last strategy – skip counting. Now, I know most kids have been skip counting for a long time and are able to easily skip count by 2s, 5s, and 10s. But, skip counting by 6s, 8s, 9s, etc. are more tricky. I wanted them to really understand why skip counting is a multiplication strategy as opposed to just memorizing the skip counting pattern.

So….CGI (Cognitively Guided Instruction) which you hear me mention a lot came to the rescue. I love using Number Talks as a way to get my kids thinking about strategies, but this time Choral Counting fit the goal better. In choral counting, students are counting by a certain number, fraction, decimal, etc. Since we were skip counting for multiplication I had them skip count by 8s. We slowly counted and I wrote down the numbers as they counted. We went slowly so even my kiddos that need to count up on their fingers were able to participate. We went quite far….see below….

Then, I gave them think time and asked them to make observations about what they noticed with what we skip counted. After independent think time, I had them share their observations with their partners. The room was buzzing with noise, but it was amazing because they were all excited to share their connections.  Then, I had students share out their observations with the class.  Engagement was high and I had lots of students wanting to share out.  Even one of my kiddos who has struggled in math was dying to share her answer – she was raising her hand and shaking it around to the point where I thought it would fall off.

As they shared their observations, I documented it using different color makers. (See picture below). First, students noticed how each time we moved horizontally we were adding by 8.  Another student noticed that vertically we were adding 40 each time.  Then we talked about how if you add 8 two times – that would be 16. If you add 8 three times that would be 24 and moved into how it was like multiplication.  This worked really well because they made the connection that skip counting isn’t just memorization it actually goes along with the multiplication fact.  One 8 would be 8, two 8’s would be 16 and they actually understood how it’s all connected.

I highly recommend choral counting for teaching and practicing many different math skills. I’ve also seen it used for counting fractions, decimals, money, and elapsed time.

Have you ever used choral counting before? Comment below….

Holiday Activities for the Classroom

Holidays, Math, Reading, Science, Writing

I know how crazy the last few days/week before winter break can be. We are entering crazy times teachers and we need to have as many fun, educational activities in our back pocket ready to go as we can.

So, here are a few things I will be using with my class this week….

Christmas Writing Prompts – This is a FREEBIE in my TPT Store.  It includes two writing prompts that are focused on personal narratives.  Great way to incorporate writing into the holiday excitement.

Candy Cane Science Lab – I did this activity with my class last year and will be starting it this week. We’ve been learning about lab reports during Writing Workshop and this is a fun science experiment to do this time of year. Check out my blog post on it….here

Olive, the Other Reindeer Book Study – This is a cute story and my students love hearing it every year.  This book study is now in my TPT Store. It includes comprehension questions and four different writing prompts. This could be used whole group or as a small group activity.

Christmas Story Problems – We will be starting these today.  I love using holiday story problems as one of my rotations during our daily math time.  The kids love that they are themed and fitting of the season.  The Christmas Story Problems include addition and subtraction problems with and without regrouping.

Winter Story Problems – I will actually be using these when we return to school in January, but if your school focuses on winter instead of the specific holidays – these story problems would be great. These can be used whole group, small group, or at a math center.  These winter themed problems focus on ice skating, hot chocolate, snowmen, etc.  Includes addition and subtraction problems.

Hope these activities and ideas help with the last bit of school before break. I’m down to 7.5 days left with students. We can do it teachers!