8 Ideas for Sub Plans in Secondary Math

07 August 2017
Need FREE emergency sub plans for middle school or high school?  These substitute teacher ideas would be great in any secondary math class.
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At some point, all teachers have to miss school.  Between illness, field trips, coaching responsibilities, and life everyone misses a day at some point…. and it’s a huge pain.

teacher sick day

I try to keep continuity while I’m gone, and have students work on something that we have been doing in class.  However, that’s not always possible.  If you get sick in the middle of the night or something happens on the way to work, you may not get a chance to organize sub plans.  My school requires that we keep emergency sub plans in a binder, just in case.  They have to be educational, at least sort of related to the content area in which we teach, and keep student occupied and out of trouble.  Yeah, in math, that’s not always easy!

These 8 ideas can be used in almost any level high school math class.  Some would work better for older students or younger students, but all could be modified to suit your needs in a pinch.

Need FREE emergency sub plans for middle school or high school?  These substitute teacher ideas would be great in any secondary math class.

This statistics lesson is accessible for any high school student.  Also, let’s be real, EVERYONE needs this lesson.  Have you watched the news?  It is an online lesson, but if you’re not 1:1 the sub could click through the screens on the projector and students could write their answers on notebook paper.

This lessons teaches students about different number bases and the history behind them.  It’s interesting and different, which your students just may love.

You can’t go anywhere right now without seeing emojis.  They’ve pretty much taken over.  These logic puzzles are a combination of the logic puzzles you see plastered on social media and the emoji craze.  Between the 32 task cards and the extra worksheet, I’ll be able to split it into two days worth of sub plans.

This is a fun activity if you have access to some blocks or math cubes.  Students will build their own figures and draw them with a partner.  There is also a stations maze to wrap everything up.

The birthday problem is a common example used in statistics, but it’s fun to do with any math class! This video would probably be better for older or honors students, but it really is fun. 

Between the seven stations, the extra editable stations, the worksheet AND the extension activities, this could easily be used as more than one day of sub plans.  JACKPOT!  I love that kindness and growth mindset are included, because my students ALWAYS need reminders about both of those!

I’ll be honest, I did this lesson myself.  It was actually really interesting.  This is a lesson that I think students would be interested in, and it’s pretty accessible to any high school student.  

I’m not going to lie; I love this.  It’s an article that was posted in The Atlantic and is wonderful at explaining that being good at math is the product of hard work - not good genes.  I plan to have my students read this and write a paragraph or two about whether they agree or disagree.  Yay for writing in math!

Side Note:  Many of these require students to watch a video for a few minutes.  In this case, I've found that students tend to stay on task better if they share devices with a partner and each use one earbud.  In my experience, having a partner tends to keep them on the correct website a little more.  (It's at least worth a try!)  Also, I like to keep a few extra pairs of these cheap earbuds on hand for the forgetful kids.

Have you used any of these on a sub day?  How did it turn out?

Interactive Notebook Tips: Teaching a Lesson

25 July 2017
Teachers that are new to interactive notebooks often ask me how I run a typical class period and how I teach a lesson.

In this post, I’m going to outline exactly what I do with my classes and how I do it.  For reference, my classes are 48 minutes long and I have a document camera.  I do not have a smart board or any thing like that.

This post explains how to teach a lesson using interactive notebooks. It explains how to structure middle school and high school class periods.


My students are supposed to start their warmup as soon as they walk into class.  I don’t do anything fancy.  I typically project a couple problems that review what we did the day before or a spiral review topic.  I usually just zoom in on a couple of problems on a worksheet and project them on the board.  My students have a sheet that they do all of their warmups on and turn it in at the end of the week.  I cut them off when I’m ready to move on, regardless if they are finished yet.  Then, I write the solutions on the board and answer any questions.

Checking Homework

Next, I have students check their homework.  I project the solutions on the board and have students check their own homework.  They are supposed to write the correct answer of anything they missed.  I walk around with a clipboard and check to make sure they did it.  If they gave the majority of the problems a good effort, they get full credit.  If they only did half of it, they get half credit.  Yeah, some kids cheat on this method.  I don’t stress about it, because I can TOTALLY tell when it comes to test time.  I usually just put a note in the grade book that little Johnny has been cheating on his homework and don’t worry about it.

The Lesson

For the sake of explaining, I’m going to pretend I’m teaching my Algebra 1 classes about adding and subtracting polynomials. For this lesson, I would use my adding and subtracting polynomials flip book.

I pass out the foldable for the day and show them how to fold it (if necessary).  This is exactly what I would say:
“Ok, you have two pages for your flip book.  Look at the page that says SUBTRACTING POLYNOMIALS on the bottom.  Put it on your desk like this.”
Then, I would set it under the document camera so that the SUBTRACTING POLYNOMIALS tab is at the bottom.
“Now, set ADDING POLYNOMIALS on top of it so that they are layered.  Then, fold it over.”
I would model exactly what I am saying under the document camera.
“I’m going to pass around staplers.  They will start at the front of the room.  Please staple like this.”
I model correct stapling.
“Don’t bang on them like an idiot.  It breaks them.  You know how to staple.  When they get to the back of the room, please pass them over to my desk.”
Then, I glue the foldable into my notebook and my students do the same.  This whole process takes about 2-3 minutes, at the longest.  After about October, my students can figure all of it out themselves unless it’s a new kind of foldable.  They can usually put it into their notebooks as I pass things out.
Once I glue my flip book in my notebook, I start teaching!  I fill in everything with my students.  I have one notebook per class period and I write along with them.
First, I would open the vocabulary tab.  I would talk through the new vocabulary words and do the examples with them.
Then, we would move on to the adding polynomials tab.  I would show them the first two examples, then they would work with a partner for the remaining examples.  When they were done, I would put the answers up.
Last, I would do the subtracting polynomials tab the same way I did the previous tab.  


When we are finished with the lesson, I typically let my students start their homework or we do a short activity.

Honestly, the way I present lessons isn’t much different than when I didn’t use interactive notebooks.  The big change was in what my students were doing.  Before interactive notebooks, my students just dutifully filled in their guided notes….and lost them in their backpacks…  Now, they are manipulating the pieces of the foldable, color-coding, and chunking ideas while I’m teaching.  Everything is glued in their notebooks so that it isn’t lost.  That’s the big change!

Any more questions?  Leave them below so I can help you get started!

Visualizing Intersecting Planes

19 July 2017
Students have such a hard time visualizing intersecting planes.  It helps so much if they have something concrete to hold.

I have a giant piece of foam board that I cut in half, and then cut slits in.  A saw works nicely for this :)  

Use foam board to demonstrate intersecting planes in geometry

Check out how awesome this looks once the foam board is stuck together.

Use foam board to demonstrate intersecting planes in geometry

I use my giant foam board to introduce the lesson and talk through the main points.  Once I’m ready to have students start taking notes and dive into specifics, I pass out two notecards to each student.  I have them tear notches into the notecards to show intersecting planes.

Using notecards to model intersecting lines and planes in geometry

Then, I have students stick their pencil through the notecard to show a line intersecting the plane.

Using notecards to model intersecting lines and planes in geometry

After that, I have students put the two planes together and use their pencil as a line.

Using notecards to model intersecting lines and planes in geometry

This works so well to have students visualize things.  Their homework typically involves true and false questions for this lesson, so I have them get out their notecards if they get stuck!

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