My 2019-2020 Math Classroom Decorations Tour

What can I say about the 2019-2020 school year other than the fact that it's been CRAZY? I ended last school year a few weeks early due to taking maternity leave. It felt weird not having the closure of the normal end of year activities and packing up my classroom for the summer. But that weirdness was overshadowed by the fact that I was a new mom. My focus instantly switched from teaching teenagers math to keeping a newborn alive. I assumed that this school year would be characterized mainly by my learning how to balance being both a teacher and a mom. I didn't see a worldwide pandemic coming. At all.

Last Tuesday was my assigned day to enter the school building and prep my classroom for summer. It also became my one and only chance to mark something off my to-do list that had been lingering since AUGUST. In the back to school craziness, I never got around to blogging pictures of this year's classroom decorations. Actually, let me correct that statement. I never even got around to taking pictures of my classroom decorations. It's been a yearly tradition since I started teaching and started this blog that I share photos of my classroom. I couldn't break my 7 year streak, so I added "Take Classroom Photos" to my list of things I needed to do to shut down my classroom for this summer.

So, I hope you enjoy this tour of my 2019-2020 classroom. I hope it comes in useful as you start to plan for the new school year, however that may look. Even though my district is working on coming up with a multitude of plans of what school may look like in the future, I'm being stubbornly optimistic and hoping that my prep for the new school year will still include such things as decorating my classroom. Please don't burst my bubble...yet.

You may notice some differences in this year's classroom decor compared to previous years. You will notice a lot less posters and stuff hanging on the wall. This is a result of the fact that my school uses my hallway for all of its standardized testing. This means that I have to take down or cover up all my decorations multiple times a year. Last year, I learned what a real pain this was the hard way. So this year, I tried to stay as minimalistic as possible in my decorations so that they were easy to cover. There's also the fact that I now know why teachers complain so much about hanging up decorations on cinder block walls. Last year was my first year in a classroom with cinder block walls, and I spent the ENTIRE year rehanging up posters again and again and again. I did miss having some of the posters I'm used to having had up in the past, so I'm looking for ways to incorporate them back in for the future.

Want to see what my classroom has looked like in years past? Here are some links if you want to take a trip down memory lane.

Okay. It's time for the grand tour. Let's start at the doorway to my classroom. Here is what students see when they walk in the door of my classroom.

Looking back towards the door that we just entered.... This is the front of my classroom.

Here's the view from my podium toward the back of the classroom.

And, here's a slightly different view from the podium.

The view from my computer chair...

And a couple of different angled views from my desk area.

From the back corner of my classroom, looking toward my desk area:

Same Point of View. Now I'm looking toward the TV at the front of the classroom.

And, one last shot from the same spot. This time I'm looking toward the door of the classroom, even though it's hidden behind the cinder block wall jutting out by the file cabinet.

My Weekly Agenda Wall was a new addition for this year. I'm definitely keeping it. Though, I think I need to work on building a routine into my work time to make it more effective and keep it up to date more regularly. I really slacked off on keeping it up-to-date right before Spring Break.

This is my main student view. The math department was the first department in the school to adopt 65" flat screen televisions to give instruction instead of SMARTBoards. See the pole extending from the ceiling on the left side of the picture below? That used to have a projector mounted to it. It was removed to replace a projector that had died elsewhere in the district since I now have a smart TV.

Annoyingly, I still have the SMARTBoard bolted to my wall. I just submitted a summer maintenance request to have it removed and a bulletin board mounted in its place. It will be interesting to see if my wish is granted.

Even if the SMARTBoard remains, I do realize I'm super lucky to have dry erase boards on 3 of my 4 walls. And the wall that doesn't have a dry erase board has a bank of cabinets. I do not know what I would do without these cabinets. Especially because I've collected so much stuff during my 8 years as an educator. Though, I do have to say that I've been reading some books on decluttering this summer, and I think when I do return to school that I will be practicing some of the decluttering strategies I've been using in my home on my classroom.

So, that's the overall tour. Now let's dig in deep and look at some close-ups. Let's start back at the door. Above my door, I have pennant flags for the two universities I attended. I got my bachelors in mathematics and secondary education from the University of Tulsa. And, I earned my masters in curriculum and instruction with an emphasis in math from the University of Texas at Arlington.

One of the first things people notice when they walk in my room is my Math-y WELCOME banner. You can read my blog post about it and download the files to create your own here. I'm not entirely happy with where I hung it this year. But once I hot glued it to the wall, I was not about to move it.

Also in this corner is my trash can, recycling bin, thermostat, manual pencil sharpener, and cell phone holder. This was my first year not having an electric pencil sharpener for students to use. Now, that was a good decision. Are electric sharpeners inherently better? Yes. But, they are also SO MESSY. My classroom stayed much cleaner this year only having the wall-mounted pencil sharpener. The majority of my students use mechanical pencils anyway, so I didn't really get any complaints.

My cell phone holder (affiliate link) came from Amazon. It held up wonderfully which surprised me since it was so cheap. My cell phone policies, on the other hand, didn't hold up very well at all. I found it too hard to police whether students were actually placing their phones in the pocket or not. This meant that day after day there were less and less phones in the holder. I definitely need to rethink my plan for this over the summer. 

My coordinate plane magnets (affiliate link) are also from Amazon. You can also order them directly from EAI Education if your school places orders with them. Want your own set of coordinate plane magnets to label the parts of your coordinate plane magnets? I blogged about them and shared the files here. The good thing about these magnets is they are super easy to take down for state testing. And, they can be quickly moved out of the way when I am working a problem and need to use the coordinate plane.

Above my long dry erase board, I have my printed number line. This is the fourth classroom that this number line has hung in, and it's still going strong. Find details for printing your own here. I definitely recommend a number line for any math classroom. Also of interest might be the positive and negative infinity symbols I have hung on either side of the number line. They can be downloaded here.

In the corner by one of my two windows, I have my 65 inch Smart TV that I use to display notes/announcements on. It is hooked up to my computer where I mainly use OneNote to display what we are working on for the day. I print the PDFs of our notes to OneNote and write on top of them using my Wacom Intuos Tablet (affiliate link).  I also use my Ipevo Document Camera (affiliate link) to display things on the TV when I want to handwrite things with an actual pen or show student work. I still miss having my SMARTboard at times, but I do love the absolute clarity of showing students things on the TV instead of constantly dealing with dimming and dying projector bulbs.

My podium is home to my Mrs. Carter math name sign and my SOH CAH TOA Posters. I haven't shared the math name sign because it's my name and you would need your name. But, the WELCOME banner post up above has some links that might be useful in creating your own!

The SOH CAH TOA posters, on the other hand, can be downloaded here.

Up next, my lovely bulletin board. Except wait! It's not a bulletin board. It's an ugly coordinate plane chalkboard that I repurposed by covering it with black paper and adding a border of colored tape. It's definitely not perfect if you get up close, but it looks a million times better than the old chalkboard that was there. This is a space in my classroom that could definitely be utilized better. I had all sorts of plans of posting upcoming ACT dates and other stuff, but they never materialized.

This is the perfect home, however, for my Math Joke of the Week which was a HUGE hit in my classroom this year and will continue to be a part of my classroom for years to come. Students loved flipping up the joke to reveal the answer. And, they were quick to volunteer to switch out the joke whenever I forgot. Not going to lie, that happened a lot.

Also in this space, my new Unit Circle magnets (affiliate link) that I got as a Christmas present from my school's parent teacher student organization. As part of my summer to do list, I'll be making a title to hang above it that says "The Unit Circle" and some smaller magnets to label the angles/coordinates.  This arrived just as we were finishing our trigonometry units in Pre-Calc, so it didn't really get much use this year. But I'm super excited to use it next year. It's manufactured by EAI Education, the same company that made my magnetic coordinate plane that I showed you earlier. Both of them are actually four separate magnets that fit together to make the one larger display.

My Weekly Agenda board was a new addition for this school year.

Things to note:

I suck at writing the date each day. I need to find a way to make this a student job.

Students love to have their names written on the board for their birthday week.

Don't abbreviate Thursday as R. You will never hear the end of it. Kids don't care that colleges sometimes use R as an abbreviation for Thursday in course schedules.

Below the agenda board, I had a rolling table. In the past, I used this by the door as a sort of supply table. It collected so much garbage. This year I switched it to this wall thinking it could serve as a puzzle table. Students have written bad words on it that I'm not sure are going to wipe off. This will likely be decluttered come August.

We've now made our way around the room to my corner. I know the trend these days is to get rid of your teacher desk. Not me. I need my space.

The most common way students interact with my space is by using the turn-in trays. I like to have these in a place where I can access them from my desk without having to get up out of my chair. If I have to walk across the room to get papers to grade, they're going to get graded in an even more untimelier fashion.

Want to see my teacher hack that I'm super proud of? I labeled the front of the turn in drawers for my students. And, I labeled the back of the drawers for me! So simple, yet it took me way 1.25 years to figure this out.

This bookshelf houses my binders, reference books, graded papers, and lots of other random stuff. You may be thinking you don't see much other random stuff. That's because I took this picture after quite a bit of tidying.

On top of the bookshelf, I have a set of 8 magazine holders that I rescued from the library. These hold my printed resource books that I have bound myself using one of my new favorite toys: a binding machine! See those ugly stickers stuck to the back of the magazine holders? They say "Buy 5 Get 1 Free." I finally got around to removing the stickers and residue with some amazing, life-changing Goo Be Gone (affiliate link) last week. They look SO much nicer now!

In the future, I hope to label the bottoms of the magazine holders to say what subject's resources are contained in each holder.

The top shelf of my bookshelf holds my to-be-passed-back-papers which are organized in Avery Six-Pocket Organizers (affiliate link).

The second shelf is home to my binders and a plastic organizer which holds tardy slips, magnetic clips, and small slips of paper.

Below that, I keep a collection of reference textbooks. The box on the bottom shelf is my teaching memento box. This is where I keep the notes I get from students and other small items that I want to save.

Next to the shelf, I have a pink rolling cart with a small paper organizer on top. The small paper organizer holds extra copies of quizzes/tests for each subject and some notebook paper for my own use. The rolling cart is where I keep all my tools for staying semi-organized. Plastic Sleeves (affiliate link) for keeping sets of papers together. I use these most often for organizing photocopies. Plastic Envelopes (affiliate link) for storing puzzles and activities in my filing cabinets. Sheet Protectors. Project Folders (my own name for the Avery Six-Pocket Organizers that I mentioned above for storing graded papers). Stickers. File Folders. Lots and lots of file folders.

A new addition to my classroom this year was this mini-fridge and microwave. My classroom is almost as far away from the teacher's lounge as possible in my school. And, lunch is only 25 minutes long. This was a LIFESAVER this year.

Another new addition to my classroom this year? A nice office chair. My old office chair left much to be desired. This one was put out in the hall by another teacher at the beginning of this year. I quickly claimed it. Then, I realized why they had put it out in the hall. The back of the chair was broken. Or was it? I was convinced it could be fixed. With the help of three different family members, we finally figured out how to fix it. Wahoo!

Next to my computer, I have my mathy pencil cup that my sister designed for me as a class project while working on her art education degree.

This silver file organizer keeps things pretty organized on my computer desk. The clipboard is empty now, but it often holds rosters and stuff like that. The "Need to Finish" folder helps greatly maintain my sanity when it comes to students who start quizzes/tests but can't finish them for a myriad of reasons. No more putting them in the turn in tray but writing "not finished" at the top. If it's not ready to be graded, it goes in this folder.

These two filing cabinets by my desk store all the classroom activities I've created over the years. I have drawers for Algebra 1, Algebra 2, Pre-Calc, Puzzles (x2), Posters, Statistics/Science, and Basic Math/Miscellaneous.

On top of the filing cabinets, I keep my handy dandy paper chopper and various awards I've won over the years. Don't be too impressed by the number of awards. The majority of them stem from being named a finalist for Oklahoma Teacher of the Year a few years ago.

On the back wall, I'm super lucky to have a bank of cabinets to organize all my stuff. 

Two of the drawers are dedicated to storing extra copies. One drawer per prep. I toss all the extra copies for each prep in the appropriate drawer. If students lose something/are absent they dig in the drawer to find it. The mess is contained in the drawer. And, my room is so much more organized looking as a result. I used to try to organize these types of things in hanging folders, but students would pull out the folders and not put them back, and I would get oh so frustrated.

Back in late February when the world was still normal, I splurged and bought an Amazon Basics shredder (affiliate link) for my classroom. My classroom is super far away from the office where the school's shredder lives. So I found myself taking papers home to shred. (We have an identical shredder at home!) Except I would forget that I had stuck papers to shred in my school bag. So I would carry around papers in my bag for days/weeks/months. It didn't get much use before the world shut down, but I look forward to having a shredder at close reach in my classroom next year.

Also on the back counter are some paper organizers. Usually, these are home to extra handouts and stuff like bellwork papers. I tackled these with the Goo Be Gone last week as well, so now the sticker residue from the previous user is now all gone.

One of the few new posters I designed for my classroom this year was these powers of 2-9 posters. They were an absolute HIT. Students used them over and over and over and over. We used them with radicals. We used them with exponents. We used them with logarithms. Students took pictures of the posters on their phones so they could reference them at home.

One student even told me that he thought the posters were a little silly at the beginning of the year, but he was surprised at how useful they turned out to be. Want your own set of Power Posters? Check out the blog post here.

My trust Includes/Excludes posters got another year of use. If your students struggle to remember when to use parentheses/brackets and open circles/closed circles, you NEED these posters. Download them here.

I have thirty desks in my classroom, and some hours of the day I had 30 students in my class. Having a few extra rolling chairs made it possible for students to work a bit more effectively in groups. It also gave me an extra spot for my principal to sit if he decided to observe me during my biggest classes.

My one and only bulletin board in my classroom features my Zeros/Intercepts/Solutions/Roots posters and my Function/Expression/Equation poster. I think these work together really well.

Above the bulletin board, I hung a set of vintage place value posters that I found at a thrift store last summer. I remember having these in my math classrooms as a student.

The dry erase board below them was home to my Puzzle of the Week. Next year, I'd love to add a place for students to sign their name if they solve that week's puzzle. I'd also include a reminder for students to scramble the puzzle after they solve it in order to give other students a chance at the satisfaction of solving the puzzle for themselves.

Each week, I tried to post a new magnetic puzzle with pieces for students to manipulate as they tried to solve the puzzle. Here's an example. If you interested in seeing more of these puzzles, check out my puzzle page where I share all the puzzles I've used with students over the years.

Below the dry erase board, I have three drawer organizers that hold important things like rulers, colored pencils, markers, highlighters, dry erase boards, scissors, glue, calculators, etc.

You might have caught a glimpse of some of my hanging decor in the previous pictures. It looks like the tutorial I used to make these stellated icosahedron out of straws and curling ribbon doesn't exist anymore. But I managed to find an archived version of the website here.

Okay. We're almost done. Here's my lonely SMARTBoard that doesn't work since there is no projector hooked up to it. Sometimes I tape student work to it.

Below it, I have various sizes of dry erase boards for students to use.

On my filing cabinet by the door, I have a red three drawer organizer that has notebook paper, graph paper, and copy paper for students to use. It's a lifesaver.

And, yes, my file cabinet does have some of the digits of pi printed on it. Would you expect anything less from the girl who writes a blog called Math = Love?

And just like that, we're back at the door. Can't wait to open this door back up next school year to show you my new decorations. I've got a few exciting things on my to do list for this summer. I'm just trying to hold off my enthusiasm until the schedule of what everybody is teaching gets solidified before I start putting in too much time with my laminator!

 I hope you enjoyed this little tour of E509!