Returning To School: Tips For a Teacher

It’s that time of the year, students shopping for back to school supplies, and teachers preparing for the new year. Our Math Marketing Specialist and former high school math teacher, Amy Banko, sat down and gave us a list of tips for teachers starting the new school year.

 As you return to school, here are a few things to keep in mind.

  1. Set goals for yourself.
    1. Maybe your goal is to make sure you write down a reflection at the end of every day. What went well? What needs changed? How can you improve your lesson for the next time you teach it?
  2. Know the assessments and standards.
    1. In this data-driven world we live in, it’s important to know what you are supposed to teach, and how students will be assessed. Look over the available sample questions, and plan to use the sample questions or model questions after them so students have the practice they need.
  3. Set the back to school tone and expectations, and establish a routine.
    1. Students need this from the first day. Sometimes it takes a few weeks to get everyone on the same page, but teaching students how to act and when to do certain tasks in your classroom will help later in the year.
  4. Determine if you plan to use categories with weighting in your gradebook.
    1. Setting up your gradebook prior to the first day will help you explain to students how they will be graded in your class. If you can plan ahead, enter assignments into the gradebook the day before or that morning prior to the start of the day. This will cut down on the amount of time you’ll spend entering grades since the assignments are already there.
  5. Print rosters and assign books to students to keep track of them.
    1. If your district ordered new books, take the time to number the entire set consecutively instead of having teachers number their own. The following year, the books may not necessarily be with the same teacher, so initials and numbers are more of a hassle than just consecutive numbers.
  6. Design a seating chart. (Also – see video)
    1. Print blank ones to write down where students sit (or assign seating ahead of time). Having the seating chart available helps you learn student names. If you put it in a sheet protector, you can take attendance and complete your homework check all at the same time using a dry-erase marker. Then you can worry about entering the grades at the end of the day. I found this technique much easier than using a class roster spreadsheet. Those are typically arranged by last name, so I would waste time searching for students’ last names while still trying to learn their first names! Using the seating chart is much easier since you are checking students in that order.

What are some tips you’d like to share with teachers? Let us know in the comments section.

SOH CAH TOA Style (Learn Trig Functions): Chelmsford TV featuring Big Ideas Learning.

One of our wonderful teachers from Chelmsford School District, Matthew Beyranevande produces a program at his school called ‘Math With Matthew.’ In his most recent video, SOH CAH TOA Style (Learn Trig Functions), Matthew and fellow teachers sing about SOH CAH TOA with music from Psy’s Gangnam Style.

At 0:14 you can see Matthew holding our NEW High School Algebra 2 book.

SOH CAH TOA Style (Learn Trig Functions) Video:

Matthew has produced other videos with Big Ideas Learning books in them. Awhile back, he and other teachers produced a video to ‘What Does The Fox Say’ called ‘What is the value of Pi?’ In the video, our Big Ideas Learning, 7th Grade Red Middle School book is featured. Check out the picture and video below.

Thanks Matthew for the great video!

New School Year = School Teacher Hacks

Here’s a wonderful article from Buzzfeed that offers some unique DIY and ‘hacks’ for teachers in the classroom. This article was too good not to post and share with our wonderful teachers. Here are 37 teacher hacks you can use as you prepare for the new school year.

Here are some of our favorite ‘Teacher Hacks’:

Make inexpensive inspirational quotation posters with

Used colored dots to make groups easy“Put a different colored dot on each desk in a group. When you need to have a student from each table do something, you can simply ask for all the green dots to bring you the papers from their group.”

Keep your markers lasting as long as possible.

What are some teacher hacks you use in the classroom? Be sure to tell us in the comments section, we’d love to hear them.

Depth of Knowledge (DOK) & Big Ideas Math

Webb’s Depth of Knowledge (DOK) provides a vocabulary and a frame of reference when thinking about our students and how they engage with the content. DOK offers a common language to understand “rigor,” and cognitive demand, in assessments, as well as curricular units, lessons, and tasks.


Level 1: Recall

Level 1 includes the recall of information such as specific facts, definitions,  and details, as well as routine procedures (perform a simple algorithm, provide/apply a formula, etc.).  The problem can be “difficult” without requiring deep content knowledge to respond to an item and (the problem) only has one right answer.

Some examples that represent but do not constitute all of Level 1 are:

  1. “Identify”
  2. “Recall”
  3. “Recognize”
  4. “Use”
  5. “Measure”
  6. “Multiply two numbers”

Big Ideas Math Level 1: Big Ideas Math High School; Algebra 1; Chapter 1, page 1.


Level 2: Skill/Concept

In Level 2, the focus is on applying skills and concepts, relationships, and main ideas and requires deeper knowledge than definition. Problems require students to explain how/why, and to make decisions on how to approach a problem or activity, whereas in Level 1, a student is asked to demonstrate, recognize, and preform an algorithm/problem.

Some examples that represent but do not constitute all of Level 2 are:

  1. “Classify”
  2. “Organize”
  3. “Estimate”
  4. “Collect and display data”
  5. “Compare data”

Big Ideas Math Level 2: Big Ideas Math High School; Algebra 2; Chapter 11.4, Exercise 12, page 624.


Level 3: Strategic Reasoning

In Level 3, the focus is on reasoning and planning in order to respond. Furthermore, problems require reasoning, planning, using evidence, and a higher level of thinking. Complex and abstract thinking is required and is often needed to provide support for reasoning or to draw conclusions drawn. In Level 3, more than one “correct’ response or approach is often possible. Certain activities and problems in Level 3 might include drawing conclusions from observations as well as requiring students to explain their thinking.

Some examples that represent but do not constitute all of Level 3 are:

  1. “Determine the equation and solve”
  2. “Interpret information”
  3. “Provide mathematical justification”

Big Ideas Math Level 3: Big Ideas Math High School; Geometry; Chapter 11.1, Exercise 39, page 600


Level 4: Extended Reasoning

In Level 4, the focus is requiring complex reasoning, planning, and thinking for the investigation. The cognitive demand of the task should be high and the work should be very complex with multiple steps. Students should be required to make several connections – relate ideas within the content area – and have to select one approach among several alternatives on how the problem should be solved. Level 4 activities include designing and conducting experiments, developing and proving, making connections, etc.

Big Ideas Math Level 4: Big Ideas Math; Blue, Chapter 8



Big Ideas Learning: Math Cartoons

As the school year approaches and you prepare your lessons for the new year, it’s time to start planning what decorations will go in your classroom. We’ve providing you with some wonderful cartoons that range from adding whole numbers to the probability of picking an object at random.


 To obtain and print a cartoon follow the steps:

  1. Visit our pinterest account (
  2. Find and click on the board, “Big Ideas Math Cartoons.”
  3. Click on the cartoon you would like to use in your classroom (make sure to click twice to get the full resolution image).
  4. Print!

We hope you enjoy the cartoons and look forward to seeing pictures of the cartoons in your classroom.