Before I was a math teacher, I was an Interior Designer. When I became a teacher, many people thought I would have a beautiful classroom, but it was not realistic for me then. I did not have the time (or budget) to create a color-coordinated, themed, Pinterest-worthy classroom.
I admire teachers who create beautiful classrooms. Dedicating time, effort, and often our own money to create a welcoming atmosphere is just one way we can show students we care about them. However, I do not believe a classroom has to be expertly designed to be welcoming and functional.
If you are overwhelmed with the idea of decorating or unsure if you should hang something in your room, ask yourself: Is this a resource? When you use your walls as a resource, you will get the most benefit from your decorations.
Ways to use your walls as a resource in a math classroom:
Hang a vertical number line. One of the first things I made for my middle school math classroom was a number line that I painted on a long strip of banner paper. I had it laminated, and I still have it. I painted the numbers on a diagonal, thinking I might hang it vertically for part of the year and horizontally for part of the year. I ended up leaving it vertical.
If you teach math, I highly recommend hanging a vertical number line. I refer to mine at least a couple times every week. It is useful for adding and subtracting integers, estimating value likes roots and irrational numbers, rounding, and the list goes on and on. I love having a large number line that I can point to when explaining concepts. And, vertical just makes sense. Kids understand up and down much better than left and right when discussing values. Download one here.
Use word walls and math posters strategically. Most math classrooms have at least a few math-related posters or vocabulary words on the wall, but are they useful? When I first had a word wall, I had it because it seemed like a popular thing to have. However, I did not use it. Simply hanging words on the wall did not help my students learn the definitions. (I should have known that!)
When deciding on word walls or reference posters, make a plan for how you will use them. Make sure the students interact with these resources. When I taught high school geometry, my students had a difficult time learning the vocabulary for all the types of angles associated with parallel lines cut by a transversal. After they asked me for the hundredth time what a certain angle was called, I hung reference posters on the wall. Afterwards, I did not need to tell them; they could study the posters and figure it out themselves.
Start each day with a math calendar. I made my first math calendar by cutting cardstock and painting math problems for each day. It got students’ attention from day one. They were not sure how to work all the problems yet, but they were intrigued.
Now I have created several math calendar versions appropriate for a wide range of grade levels. Teachers use them in different ways. Some start the day by referring to the problem for the day. Some have only the day’s problem posted, so when a student asks the date, they refer to the math problem.
Spread math into the hallways. Many school hallways seem to have a few bulletin boards that go unchanged for long periods of time. Students notice things in the hallway, especially if they have to wait in the hallway for any period of time. If you have the opportunity, ask if you can decorate a bulletin board in the hall. I have created a couple print-and-go designs that are appropriate for the whole school but also sneak in some math!
Hang student work. I believe this is truly the best decoration. Kids, no matter the age, love to see their work on the wall in your room.
Those are my best tips from an Interior-Design-turned-Math-Teacher. I hope you are not disappointed that I did not discuss the latest trends and themes. Choose a theme that makes you happy, or choose to keep it simple without a theme. Choose decorations that support learning, and you can’t go wrong.
Thank you for reading my blog, and I hope you have a great start to the school year!
Below are additional resources referenced in this post:
Be sure to visit these other STEM blogs in our blog hop to ready your classroom for the new year!