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Every so often I run across someone online asking what they should spend a sizable (but not enormous) amount of money on for their middle or high school math classroom. The dollar amount varies, but it's often in the 500 to 1000 dollar range. That's enough for a nice piece of technology, or a class set of something not-too-pricey, or a number of subscriptions or pieces of software, or lots of small things and supplies, or some combination thereof.

There are many options and many good ideas. I thought that this might be a good forum to collect and upvote ideas on how to spend a chunk of change on a math classroom. Best bang for the buck.

Feel free to offer either a single suggestion that you would purchase or an all-inclusive package for the full sum. In any case, please, give a detailed explanation why you make this specific recommendation, rather than mentioning only some specific product.

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  • $\begingroup$ Put it on black. Hope for two nice pieces of technology! $\endgroup$ – user5262 Jun 3 '15 at 2:51
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    $\begingroup$ Welcome to the site! I added a phrase that explanations should be given; I think this will be important to make this question a good one. (Feel free to revert or alter, of course.) I also removed the mention of CW, as we do not use it in the form some other sites do. $\endgroup$ – quid Jun 3 '15 at 8:54
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    $\begingroup$ @Ben, that's a terrible idea! Put it on red. $\endgroup$ – Michael Joyce Jun 3 '15 at 19:52
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Games, especially ones that can be played quickly are great.

One I've become particularly fond of this year is 24. On each card is 4 numbers; students have to figure out how to use each number once and in whatever order to reach 24. For example, a card might have the numbers 8, 5, 8, and 7. To reach 24, you could do (7 - 5) * 8 + 8. There are more advanced versions available too (e.g., one where students might need to square/take the square root at some point).

I like it because I've found that most students enjoy solving them, even those who usually do not see themselves as "math people". It makes for a nice activity in the morning to help students wake up and start thinking. What I usually do is give each student a card and require they solve it before they enter the classroom.

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  • $\begingroup$ Any other games that you have enjoyed? The site you've linked to sells them for about 22 USD each (though prices range; e.g., 11 USD on Amazon). So 1000 USD could buy a bunch of games. $\endgroup$ – Benjamin Dickman Jun 3 '15 at 22:58
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    $\begingroup$ Set. I like it because it encourages logical thinking but doesn't seem like math. I haven't used it in the classroom yet (I'm planning to next year), just with students after school or during study halls. The website has ideas for how to use it in a math class. $\endgroup$ – michael Jun 4 '15 at 14:13
  • $\begingroup$ SET is a great game! One question I like to ask is how many distinct sets are there? You can find a solution to this question (and some other remarks about the game as relates to axioms of geometry) in the latter half of MESE 2528. $\endgroup$ – Benjamin Dickman Jun 4 '15 at 14:34
  • $\begingroup$ Mastermind is one I've debated picking up for probabilities and statistics. There are a ton of cool questions you could ask: "Would it be harder if we added another color or another peg?", "How many guesses should we expect to make before we get the right one?", etc. $\endgroup$ – Joey Kramer Jun 5 '15 at 16:05
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Paint the walls with write on whiteboard paint so students can do more vertical non permanent working

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    $\begingroup$ Have you tried this in your classroom? I recently visited a school that had covered their walls with whiteboard paint, but it was not working as well as they'd hoped (specifically: there were some difficulties erasing). $\endgroup$ – Benjamin Dickman Jun 3 '15 at 22:53
  • $\begingroup$ @BenjaminDickman agreed, you can also buy sheets of plywood, place them against the walls and paint it or use the stick-on rolls of whiteboard material $\endgroup$ – celeriko Jun 5 '15 at 3:27
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Mathalicious subscription. Great resource for teachers to use for instruction.

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    $\begingroup$ Do you use Mathalicious in your classroom? If so, perhaps you could add some details around the whys and hows for your second sentence ("Great resource for teachers to use for instruction"). What is Mathalicious? How has your subscription been helpful to your instruction and/or that of others? Etc. $\endgroup$ – Benjamin Dickman Jun 3 '15 at 4:11
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    $\begingroup$ I have heard great things about Mathalicious, but we need details here. Can you help us out? $\endgroup$ – Sue VanHattum Jun 3 '15 at 5:10
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    $\begingroup$ Yes. Please describe what Mathalicious is for those who don't know and why it's such a great resource. $\endgroup$ – DavidButlerUofA Jun 3 '15 at 5:49
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    $\begingroup$ Here is a link to the website: mathalicious.com They have free lessons you can check out to see how you would best use it in your classroom. I like it because the entire idea behind their lessons is to expose students to mathematical ways of thinking about things they see in their day-to-day lives (from credit cards to bidding in auctions to whether or not to go for it on 4th down in football). It also requires them to use multiple methods to interpret data (equations, tables, graphs). As always, it requires some modification before being used in a classroom, but it's great! $\endgroup$ – Joey Kramer Jun 3 '15 at 16:30
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Maybe a set of calculators, one for each student (and a few extras in case of breakage).

When you do a calculator exercise, pass out the calculators; but the rest of the time they are sitting on the shelf, showing that calculations should be done by paper and pencil. If they all have the same calculator, then the teacher can explain how to do things, and the students can help each other. Much easier than if they have many different calculators.

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    $\begingroup$ As a question: why should calculators be relegated to the shelf most of the time? I generally put 1-2 graphing calculators per table (4 chairs per table) and leave them there in one of those plastic shoeboxes along with colored pencils, highlighters, scissors, rulers, and such. If a student needs the calculator, they can grab it right there at their table without needing to pass them out. $\endgroup$ – Joey Kramer Jun 3 '15 at 16:34
  • $\begingroup$ Of course the instructor will decide where to place them. But maybe shelving them can help avoid producing kids who cannot do any computations without a calculator. $\endgroup$ – Gerald Edgar Jun 4 '15 at 15:33

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