Building Enduring Mathematical Understanding, one lesson at a time.

Made4Math Monday: Monster Whiteboards


Yesterday I finished getting my “monster” whiteboards ready and I brought them into my classroom today. I am far from the first to have created these learning tools. Frank Nochese sang their praises here, and Anna followed up with another post as well. I use the little mini-whiteboards quite regularly with pairs, and they will still have a place in my class, but the opportunity for groups of three or four is really exciting! I especially envision using them for problem solving, such as the chessboard problems for my First Day Activities. I am concerned that we will not always have enough time to complete the “solving” as well as the “sharing” in one class period, but my solution will be to at least take photos of all of the boards and project them on the screen the following day as groups present. Another intriguing use will be the Mistake Game, as described by Kelly O’Shea. (Go there! Read it!) Sooooooo looking forward to trying this out – especially with my Algebra students because I think they will thrive on it. However, in the long run I predict it will be incredibly valuable to my Math 8 students in freeing them from fear of failure. The classes on the whole are not full of students who have been successful in the past, and developing a classroom culture where mistakes are acceptable and even celebrated as ways to learn concepts more deeply (EMU!) will be a huge step for their learning.

I bought mine at the local Home Depot for about $13.50 per sheet. I picked up two that they cut (for free!) into the six 24″ x 32″ pieces recommended by Frank. (I considered going 2′ x 2′, but I am very glad I went with the extra inches on the length.)

My next task was to put duct tape (or duck tape) on the edges to keep them from degrading. This is where Anna gets all the credit! I had planned on “buying” some of my daughter’s stash


until I “did the math!” Each board requires almost ten feet of tape (112 inches of perimeter, plus a bit extra on either end that I cut off while taping.) Since I had twelve boards, the 120 feet of tape would have decimated her supply. (As it was she wasn’t going to give me the “fancy” stuff anyways.) I decided to go with my school colors and picked up a blue roll and a yellow roll of 20 yds each. Needless to say, there’s not much left. (Maybe just enough to use for periodic “repairs.”) The tape cost $7 for the two rolls, for a grand total of $34 + tax, or about $3 a board. (The cuts were free, and didn’t take long at all, but the taping process took me over an hour!)

Here they are!


Notice as well, the PERFECT storage space that is holding the other ten!

Now, for the writing instruments. I am always frustrated by how quickly the dry erase markers die. Last year I picked up some of the Crayola Dry Erase Crayons. Other than the periodic breakage, they seem to “last” much longer. (Hey, when they break, one crayon turns into two!) In addition, I have to watch out for pieces that accidentally “chip” off, are left on the floor, and then get ground into the carpet.😞 The crayons look pretty sharp (sharp = awesome, not sharp = pointed) on these boards, and the color variety is great, with the exception of the yellow crayon – whoever thought it would work well on a whiteboard was sadly mistaken. I guess they sell yellow markers as well – maybe it’s for those black dry erase surfaces. I “inherited” a number of boxes of the crayons (eight colors in a box plus an eraser “mitt” and sharpener) when I moved into this classroom – enough that each group could have their own box! (I will generally only use eight boards at one time.) The kids liked markers better, but maybe the different colors will “sell it.”

One more note about the duct tape. In hindsight I don’t think yellow was a great choice. As I was erasing one of the boards today I realized the dry erase particles will accumulate along the edges of the tape, so lighter colors will start to look “grungy” after awhile. Oh, well.

One “short” story about my whiteboard history. In the early nineties (yes. . .I am dating myself, but I have already done that on a previous post) I was teaching Calculus. I had one particular student who repeatedly asked if he could go up and work out problems on the corner of the board while the class was working on a set of problems. It was certainly fine with me. He commented on how his thoughts seemed to “flow” from his brain when he used a whiteboard. It was not long before he bought himself a 1′ x 2′ framed board to use at home, as well as another one that he brought to school (and stored in the classroom) to use at his desk. I have no idea where he found these boards, as I had never seen them in stores. At the end of the year he gave me the one he had brought to school and I still have it to this day. (It was one of the last years that I taught Calculus. Not many years later, I went on maternity leave and then came back to teaching just part time. My own kids scribbled and doodled on it while they were toddlers.) Jump forward about ten years, when I was volunteering in my son’s first grade class, I observed his teacher using a class set of mini-whiteboards with her students. Within about a year, I had a set for my classes. Now I am on to the next phase – MONSTER whiteboards!

(Ok, it wasn’t so short. Have I mentioned that I ramble . . .?)

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6 thoughts on “Made4Math Monday: Monster Whiteboards

  1. I have never heard of dry erase crayons. I am going to have to check that out! In terms of representing and sharing student work, I was pretty set on using chart paper, but setting up these reusable white boards might be a great alternative! I was loving the duct tape frame until I read about the grungy edges… I might have to look into alternatives (but maybe the grungy look is perfect?)

    Thanks for the tip!

  2. I am sooo sorry for missing your post on Monday! I have added to this week’s archive.

  3. I am also starting whiteboarding this year. I appreciate your compilation of some of the best ideas! I am anxious to see how it works for you and I am also looking for best strategies. Right now, I am looking at how to best set up a routine for using them. Also, what are you using for erasers? I have had a few different ideas. I think I am going to try the crayons. One of my coworkers told me to try that as opposed to the markers. We will see, some will like them better and some not. I am using them in all of my classes: Geometry, Algebra II, PreCalc, and Calc. We shall see how it works. I hope we blog (along with others doing this) how they work out.

    I haven’t put duck tape on mine yet, but have it ready to go! Thanks for the tip on the lighter colors. I do have some deco tape I am going to use. Good luck!

    • I have used cut up old kitchen towels for erasers. A colleague of mine used her kids’ old socks as they grew out of them. The crayons do come with an “eraser mitt” in each box. If someone else in the group / pair has the eraser, often kids will just wipe with their sleeve.

      I am hoping the duct tape holds. Someone (?) mentioned not long ago that theirs started to come off.

      As far as routines go, I think will just have them leaning up against the “tables” (groups of four desks) when they come in so they can pull them up when we start. Sometimes I will have students work independently first and then collaborate (especially for Mistake Game.) I will pass out writing utensils as I introduce the activity.

      I am going to vary the writing utensils some. “Whole box of crayons and everyone is writing, writing, writing,” some of the time, and “one marker per group where the recorder job rotates every couple of minutes” at other times. When I use the mini ones in pairs, they only get one writing utensil to share.

      Yikes, you have four different preps! I only have two – three sections of Algebra and three of Math 8. The Math 8 ones are consecutive, so I will be able to leave things out for the next class.

      Good luck! I hope to read about your experiences 🙂

      Sent from my iPad

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