Co-Authoring Your Classroom

Welcome back to school! Do you remember how this felt?

If you feel anywhere close to how Nancy feels, click through for some great advice from your friends on Math Teacher Twitter. You’ll see very few people encouraging her not to smile until December and very many people encouraging her to do some math with your students on day one. Great advice. We crowdsourced loads of ideas for those math tasks last year. Please add more there.

As much as I’m curious what happens within the four walls of your classroom on day one, I’m also curious what happens on the four walls of your classroom.

This tweet caught my eye for a couple of reasons:

First, “… like Pinterest threw up in your room” is going to be a hard image to shake.

Second, I love the thought that our students would walk into rooms that aren’t fully authored by their teachers, that the space would be shared and awaiting their co-authorship.

If you have experience or ideas here, please add them in the comments. I’ll add the Feltron Project as my own contribution to this planning potluck, and I’d love to learn more.

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I'm Dan and this is my blog. I'm a former high school math teacher and current head of teaching at Desmos. He / him. More here.


  1. Rafe Esquith used to do a first day of school curve stitching project with actual finishing nails and yarn, and then hang that on his walls for the rest of the year to give his students ownership of the room.

  2. I number index cards from 1 to however many students I have. I shuffle them up, then have students randomly pick one on their way out of class sometime in the first week. Their job is to represent that number however they wish – not graded – only thing that IS graded is that they hand in that same card. Each year I display the new cards in the hallway outside the room, then my advisees determine if any of the new ones will replace the hall of fame cards that live on a bulletin board in the classroom. I

  3. I invite my grade 7-8 students to create a math selfie either electronically or freehand. The template consists of a image of a cellphone (choice of apple or android) and space for their 140 character profile description a la Twitter. These are all put up onto the classroom walls. It gives me some insight into how they represent themselves and their perceptions of being a mathematician. The Images are very creative and makes the classroom one that belongs to the students from day one.

  4. Thanks for sparking a great convo in the Twitterverse Dan! I’m sorry about the image that now is stuck in your head…send me the therapy bill! LOL
    Honestly though, it’s always been such a pet-peeve of mine when teachers spend an excessive amount of time scouring Pinterest and diligently replicating something for the sake of ‘cute’ when they could be using that time to plan better lessons or learn a new tool or strategy to implement with their students. Don’t get me wrong, my classroom was not drab or stark naked (I’m a coach now) but I certainly learned early on that students didn’t need me to have a cute room but rather good teaching.

  5. Thanks for the ideas, everybody. Along with some tweets I grabbed and pushed into the main post, I’m sure they’ll help teachers looking to create classrooms with their students.

  6. Chester Draws

    August 8, 2017 - 10:21 pm -

    Like this expression.

    I reckon you start how you intend to continue.

    I don’t set a message that we will be doing fun things as a priority, because that’s not how I teach. I do a fairly standard lesson and then do a small activity at the end of the first day, because that’s what they can expect through-out the year. I want to set an expectation that we will do Maths as priority right from the go.

    I also don’t spend 20 minutes telling them what I expect and what the rules are, because that’s also not what I will do in most class times.

    • I reckon you start how you intend to continue.

      Like that expression. Don’t set false expectations for the year — either in the direction of exuberance or tedium.

  7. Hi Dan, I am currently a senior at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign majoring in Mathematics and minoring in Secondary Education. As someone who is new to teaching, I believe these ideas of having student’s mathematical ideas on the walls are refreshing! I feel like this is a great idea because high school students seem to take a lot of pride in their work and this allows the students for a space in school where they can safely exemplify their ideas. Very great way to promote mathematical learning on the first day as well!