Math is Colorful: Classroom Setup and Organization

I start teaching for REAL on Monday.  That is an extremely daunting, terrifying, and wonderful thought all at once.  I haven’t been able to stop thinking about the coming week for the past month– there are just so, so, so many details that need to be precisely prepared and thought out before my 90+ students walk into room 135E on Monday.  Nonetheless, it has been rather fun setting up a classroom with a clear theme: Math is Colorful.  Math is a subject that so many consider black-and-white and correct or incorrect, but in reality its intricacies, patterns, and thought-provoking ideas are worthy of a full spectrum of color.  I THINK I conveyed this in my setup 🙂 It also became a challenge to see how many items I could create using paint swatches.

My door (we can’t have anything bigger due to fire code 😦 )


Seating and Job Charts (each desk is labeled with a matching number)



Instead of tennis balls, I cut felt sheets into sixths and then wrapped a rubber band around them.


An Absent Station where students can collect the notes and assignments they missed:


The Daily Unit Plan: Standard, Essential Question, Activating Strategies, Teachings Strategies, and Summarizers (a school-wide requirement for teachers)


I framed (1.99 at Ikea!) cardstock to use as mini-whiteboards to keep track of Class Points (each group earns one when they complete a procedure or meet an expectation fully)


My classroom “Vision” is twofold with year-long personal growth and academic growth goals.

Personal: Growth Mindset, Respect, Effort, Accountability, and Togetherness (GREAT)


Academic:  at least 80% mastery on all assignments/assessments, at least 1.3 years of mathematical growth as measured by MAP data, and a 3, 4, or 5 on the End-of-Grade test.  I included WHY each of these goals is important.  (Really and truly, though, it’s not about the data in the end.  If my children “fail” the EOG, they are STILL the same people.  It’s when they make outstanding growth and show incredible increases in proficiency that they set themselves on a new learning path).


My bulletin board: the right is to celebrate students for excellent performance and mastery (“Wall of Champions”) and the left is to recognize students who clearly showed one or more of the GREAT traits throughout the week.  Each student writes three trait-based compliments every Friday in order to applaud their peers.

I used fabric instead of butcher paper– apparently the kids WILL tear paper down if given the chance.


The other side will become a Student Learning Map that outlines each unit beginning with a broad essential question and then narrowing down to daily lessons.  In other words, students will be able to see exactly what they’re learning each day as compared to the skills they learned in the days before and in preparation for the ones ahead.


For tracking our mastery and growth as a class (I’m going to use a similar system for tracking homework completion).  Students have personal/individual trackers that only they can see.


The rules and consequences are school-wide and MUST be common across all classrooms in order to ensure consistency for the kids.


A number line, Golden Ratio-based decor, and drawings of fractals from an old calendar I cut up and laminated.




Each student has a folder, color-coded by class (all 1st-Block items are yellow, all 2nd-Block items are green, and all 3rd-Block items are blue).  The turn-in drawers and Class Point frames are in the same colors.



To ensure that EVERYONE participates, I used a classic popsicle-sticks-in-a-cup system where the numbers correspond to seat numbers.


The bigger picture:



I’d like to thank Home Depot for minimal strange looks as I took more paint swatches than is socially acceptable for any one person and my boyfriend for flipping over heavy furniture so I could color-code with felt.


One thought on “Math is Colorful: Classroom Setup and Organization

  1. Nonna says:

    Dear Alesa,
    What amazing classroom organization!You know so much about structure. I shall be interested in how you get the students acquainted with it and if they gradually can use it independently.
    How grateful I am that you had some 6th grade practice this summer. I will be thinking of you dozens of times a day all week. You have the ability and the determination to do this very challenging job.
    Much love,


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