Calculator Steps

I've been procrastinating this post forever because I wanted to have it done in a notebook with color coding for you to see- but that didn't work out.

But my activity still has value and should be shared so here it is:

I printed calculator steps on these randomly sized labels I had in my filing cabinet and printed them IN COLOR:

We stuck the top two on the left hand page and the bottom two on the right hand page in our INBs. This is important because the colors start over on the right hand page.

The words that are in color match up with buttons on this TI-84 calculator template:

In our carts we have skinny markers so I purposely used the colors I knew we had. They colored the button on the calculator that matches the colored words.

We tape the calculator template with one piece of tape at the top over the sticker so that we could flip it up.

Here are pictures but they are not perfect- I messed up some and I had to change yellow to gray because duh, they were coloring on yellow paper. I outlined on one page and filled in on the other so students could choose which method they preferred. I also literally held this page up as they were taping so they knew EXACTLY what I wanted.

Here's the clencher:

The Calculator Handout (h/t to Julie Wright for page three)

You would think that after all that coloring they would have actually read some words on the paper...NOPE!

So now on the handout, this is a MUST....you must answer every question with one of the following:

"Look in your notebook."
"Read the directions."

Be as unhelpful as possible. In the beginning of the year, this is where you set the precedent for using the notebook as a tool.

They'll ask you what to round to, if they need to reduce, etc etc.

Be consistent! Only help if their calculator is wonky and you need to reset something.

I had an answer key ready to go and let them check their work when they were done.

While they are working, take a minute to look around and feel satisfied as they stare intently at their papers and type on their calculators and look so focused- who knows when you might see that again!



  1. Elissa, I just want you to know that I absolutely love your blog and how you post. I need to get a blog going something like this, I just always stop myself because I feel like I use everyone else's ideas, never my own. I LOVE this. I can't seem to figure out how to download it yet but its brilliant. I just think everything you do is wonderful. Anyways, hope you are having a great start of the year. Happy hump day!

    1. Alexandra,
      What a BEAUTIFUL comment, thank you so so much! I struggle with the same feelings. But no matter what I steal from other people I always change in some way: I redesign it, add more to it, structure it differently, ask my own questions, etc. So even if you use everyone else's ideas, you aren't using them like everyone else and your perspective is valuable.

      If you think of blogging more as a way to reflect and hone your craft instead of performing for others, it takes a lot of the pressure off!

      And to download the files, hover in the top right corner and you'll see a down arrow to click on.

      Thanks for your support and encouragement!

    2. You are very welcome. I may just have to up and do that, I'm at that five year do I give up feeling after changing everything, feeling a little bleh...haven't even started the school year yet! Yikes...trying to get motivated. Anyways, I have tried that down arrow, tried the link in box to go to the other site where I can click download. It just isn't working. I'll try to make it on my own anyways :) thanks though!

    3. Here are the links, see if that works better:



      I change everything every year and still never feel satisfied.

      But for where I'm at, if I'm not here to invest in my students and be a positive role model, a hard worker, and a teacher who really cares, there aren't many other options.

      Why did you get into teaching in the first place? Maybe you just need to rekindle your purpose and passion. I'm always here to talk if you need to vent. miss.calcul8 at gmail.com

    4. Thank so much again! I've tried two computers and three seperate browsers, it's either box or something. I already started recreating :) I teach because I love it. Sometimes I feel like when you write you always hit the nail on the head and its always just good to see someone else who loves it. I think it is the atmosphere where change is happening every year and I can't just "teach" anymore. I have to be this leader that I'm not and that is what is getting to me. I think that you were right by saying ^^ there are not many options other than just being awesome and hardworking because they DO need to see that. I know my kids know I love them which at middle school age is fantabulous. Keep posting though, I'll keep in touch & let you know if I come up with anything great this year to share. Talk to you soon!

  2. I understand. I have five preps, leadership team, cheer coach, Student Council sponsor, and prom sponsor. It's crazy! I can never focus on one thing enough to get good at it!

    If you give me your email I can just email you the documents as an attachment.

  3. That would be fantastic, I wonder why it is not letting me download it anymore. I'll check it out. My email is afelton at gmail.com. I think that my only suggestion for one of your other posts is about the tabs you used for your interactive notebooks. I LOVE the idea but was thinking about using address labels and having the tabs double sided, folds over itself. One sticker, no tape or extra pieces. Have you tried that before? Thanks again.

    1. No, I've never tried address labels.

      Sounds like your first blog post!

  4. Elissa,
    I'm having the same download problem. The link within the post and the link in the site -- neither are workng for me.

    I started doing the same thing for calculator steps (especially the steps we use alot (most of them) but it sure helps when I all I say "it's in the calculator section of your spiral"! Thanks for sharing.