A Fraction Unit Does Not Always Begin With Lesson 1

By Jared Gilman

As I sat down at my local coffee shop to plan my upcoming 5th grade unit on fractions, a wave of dread spread across my body. I started having flashbacks to last winter, when my students’ frustrations with fractions led to daily meltdowns. Looking back at my lesson plans, I noticed how many reteaching lessons I was forced to add into the middle of my unit. I recalled the painstaking hours of scouring YouTube for videos on the “easiest tricks” and “fastest shortcuts” for adding and subtracting fractions. “My students just didn’t get it,” I thought at the time. This year would be different, I told myself as I gulped down my large iced coffee.

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Why is the graph of a linear function a straight line?

By William McCallum

In my last post I wrote about the following standard, and mentioned that I could write a whole blog post about the first comma.

8.F.A.3. Interpret the equation $y = mx + b$ as defining a linear function, whose graph is a straight line; give examples of functions that are not linear. For example, the function $A = s^2$ giving the area of a square as a function of its side length is not linear because its graph contains the points $(1,1)$, $(2,4)$ and $(3,9)$, which are not on a straight line.

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Why We Don’t Cross Multiply

By Kate Nowak
(co-authored with Kristin Gray)

“Ultimately, the goal of this unit is to prepare students to make sense of situations involving equivalent ratios and solve problems flexibly and strategically, rather than to rely on a procedure (such as “set up a proportion and cross multiply”) without an understanding of the underlying mathematics.”
Illustrative Mathematics 6–8 Math, grade 6, unit 2, lesson 12

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The Illustrative Mathematics Team Reflect on the 5 Practices

The entire Illustrative Mathematics team spends a lot of time reading about teaching and learning. Most recently, we have been reading—some of us rereading—and reflecting on the 5 Practices for Orchestrating Productive Mathematics Discussions by Mary Kay Stein and Margaret Schwan Smith. Members of the team were asked to reflect on the following two questions to share with the Illustrative Mathematics community:

  • What idea stood out to you when reading the 5 Practices for Orchestrating Productive Mathematics Discussions?
  • Why do you feel this idea is important?

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Using the 5 Practices with Instructional Routines

By Robin Moore

As a coach, how can I help teachers structure their lesson-planning in order for students to unpack their mathematical understandings?

This question is always at the forefront of my mind as I reflect on my work as an instructional coach. Most times, I walk into classroom after classroom witnessing teachers working harder than the students. To be clear, the students are all on task and working on the mathematical concepts presented to them with little to no behavior problems. The biggest challenge for teachers is attempting to differentiate for the range of learners in the classroom. To address this challenge, teachers have implemented a math workshop format. In this format, teachers communicate the learning objectives for the lesson and present a scaffolded mini-lesson where they gradually lead students through problem-based activities to ensure each student’s success. While the activities are problem-based, something authentic is missing and many would say that the work does not appear rigorous for all students. From a coaching lens, I wonder when and where learning is happening and who is unpacking it.   Continue reading “Using the 5 Practices with Instructional Routines”

Vocabulary Decisions

By Bowen Kerins

A wide-ranging team worked together to develop the Illustrative Mathematics Grades 6–8 Math curriculum. Many of the authors were and are experienced teachers of Grades 6–8, while others are experienced high school teachers.

My own experience is as a high school teacher, then a high school curriculum writer. One of the ways the IM team’s experiences led to a higher-quality product was the discussion around language and terms used throughout the three grades. Continue reading “Vocabulary Decisions”

How the 5 Practices Changed my Instruction

By Alicia Farmer

I am the type of teacher you want on your teaching team. I am the person that can remember vast amounts of details, predict potential obstacles, and meet any and all deadlines.  

My organized personality is apparent everywhere in my classroom.  From classroom routines to student supplies, everything has its place.  This organization also shows through in how I plan ahead for all of my lessons. Even after 12 years of teaching, I am still not able to “wing it” when teaching a lesson. While I know my organization and meticulous planning are advantages for many aspects of my teaching, I often felt like they kept my instruction from becoming truly student-centered because these characteristics did not leave much room for flexibility. I would have a planned path for a lesson—a very specific, usually teacher-centered, way to get to the end—and never imagined I could rely on my students’ work to guide the pacing, discussion, and overall lesson as effectively as I could.   Continue reading “How the 5 Practices Changed my Instruction”

The 5 Practices Framework: Explicit Planning vs Explicit Teaching

By Kristin Gray

When I first started thinking about how I would complete this sentence, analogies such as a marathon or really hard workout came to mindan activity that is exhausting, a ton of work, but ends with a sense of pride for having completed it. While these analogies were accurate representations of how difficult I think lesson planning truly is, I was continually unhappy with where students and their ideas fit into my analogy.

Planning is like putting together a puzzle.

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Not all contexts have the same purpose

By Nik Doran

We sometimes use familiar contexts to understand new mathematical ideas, and sometimes we use familiar mathematical ideas to understand what is going on in a context. We do both of these things by looking for parallels between the familiar and unfamiliar structures. I want to highlight two places this happens in the Illustrative Mathematics 6–8 Math curriculum. (It’s easy and free to sign up to see the teacher materials.) Continue reading “Not all contexts have the same purpose”

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