Q: What is the fastest way to get a heated debate going about some topic in the IM 6–-8 math curriculum?

A: Show people this graph from Lesson 4 in Unit 8.5:

Q: What is the fastest way to get a heated debate going about some topic in the IM 6–-8 math curriculum?

A: Show people this graph from Lesson 4 in Unit 8.5:

**You will never have to subtract again**.

Students sometimes learn about addition and subtraction of integers using integer chips. These are circular chips, with a yellow chip representing +1 and a red chip representing -1. You start with the all-important rule that $1 + (\text-1) = 0$, so you can add or remove a red-yellow pair without changing the number. To calculate the right hand side of the equation in the title, $3 + (\text-5)$, you put 3 yellow chips together with 5 red chips, then remove 3 red-yellow pairs, leaving 2 red chips. So $3 + (\text-5) = -2$. Continue reading “Why is 3 – 5 = 3 + (-5)?”

Having an extended period of time to teach a lesson can be an advantage in a problem-based classroom. Students and teachers can savor the questions that are asked. Activities can breathe in a way that they can’t in a shorter period of time. But questions about planning inevitably arise. We find ourselves asking questions like: Do I simply merge two lessons? What stays? What goes? How do we ensure that we engage our students in the right conversations that will prepare them for the next leg of the journey?

** “**At the end of the day, this wasn’t about focusing on the objective, it was about making the objective meaningful to him.”

Continue reading “Engaging All Students in Meaningful Mathematics”

Open House night; cue anxiety and sweaty palms! Hope my students’ parents don’t mind.

I just began my seventh year of teaching middle school mathematics. Middle school is a limbo land filled with prepubescent pre-teens, drama, and students trying to find their individual voice without drawing too much attention to themselves (sigh). There are sixth grade boys and girls in my class who are taller than me, 5’9”. Some of the boys have mustaches while others still look like they’re in third grade. It’s a difficult year for the students. This is their last year before moving onto the even weirder, and much more confusing junior high. Students are anxious about this being the last year of elementary school, and so are the parents; maybe even more anxious than their little boys and girls becoming young men and women. I think it is my job to help ease this transition, and to get them excited about what is to come.

Continue reading “Parent Math Night Using Illustrative Mathematics”

When I first started teaching, at the end of each day, I would open my teacher’s guide, grab my pen, and thumb through the stack of completed worksheets. My eyes would dart quickly from the red answers in the teacher’s guide to the corresponding answers on each student’s page. I would dole out my x’s and checks with finality and authority. When I got to the end of a page, I would tally a percentage score and enter it into my electronic grade book. I approached every piece of student work as if it were a summative assessment.

I asked my 15-year-old what she learned today at school. She paused for a moment and then answered, “What did *you* learn at school today?”

It took me a while to think about what I had learned (which will make me more patient when I ask her again tomorrow), and then I remembered and shared with her:We are working with some teachers who are using the *Illustrative Mathematics 6–8 Math* curriculum. The 7th grade teachers are in Unit 1, Scale Drawings. They are working with scale drawings and maps. Today I learned to look more closely at the scale given for a map.

Continue reading “What I Learned Today: Scale Drawings & Maps”

Growing up we usually think we are either a math person or not a math person. But, in preparing for this year I saw a picture that said ‘How to be a math person: Step 1: Do math Step 2: Be a person’ and I really started to look at math differently.

Continue reading “The IM Curriculum Changed How I Think About Math Instruction”

Time to start a new unit! What do you need to know before your students enter the room? Click To Tweet

NCTM’s *Principles to Actions* names several productive beliefs about assessments that will promote mathematical success for all. At the top of the list is that the “**primary purpose of assessment is to inform and improve the teaching and learning of mathematics**” (82). Continue reading “Planning to Use Pre-Unit Assessments”