Remember Uncle Drew

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The second day of school we jumped head first into an investigation. Students were presented with this context. Within groups of four they worked on VNPS investigating each scenario. This was my first time using vertical non permanent surfaces, although I had been encouraged to use them a couple of years ago. I loved the easy view it allowed me to have of student thinking. Walking around to converse with each group seemed easier. 

This investigation provided insight to several things: 

  • How students work in group settings. 
  • How students can use a context to make sense of a new concept. 
  • Students’ background knowledge of solving equations. 
  • Students’ ability to persevere when things are difficult. 
  • Can students write equations from a context. 

*Our first unit dealt with solving multi-step equations with special cases.  

Students were given access to Algebra Tiles and Algeblocks during the investigation. We discussed the conventional meaning of the blocks, which helped groups like this make sense of the quantities within the first scenario. 


While students worked, I observed their strategies and listened to their explanations. I used this monitoring sheet to identify which groups were thinking what way all the while considering in which order I would have them present during math congress.  

During math congress, 3 people representing 3 different groups shared their findings. This process hit some many realms of instruction, formative assessment (like an informal pretest), use of manipulatives, SMPs (especially 1, 2 and 3), peer corrections, writing equations from real-world situations and solving equations with special cases. 

The lesson took 2 days, one full day of investigation and preparing for math congress and the second for math congress and focused instruction. On that second day, I used the students’ findings to lead focused instruction on equations with special cases. The use of the context helped it make sense to students and gave the procedure for solving equations a purpose. I was able to provide formal vocabulary such as one solution, no solution and infinite solutions based on students findings. Throughout the rest of the unit, we were able to always connect our thinking back to Uncle Drew’s points and “our” points. 

The two posters above were not shared during math congress. 

Coaching Goals 2016

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At the end of last school year, the math teachers and I got together to discuss use of manipulatives and mathematical discourse. (A Balanced Approach Prezi)

During this professional learning session, we read portions of this article. Teachers were asked which of the 5 Practices they felt they needed to work on the most. Like most teachers, many felt they were already using the practices and had a difficult time selecting one on which to improve. But like any growth mindset person, we know there’s always room for growth. 

This is why one of my coaching goals for this school year is to work with teachers on improving on one of the five practices. My plan is to confer with teachers within the first month of school to establish the goal and collect data and monitor progress throughout the first semester. This falls right in line with our school goal of increasing classroom discussions. I’ll be using this book as a guide. 


My second coaching goal for the year is increasing the use of manipulatives within all math classrooms. I’m still pondering the best method for doing so. The biggest hurdle is teacher comfortability. However, I know the more they use them, the more they will become comfortable with using them. So step 1, ease teachers into use and help them feel comfortable using them. Step 2, ensure teachers are using best practices when employing manipulatives.   At my elementary school, teachers were more willing to use them as it was a high priority. Now in my middle school, it’s not as high on the list. 

If anyone has any ideas and strategies they’ve used, please leave a comment and share.