3 Act: Marshmallow Man

While we were making S’mores I thought about how many marshmallows we might be able to fit in our mouth so I called in my oldest after my youngest almost choked on 5. Here is the result:) I’m sure he would want you to know that “he could’ve fit in more” but I stopped him for you know…math purposes!

I think this is an excellent fit for CCSS and MLS K.NBT.A.1.

Act 1

How many marshmallows can he fit in his mouth? (Don’t try this at home)

What number would be too low? Too high? Just right?

Act 2

There were 15 marshmallows in the bowl.

This is how many were left.

Act 3

3 Act: May I Please Have S’more?

My son and I have started roasting marshmallows over our fire table and decided this could be a fun winter task!

This task could be used for many different scenarios, but I am choosing to use it for 2nd grade CCSS 2.OA.A.1 (and a little 2.OA.C.4) and MLS 2.NBT.C.11 (2.RA.B.3). Could also work for 1.OA.A.1 and 1.RA.A.1.

Act 1

How many S’mores can he make?

Act 2

Number of Marshmallows

Number of Cookies

Number of Chocolate bars

Act 3

Compare your work.

Number of S’mores made

3 Act: On Your Mark V2

CCSS K.OA.A.1 or MLS K.RA.A.1.

Act 1

What did you notice? What do you wonder?

How many markers are there altogether?

(or you could ask how many yellow markers and modify act 2 to give the sum and number of green markers)

Act 2:

There are 4 green markers and 6 yellow markers.

Act 3:

3 Act: On Your Mark V1

This task addresses CCSS K.OA.A.3 or MLS K.RA.A.3. Click here for a modified task that focuses on CCSS K.OA.A.1 and MLS K.RA.A.1.

Act 1:

What do you notice? What do you wonder?

How many yellow and green markers are there?

Act 2:

There are 10 markers altogether. How many of each marker are there?

Jamal says there are 5 green marker and 5 yellow markers. Is there another possibility?

Act 3:


Compare your work. Did you solve it a different way?

3 Act: Tic Tac Total (Grades 2-4)

I am just obsessed with these tiny Tic Tac boxes and had to create a task so that I had an excuse to buy them!  This task is well suited for several grade level standards ranging from 2nd grade to 4th.

The grade 2-3 option is in orange below and the 4th is in blue.

CCSS 2-3 Options: 2.NBT.B.6, 3.OA.A.3

CCSS 4 Options: 4.NBT.B.5 or 4.OA.A.3 (with write an equation)

Act 1:

Grades 2-3 Act 1

Grades 4-5 Act 1

What do you notice?  What do you wonder?

Grades 2-3 question: How many little Tic Tac containers are in the big one?

Grades 4: How many Tic Tacs are there in all of the containers?

Write an estimate that is too low, one that is too high and one that is reasonable.

Act 2:

Grade 2-3 Act 2:

There are 15 of each flavor.

There are 4 flavors.

Grade 4 Act 2:

Write an equation with a letter standing for the unknown quantity and solve.


Act 3:

Act 3 Grades 2-3

Act 3.1Act 3.2Act 3.3Act 3.4Act 3.5

Act 3 Grade 4

Act 3.6

3 Act: I Half to Have Pie

This task isn’t as straight forward as some, but I was making a pie and only needed one crust.  This recipe makes 2…so I had to figure out how to adjust my ingredients.  I think this could be a good one for 5.NF.B.7.  If you have a way to make it better, please share!

Act 1:

IMG_9313 (1)

How much of each ingredient is needed to make half the servings?

Act 2:

What information do you need to solve this problem?

More Information

Act 3:

Act 3 Pictures

3 Act: Planting Beans

I finally got outside for a bit today just before the sun set and wanted to get my vegetables started.  I had saved some pots from last year, but I ran out and remembered I had empty cardboard egg cartons!  When I started to plant my left over beans, I realized this could be a really fun task.  I love this task because it reminds us that even though we are currently stuck at home, we can still do the things we love and watch life bloom all around us!  This could fit several OA and NBT standards in grade 1 and 2, but I like 1.NBT.C.4.

Act 1: 

How many beans did she plant?

What’s a number that is too high?  Too low?

Act 2:

What information do you need to solve this problem?

More information

Act 3:

Why I Won’t Put My Son in Accelerated Math in Middle School

There have been multiple studies over the past few years about detracking math pathways to provide equitable experiences for all students.   This excerpt from the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics article, Linking Catalyzing Change in MS Mathematics illustrates NCTM’s stance on inequitable pathways:

“The course pathways that a high school offers are most often a continuation of the course pathways of its feeder middle schools. Although de-tracking might seem like an impossible feat, Catalyzing Change offers evidence of it being done successfully (NCTM 2018, pp. 18–19). In the middle, we must find a way to rebuild our structures to dismantle tracking and instead implement effective intentional and targeted interventions for students who need additional support. Further, there is no race to calculus, and schools should not succumb to perceived parental or district pressure to accelerate. In the limited cases in which acceleration is warranted, it should be done appropriately. In other words, “care must be taken to ensure that opportunities are available to each and every prepared student and that no critical concepts are rushed or skipped” (NCTM 2016, p. 1)

I am a mother of two boys.  They were both identified for our district gifted program at a young age.  I remember being so excited that my child was gifted.  I felt a sense of pride and elitism that he was given “the gifted gene.”  I cringe as I think back to my narrow view of intelligence and the conversations I have had with him in the past.  As a parent and an educator, I have learned much over the years as my first son journeyed through school.  I watched as his attitude towards mathematics changed drastically as he began to struggle with mountains of homework and procedural mathematics.

He graduated last year and despite scoring the highest on his mathematics section of the ACT, is terrified to take a math class in college…to the point that he feels his dream of becoming a marine biologist might not be achieved because he is so “bad at math.”  Let me assure anyone reading this that he is in fact, not bad at math.  He is like so many like him who have had bad math experiences that were perpetuated by a broken system.  Experiences I as a parent encouraged and despite being a part of the educational system, did not understand.  He has been taught that mathematics is about rules and procedures, memorization and test taking.  I write this post in the hopes that other parents who might be uneducated (as I was) in the potential perils of acceleration, will read it and think twice about the pathway they choose for their child.

Please know that my son has had fantastic teachers over the years.  I do not blame a single teacher for my son’s math anxiety.  I blame the educational system that is wrapped in red tape and far removed from research.

I have talked to district coordinators across the state and the country who are frustrated that expert voices are not used in policy making.  I recently attended an NCTM workshop on Catalyzing Change where we dedicated over half of our time to how we might make small strides in helping our communities and policy makers understand the research recommendations.  I heard frustrated voices and saw defeat on the faces of math teachers who seek to change pathways for students as they looked to the battle ahead.  My hope is that some fraction of those teachers and leaders will continue fighting for equity in education and for instruction that allows for deep understanding of mathematical concepts.  I hope that they continue to advocate for kids even when their proposals are rejected time and time again…because that is why we have chosen this profession.

My second son was quite a different story; Different in the fact that I was more knowledgeable and less naive.  When he tested for the gifted program (a choice I still struggle with), I talked to him about it first.  I explained that this was a choice program that he could participate in and shared with him some of the classes that were offered.  I explained that it would be a day away from his home school each week.  I also explained that some people thought it meant you were smarter than other kids.  I assured him that was not the case, his intelligence is directly related to his work ethic and curiosity for learning.  It has always been his choice to go or remain at his home school.

He is now in 6th grade, the year that math pathways are chosen.  Our district offers a pathway that splits 7th grade math into two tracks, 7th grade math or 7th Grade Accelerated.  Students in the accelerated pathway continue to 8th grade algebra and then to Geometry in 9th.  Students must score advanced on MAP and receive a minimum iReady score of 531 at middle of the year to be qualified for advanced math courses.

I have known for years that I would be requesting he be placed in 7th Grade math and not accelerated. My opposition to this has only amplified as more studies have come out and my understanding of the standards has grown.  Our district has also adopted an inquiry-based mathematics curriculum resource that I believe offers students a much deeper understanding of the standards.

He qualified for 7th grade accelerated on both measures.  I have attached his reports below so that you can gain a better understanding of what I am trying to illustrate.  The first figure shows his score on the Missouri standardized test last year.  Note the narrative under his performance level.

“Advanced demonstrate advanced proficiency in the knowledge and skills necessary at this grade level/course of learning as specified in the content expectations.  The students are well prepared for the next grade level or course and are well prepared for college and career readiness.”

Skye map

Anything stand out?  Nowhere in the narrative does it suggest that he should skip a grade because he is advanced.  It states that he is well prepared for the next grade level course; 7th grade math.

The next figure shows a breakdown of his score by domain.  Notice that he has two domains that although he still scored advanced, are not maxed out.  Notice that Geometry, Measurement and Data and Statistics was his lowest category.   I say was because his greatest growth this year according to district testing is in Geometry.  In talking with teachers who teach accelerated courses, in order to accommodate the compacting of the curriculum, they are forced to leave out many standards in these domains.  Math is a web that is interconnected.  If students lose out on experiences with standards that help build on others, they will have gaps in understanding.

skye map 2

The next figure shows a report from his MOY iReady placement.  Note that he is 27 points above the minimum score for placement in accelerated math yet his placement is Late 6 in all domains; he is on grade level.

Skye iready 2

Below are the unit dependencies for the standards aligned curriculum resource we have adopted.  As you can see, the pathways for 6th, 7th and 8th grade math are interconnected.  This resource builds procedural fluency through conceptual understanding.  Students make sense of rich tasks through productive struggle and collaborative problem solving.  I don’t want my son to miss out on any of that as I believe (and NCTM recommendations agree) that a strong foundation in the 6-8 learning standards will set him up for success in Algebra in high school.

unit dependencies

It is important that we, as educators, but also as parents think deeply about the messages we are sending to our kids (and students).  Students are given a very clear message when they are or are not placed into advanced pathways.

I am a math person.

I am not a math person.

I have chosen to discuss this with my son and explain to him why I have requested he be placed in 7th grade math.  I want him to know that I have learned from my mistakes and I care about his understanding and attitude towards mathematics.  I am confident that as a parent, I will continue to make mistakes, but hopefully I can remedy this one and his love for mathematics will remain intact.

Save the Turtles: Thinking About Causes

Anyone who knows me knows that my greatest passion besides teaching and learning is ocean preservation and environmental awareness.  Tonight while checking my Facebook feed, I came upon a cause that I support and realized that it would be a perfect springboard to a conversation with students that could have an impact on their math reasoning as well as spread awareness about the global marine debris problem.

Fundraiser Notice Wonder Turtles

Here is the scenario along with a few questions to spark conversation. This is an opportunity to remind us that math is a powerful vehicle for many things – including some of the world’s most pressing problems. I think these could turn into an even bigger research project that involves looking at other areas that are affected or at the costs of cleaning up this area including labor, equipment, disposal, etc.  There are so many possibilities…

Possible Prompts For Students

What do you notice? What do you wonder?

What question could you ask about this scenario?

What is the average amount of money donated by one person?

Here is the link to the donation page so you can look at the new totals and ask some additional questions. (and if you feel the need to donate to the cause while you are there…the turtles thank you)