The Objectives of Objectives, Part Three: Joy

One of the reasons why we teach is because we want our students to experience the JOY of mathematics. Mathematics should be about questioning, wondering, and the joy of discovery…and math classes should leave students wanting to know more math and do more math thinking. We cannot build an appreciation of math through content standards alone. Math classes should be filled with opportunities for students to have voice and a choice. At the very least, they need a voice in making meaning of problems and a choice in how they go about seeking a pathway to a solution.

But sometimes we (or our textbooks) squash all the joy out of a math lesson. We rob them of their right to notice math things, wonder about math ideas, or do messy math stuff. And lessons that focus on “measurable outcomes” with “explicitly defined objectives” often euthanize mathematical curiosity.

The Objective of Objectives, Part One: Invite

Why we teach must align with how we teach. In other words, our professional identity (the reasons why we became teachers in the first place) must be congruent with our choices and our practices in the classroom. When purpose and practice are not aligned, both teachers and students waste energy fighting needless friction in the classroom and learning suffers.

One habit where I continue to see a misalignment between purpose and practice centers on how we post, frame, communicate lesson objectives to our students. All teachers want students to be inspired, motivated, engaged, and curious, yet I’ve witnessed a lot of teachers euthanize student intellect by spending the first 5 minutes of a lesson reading aloud and unpacking a lesson objective that is written on the board.

Two Engaging Proportional Reasoning Tasks

I hope that there are other 6th (and 7th) grade teachers out there that might find this analysis useful if they are looking for ways to increase student engagement, thinking, and discourse around percents, fractions, and proportional reasoning standards. This engaging learning opportunity can be used at the beginning of a unit as an inquiry-based exploration and pre-assessment. It can also be used as a way of assessing student learning in the middle or the end of a unit. It’s a low-floor opportunity that allows for students at all levels to participate. It also allows for rich discussion and sense-making because solutions can be reached via multiple strategies.

Knotty Rope 3-Act: Introducing Division in 3rd Grade

This lesson write-up is for teachers who want to engage their students in exploring division reasoning and problem solving strategies (3.OA.2, 3.OA.3 and 3.OA.7). It’s appropriate to use before and/or after students have explored division and allows for many different conceptual approaches to a solution including using repeated subtraction or repeated addition, equal groups with or without manipulatives, number lines, arrays, bar models, and multiplication or division equations to model a real world problem.

This write-up contains a lesson pathway with specific questions/moves to consider, analysis of the opportunities for student learning, and other wisdoms and insights we learned from teaching this lesson as a part of a lesson inquiry.

Give it a try with your own students. And then tell me how it went. Let’s make it better together.

What would put on a billboard? #TT4T

Billboards have been around for centuries. They’re effective at creating a message for political, social, or economic purposes. Many of us have some sort of small billboard in front of our classrooms. Sometimes they’re inspirational messages or quotes. Sometimes they express a value or a classroom norm about how people should be treated. Sometimes they are content specific, sometimes not.

Tools of Titans for Teachers Book Study (#TT4T)

I’m going to start a book study, and I’d like you to join me. Waitwaitwait!!!! Don’t go anywhere. I’m not asking for much. Because this is a book study where you don’t actually have to read the book.

I’m reading Tim Ferriss’s book Tools of Titans. I’ve found his incredibly enlightening podcast “The Tim Ferriss Show” to be filled with ideas that can relate to the professional development of teachers and to the creation of a productive learning culture in the math classroom. His book is no different.

Join the #TT4T conversation!


I was moved by Jamie Garner’s (@mavenofmath) recent post about her #mathconfession.  I encourage you to read it here. Here are a few rambling thoughts and musings she’s sparked in my brain. I think most of use walk through this world with an unconscious fear that we will be exposed as a fraud…that we are not […]

To Design for the Average is to Design for Nobody

I’ve been thinking a lot about the phrase “differentiated instruction” because it’s always felt redundant to me.  How is “differentiated instruction” different from “effective instruction”?  Are there ever really times when we want instruction to be “undifferentiated”?  What are the implications for lesson design? I bring this point up because, in my humble opinion, thinking about […]

Video of Think Like A Fitbit: Measure What We Value

Here’s a link to Think Like A Fitbit: Measure What We Value, my Ignite! talk from CMC South given November 4th, 2016 in Palm Springs.

Feel free to download and share with others. I’m particularly curious how you are able to use this video in your own PD sessions with teachers to further professional growth for all math educators. What conversations does it create? What cognitive conflict does it spark? What change and instructional shifts does it inspire?

Comments are encouraged; feedback welcomed. Let’s keep the dialogue going.