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Preparing Lessons: Do the Math

I recently spent time with teachers in California digging into the content and lessons of the Do The Math intervention program created by Marilyn Burns. This district provides interventions to students in grades 1-5 with the support of intervention specialists and paraprofessionals. I was reminded of a practice that often gets overlooked in preparing the lessons we will be teaching to students; actually doing the math. Our experiences throughout the day solidified my belief that when teachers do the math they will teach, they are more prepared for the moments in which their students will have a major discovery and how to question and build the deep understanding.

Our focus for the day was uncovering the big ideas around multiplication and how Do The Math scaffolds this topic through a series of 3 modules. The whole day was one experience after another of high energy from teachers! In one such experience, teachers engaged in the task of building the multiplication chart from scratch. The goal is to use what we know about equal groups and build arrays for a certain product. For example, with the product of twelve, we can use tiles to build 3 rows of 4, 2 rows of 6, 1 row of 12, and each of the subsequent arrays that are commutative.

Once arrays are built for each product, participants transferred the concrete representation to a representation on 1-inch square paper. Arrays were outlined and the product was placed in the bottom right corner of the rectangle.

Each person in the room was responsible for 3-4 products and their arrays. Upon completion of outlining, labeling, and cutting their arrays, we used a blank multiplication chart to start placing numbers where they lie.

And so the multiplication chart was built! I watched as teachers around the room started to make connections between this tool they have so frequently used and how its structure makes sense. The process of building the multiplication chart reframed a learning experience that the teacher's students would soon have. At the end of my session, one participant commented; "Learning about the missing product task was an eye-opener." Another added, "I loved building rectangles and connecting it to the open multiplication table. It made the table make a whole lot more sense."

One practice that has really shifted my instruction is doing the math that students will do as a part of their lessons. It was one of those things that never seemed important to me in my early days of teaching. I mean, I knew the math so what did it matter if I solved the problem myself? I knew what the answer should be. As we can see in the experience teachers had with the multiplication chart, we uncover big ideas and reveal the moments that sense-making happens in math. Teachers can use that knowledge to consider questions they might use in the moment to ensure their students have those light bulb moments as well.

Notice the full engagement of teachers below!

Take care,


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