March Happenings

Here's a review of the March happenings in our Genius Hour sessions:

Benchmark Grade 7

Expressions and Equations

Square Roots and Cube Roots

Volume of Cones, Cylinders, and Spheres

Constructing Triangles

Solving Quadratic Equations

Circumference of a Circle


Interactive Parallel Lines

Benchmark Grade 8

Modeling Irrational Approximations

Be sure to check your Genius Hour calendars for April and May...these months are short due to Benchmark testing and Final Exams. Please submit your 3-5-1 Reflection Assignment by by Friday, April 11. Any additional questions and/or topic requests for our final sessions may be submitted at your earliest convenience.


February Happenings

Here's a review of the February happenings in our Genius Hour sessions:

Cross Sections

Scale Drawings


Formative and Summative Assessments (Solving Linear Systems Sample)

Angle Relationships


Transformations Continued

Introducing Quadratic Functions

Quadratic Functions Continued

Be sure to check your Genius Hour calendars for March and April...these months are short due to Spring Break and Benchmark testing. Planning for our final scheduled sessions is being refined this month. Please submit questions and/or topic requests for April and May at your earliest convenience.


'Tis the Season!

Not for snow and ice!

But for testing, of course.
And I would love to share my assessment mindset with you.

I will be the first to admit that state-mandated Benchmark testing was completely new to me just five years ago. During my ten years teaching at BHS, my assessment focus primarily consisted of the ACT and AP Calculus exam. Teaching junior high was my first experience with Benchmark testing and End-of-Course exams in the state of Arkansas. But my assessment mindset has remained the same.

My students' worth has absolutely nothing to do with my math class. Period. I love them for who they are...not what kind of math student they have become during our time together. I want my students to do well (by their definition of "well") simply because I know they are super smart and have learned so much this year. I tell them that. And I also tell them that I'm planning on them holding the top ___ (insert number of students I teach) spots on the spreadsheet of ranked math scores! I believe in them. And I never want them to doubt that fact. I get so excited about testing because my students have an opportunity to let their math knowledge shine. What about you? Not so much? That's okay...just remember...enthusiasm is contagious even if it is completely fake. Act the part!

I believe assessment scores reflect the progress made all year long. There's nothing new that I can teach in a Benchmark bootcamp to alter that reflection. We have communicated mathematically, both verbally and in writing, all year. That will show. We have persevered to grasp concepts rather than regurgitate process all year. That will show. And we have held each other accountable for putting forth the kind of effort that yields success ALL year. That will show! Now...I know...you must be curious...do I review for state-mandated tests?!? The answer is yes. My Benchmark or EOC Bootcamp efforts serve two purposes: (1) to provide knowledge of the testing routine, structure, and environment and (2) to build within my students a confidence of knowing they are beyond ready for the assessment.

To provide knowledge of the testing scenario, we review the schedule for testing...down to the specifics of which days are longer than others so we know to eat a bigger breakfast and bring a "happy" snack to keep us going. We look closely at the outline of the types of math questions that will be posed when and get a feel for the time allotted. We look at the five strands of math frameworks for all of the math questions. And we don't just look at this once. We look at the details 3-4 times over the course of a month until the students can tell me all about the routine of testing.

To build confidence, we look at sample multiple choice and open-response questions. Now the routine of review varies based on the course and/or students. I generally start with a broad overview and then target practice to the specific needs of individual students. Some years the broad overview has been a pretest of sorts, while other years I have used several quick informal assessments (see sample in the Benchmark Grade 7 post and Benchmark Grade 8 post). The practice has varied from problem sets to games used during MATHercise to coordinating Gizmos from Explore Learning. Know your students and choose a method that will build the most confidence. And then fist-bump your way through testing week because you and your students have rocked the math ALL year!

Happy testing to YOU!


The Game Winning Shot

My Twitter feed has been flooded by Bentonville fans sharing the awesome results in Tiger basketball this week.

Photo Credit: David Beach

Two games in one week with game winning shots from Malik Monk in the final seconds. Here's one of several videos on YouTube:

When I spied the team swarming Malik, my first thought was "that kid must love his team" because there were several points scored by his teammates that enabled the final shot to have game winning potential. Malik Monk didn't win the games alone. And teachers don't win in the classroom alone either. It's your expertise, inquiry, ongoing feedback, and drive to serve students well that fuels the results within each team. Let's continue to bring that to the table for each Genius Hour session.

Here's a review of the January happenings in our Genius Hour sessions:

Building Vocabulary 
The Distributive Property (posted on MATH-7 and MATH-8
Properties of Inequalities 
Reasonable Solutions 
Solving Systems of Equations 
Scientific Notation 
Arithmetic and Geometric Sequences

Looking forward to game winning collaborations in February!


Vocabulary Development Resources

Students depend on a base of vocabulary to comprehend increasingly difficult content. And students must maintain a solid foundation of content vocabulary to communicate mathematically with others. Vocabulary is only learned through multiple exposures. Here are my top three resources for vocabulary development in the math classroom...


Robert Marzano and Debra Pickering (2010) have completed extensive research regarding a six-step process for learning and acquiring new vocabulary terms in their book, Building Academic Vocabulary: Teacher's Manual.
  • The teacher provides a description of the term.
  • Students restate the explanation in their own words.
  • Students draw a non-linguistic representation for the term.
  • Students participate in activities that help them add to their knowledge of the term.
  • Students discuss the term with one another in small groups.
  • Students play with the vocabulary term in games 


Ben Taylor incorporates cooperative learning and Kagan structures in his book, Vocabulary: Making It Memorable, to expose students to academic vocabulary in a variety of settings.


The Granite School District in Salt Lake City, Utah maintains a wealth of vocabulary building ideas for all grade levels and subject areas.

The MATH-7 team will investigate vocabulary building in their next Genius Hour on January 20.
Stay tuned for more details...