All in with OUR/IM: Grade 8 Tips of the Week #3


This short week we will finish the first half of unit 1, and since it is our first time through, in many classrooms there is a little clean up and review necessary.

Lesson 8 was focused on rotation patterns, giving students more practice with this most difficult-to-master transformation, and give them opportunity to gain experience and noticing begin things about rotation line segments. Any other things that might be discovered are NOT the main learning goal of the lesson, which is simply:

  • Introduce figures which are built by applying several transformations to one starting figure.
  • Practice rotating line segments around various points.

Moral of the story – Don’t over-teach!

Hints for 8.3 –

  • have students who are struggling look back at how they did 7.3 last week.
  • Some students see the warm up has a center point they all rotate around and may look for a center point for this figure as well. Watch for that method as you circulate so you can call on that student to share their thinking ( mini 5 Practices opportunity for those of you working on using this teacher move)

Lesson 9 builds on these experiences, focusing on how translations effect parallel lines.
Both these lessons are full of opportunity to build a strong class culture full of curiosity and cooperation. Students should play and discover ways to move a figure from on place to another, and should appreciate the variety of ways found by their classmates. They should practice explaining their thinking and trying to understand the thinking of others.(MP 3) Having classmates try their methods out should naturally uncover their need for increased precision (MP 6) in their language and any misunderstandings about how the different transformations work.

Something to focus on:
One of the three learning goals of lesson 9 is
Understand that parallel lines are taken to parallel lines under rigid transformations.
This is something our previous curriculum did not emphasize, but the explanation for problem 7 from the end of unit assessment is built on this fact, so don’t skip it.

Lesson 10 finishes the idea that transformations preserve angle measure and segment lengths. Note that they are to be finding segment lengths and angle measures WITHOUT MEASURING. In the mid unit assessment they will see a problem very similar to the cooldown from lesson 10, so make sure your lesson synthesis hammers home they fact that they can figure out these measures without using rulers or protractors.

Teachers around the country are creating review materials for this mid unit assessment.
Sarah Kallis made Kahoot review for mid unit assessment.
Erica Ympa made quiz for this first half of the unit.
Matt Parker used Desmos Transformation Golf with his class to give them extra practice with their transformations.
Anne Agostinelli shared this great review strategy for revisiting cool downs. Maybe using it as you review for a test would be a good way to try it out.
Screenshot (27)

Here are the slides she used with her students for this “Icon Feedback” Activity.
Screenshot (28)Screenshot (29)Screenshot (30)

All in with OUR/IM: Grade 8 tips of the week #2

Compiling the wisdom of OUR/IM 8th grade teachers from around the country to make these tip sheets for teacher in my district. These tips DO NOT replace a thorough reading of the AMAZING teacher notes provided by the authors at Illustrative Mathematics. Begin your lesson planning there. You can find those linked here.

The number one tip that applies to every lesson, every week all year is be clear what math you are trying to teach in that lesson.

From my post entitled Digging into Planning:

Having a clear grasp of what exactly you are trying to accomplish in the day will make sense of everything you are doing. It will also help your activity and lesson synthesis be clearer and to the point.”

Now to the details . . .

Lesson 1.5

Several teachers reported that students were happy to be doing instead of describing transformations in this lesson, and teachers were happy to be back to the more comfortable rectangular grid paper.

Tip one – One of the biggest huddles seems to be getting students to read and decide for themselves what they are supposed to do.  Take some time as a class to read and decode the directions for 5.2 before turning students loose.

Tip two – Don’t over teach. Look back at the learning goals:

  • Apply transformations on a coordinate grid.
  • Apply transformations on a line segment on a coordinate grid.

Kids do have a chance to notice patterns as they reflect over the x and y axis, which is a great opportunity for higher DOK thinking, but it is not the goal of the lesson.  If you do the translations so they can notice the pattern, you instruction is not aligned to your goal.  

Tip three – If  number 3 of your pre-assessment showed many students struggling with naming and using the coordinate grid, this lesson is an opportunity to address that before you get heavily into using the coordinate axes to explore slope and graph lines. Start that with the warm up. In 5.2, dwell on part c of question 1. In question 2, think together about where (13, 10) would be, and where (13, -20) and (13, 570) would be in relation to (13,10)

Tip four – Some students are confused about why activity 5.3 doesn’t use A’, B’ notation. Here is why: Since AB is going to be transformed several times, we would have lots of points with the same name.

This comes up again on the cool down, where students have difficulty with naming corresponding points using letters other than A’, B’, etc.  Before handing out the cool down, you could used the graph from the warm up to practice this by labeling the original triangle CAT and telling them the translation took triangle CAT to triangle DOG.

An extra after visiting classrooms: Did you notice that the warm up offers an alternative way to describe direction and distance in a translation? Read again. The test implies that either way is a complete  and precise method for defining a translation.


Lesson 1.6

This is your first day using MLR4: Info gap  (Math Language Routine 4)

Ideas for how to introduce from around the web:

  • Morgan Stipe shared a video to help train your students on how the info Gap Routine works.
  • Norma Gordon and Sheila Jaung shared an activity builder on Desmos that uses a 7th grade info gap activity to train 8th graders before their first 8th grade info gap in lesson 1.6.
  • Several teachers talked about doing the first card together as a class, having a student or pair of students come up and be the teacher’s partner. Once the class agrees there is enough information, they all solve it. For the second card, they worked with their partner.
  • Beth Pope Hill shared ”For 1.6, I laminated the info gap cards and gave the groups 2 different color dry erase markers so they could do the transformations on the card. I think that helped them move a little faster.”


Matt Parker reminds us that the Desmos Activity Transformation Golf is a great companion activity to provide extra practice at this point.


Lesson 1.7

The lesson synthesis brings out the question, ‘How can you look at two shapes and tell one is not the image of the other?” This is a question on the mid unit assessment, so take the time to bring this out.

In one classroom a teacher added this to their lesson summary (you could also have them take down as notes in the back of the book):

  • If one shape IS the image of another, then all corresponding sides and angles will be equal.
  • If two shapes DO NOT have all corresponding sides and angles equal, then one is not the image of the other.

Practice with a few shapes: “Could A be the image of B? Convince me.” Problem 1 and 3 in the practice exercises do this as well.


Lesson 1.8

Note the “Building towards” standard- understanding this is important for the final question of the end of unit assessment.  

Not much talk about this lesson on line yet, except this encouraging note from Kent Haines on twitter:

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And one more piece of encouragement from Chrysty Hunt Clarkson in the 8th grade OUR/IM facebook group :

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All in with OUR/IM – Digging in to Planning – Part 1

Spinning my wheels

Is anyone else is finding themselves filling their time with things besides actually planning lessons? I have definitely been falling into that. In the last couple weeks I have made carefully color coded pacing calendars for 8th grade. Here was my first version:

Notice how awesomely the unit colors match the book colors. Made me so happy.
This one looks great on my computer screen, but when I printed it, my printer did not translate colors well. So I spent about 3 more hours and what seemed like a full ream of paper until I got it to print in colors I was happy with. Here is that version.

Then I made a binder with color coded tabs by unit for my teaching notes. Then I added lesson tabs to my copy of the Unit 1 teacher’s edition. Then I decided I wanted to do the same for my student edition. Now I have decided that tabs on the side were maybe a bad idea, because they get bent on the shelf. So I begin contemplating moving all my tabs to the top.

If I was a classroom teacher I am sure I would also be spending time on labeling my storage bins, creating file folders, deciding on how to arrange desks, handle geometry toolkits, etc, etc. And all those things would be awesome and make it easier to stay organized as the year progressed. But none of those things alone help me know what I am going to say when the students are sitting in front of me.

So wherever you are in your prep, at some point you need to evaluate the time you have left and say, “Enough of the side dishes. Time to dig in to the lessons themselves.”

How to begin

The experience of planning feels a little different to me now that I have a print teacher’s edition. This January I planned a bit of Grade 8 Unit 1 using materials I was looking at online. This summer I am planning with a hard copy of my teacher’s edition in hand. To be fair, 100% of the teacher edition material is on line. But the way the teachers editions are put together helped me personally not skip important steps, and allowed me to make notes and highlight questions and ideas I wanted to make sure to include when I ran the lesson. Here is a picture of the table of contents for my Grade 8 Unit 1 teacher’s edition:

table of contents

Step 1: Unit Overview

So I started at the beginning and read the Unit Overview. I underlined, circled and highlighted the things that I wanted to remember and come back to just before we start the unit. I made a list of terms that students would be learning in the unit, and I added post-its to things I did not understand or wanted to read more about.

8.1 overview

In the picture above, the post-it quotes “Experimentally verify the properties of transformations, reflections and rotations.” I wondered which properties in specific. To resolve this I looked at the 8th grade common core standards for Geometry. Because I am obsessively thorough, I also talked to some knowledgeable friends who suggested I read the 6-8 Geometry progression documents from Achieve the Core. Any of these are good options for your questions as you plan. The facebook community, Open Up Resources 6–8, by Illustrative Mathematics is a great place to look for knowledgable friends.

Here is what I found:

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“Which properties?” was answered right there, under the main standard. Yeah!

Being an old high school teacher, I wanted to also include that reflections carried a point perpendicularly and an equal distance across the line of reflection. When experimenting, students might notice that, but it is not an 8th grade standard and I do not need to add that detailed definition at this point. I share this because no matter which grade or which unit you are teaching, it is easy to overteach. So as you begin to go through the unit, it is important to decide what you are actually responsible for. This is the number one thing you can do to make sure you are able to make it through the whole year of curriculum. Good news – The reason there is only one post-it on that page is because all my other questions were answered as I read the materials included with the curriculum and worked through the rest of my planning.

Step 2: Assessments

Next, with the overview fresh in my mind, I worked through the assessments – pre, mid- unit, and end-of-unit. Most units do not have a Mid Unit Assessment, but if they do, realize that most of that material will not again be tested on the End of Unit assessment. You and your PLC need to come to some decision about whether those will be counted as two separate unit exams, two half exams, or a quiz and a full assessment. In 8th grade, because the first unit is so long and we need to send report cards at the end of 6 weeks, I am leaning toward weighting them equally just to get more grades in the grade book.

When you are looking at the assessments in the teacher’s edition or teacher materials online, you are looking at the full answer key. In the Pre-assessment that includes why each question topic was chosen and when they are going to need that information in the unit. In the later assessments, solutions include discussion about what misunderstandings would cause students to pick each multiple choice answer, and rubrics that helped me fine tune my understanding of what was expected from students.

As I worked through these I removed many of my question post-its and added details to my notes on the overview page.

Step 3: Sections

Next I opened the teacher materials on the computer and marked out section grouping on the table of contents ( see pencil brackets in picture above). The lessons in the same sections are developing the same set of ideas. I found it helped to think of them as one giant lesson, because one day does not complete one idea like it did in my previous textbooks.

In one sitting, I:

  • Read through each lessons learning goals and learning targets,
  • Looked at the Alignments in the print version (called CCSS Standards online), and
  • Read through the cool down and possible answers.

Then I moved to the next day. In the Alignment section, I noted whether the standards were listed as Building on, Addressing, or Building Toward. This really helped me get a better feeling what I needed to talk about in each day, and what could wait for a day or two.

2018_07_20 3_40 PM Office Lens

2018_07_20 3_41 PM Office Lens

2018_07_20 3_47 PM Office Lens

I especially liked this one from 8.1.3, which should me they were addressing standard 8.G.A.1 in that lesson, but there would be more work in subsequent days on that same standard.

2018_07_20 4_47 PM Office Lens

Why so many days on a single standard?

According to course guide, each sequence of lessons includes the following:

  • Activate prior knowledge – invites all students in
  • Introduce representations and contexts – essential for developing an understanding of the mathematics
  • Concepts – where I used to start if I did a great lesson
  • Language and notation – where I started if I was pressed for time
  • Connections and consolidation – the place where students can move to the most efficient method of solving problems
  • Procedural fluency – the goal

As you look through the section, think about which of parts of this progression are happening during each lesson. Having a clear grasp of what exactly you are trying to accomplish in the day will make sense of everything you are doing. It will also help your activity and lesson synthesis be clearer and to the point.

Under Pressure

In a perfect world, you would do this for all of the sections of the unit before you begin you lesson planning and teaching for the unit. Having the assessments fresh in your mind will be a huge help in figuring out where you are headed. If it’s summer and school is still two weeks away, invest that time. If you need to know what you are teaching tomorrow, that is probably not realistic. Finish your one section and then begin digging into the lessons. Not optimal but it will probably happen sometime this year.

So Much Time

Yes, planning for new curriculum is going to take time. But until now, you have probably been in the curriculum writing business. Writing warm ups, searching out and adapting activities to support your lessons, finding or writing performance tasks or other problem solving opportunities – all that took time that you no longer have to spend. And the thing that is making you nervous now is the nagging feeling that you have no idea what you’re getting into. So let’s fix that. Sit down and put in the time. The confidence you gain in knowing where you are headed and what you are talking about from day one of the unit will definitely be worth it.

Up next- Planning a lesson

All in with IM/OUR – Planning your year

In the last few posts in the series I encouraged you to:
✓ download your blackline masters and cool-downs and start your materials prep
✓ Dig in to IM resources to get the big picture of how this curriculum is built to be taught
If you haven’t read The Big Picture post, I encourage you to stop and do that first. Without a grasp of how differently this curriculum is put together, the specific planning you do will be less effective.

Pacing out the course

Finally it is time to answer everyone’s burning question – can I fit it all in? The best way to know is to sit down with a calendar of the year and start filling in squares. Everyone’s district calendar is a little different so this is something each site really needs to do for themselves. Before you begin, here are a few things to keep in mind:

Minutes Minutes Minutes

Not every lesson is written to take the same number of minutes. If you are in a self-contained classroom, this may not be a big deal. But for those who will teach 5 different sets of students per day, how things fit into a period is really important – even more so if your site runs a block schedule,where you see students in 110 minute chunks of time every other day. For you thinking about minutes per lesson is crucial.
In our district, 6th grade is self contained, but 7th and 8th grade students move classrooms period by period. To help get a grasp on the difference in lesson length, I made a spreadsheet for 7th and 8th grade. You can access this spreadsheet here.
Below find a picture of unit 1 from the 7th grade sheet.

7th minutes

A few important things to recognize –

  • Not all lessons are planned to take the same number of minutes. Notice as you look at the second column in the table above, the number of minutes per lesson varies. Especially if you are planning for a block schedule, some lessons are easier to put together on a block day than others.
  • The lesson synthesis is not included in the number of minutes. That lesson synthesis is where you lead discussion, drive home the important learning of the day, have students write down new vocabulary, orchestrate discussions, and tie ideas together. As you make decisions on whether you will include optional activities or discuss a previous cool down that students struggled with, you need to make sure you think about how long that Lesson Synthesis will take you. Most teachers say that for the first unit or so it took them longer than it did later in the year, when the they and their students were used to the structure and routines built into the curriculum.
  • Some lessons are optional. For myself, I begin by calendaring them all, but marked optional lessons in case I got behind or really wanted to add a day of error analysis and practice. Fyi 8th grade has less optional lessons than the other two.
  • Some activities are optional. We will worry more about choosing which activities you want to include as we plan individual lessons. For now, knowing you have some flexibility on those days will help you plan when you might have time to include any extras you are wanting to add (setting up classroom norms, error analysis, homework discussions, fluency games and review activities are all things that might be on my list.)
  • Units are divided into sections. Notice in Grade 8 Unit 1 pictured below, there are 4 separate sections plus a culminating lesson that is not pictured. Lesson from the same section will fit together more seamlessly on a block period.
  • Your previous experience If you have experience with the instructional routines embedded in the curriculum and with orchestrating class discussions that build on student thinking, the transitions to this curriculum will be easier for you that the rest of us. But for many, the transition will take some getting used to for both us and our students. Lesson synthesis time may just take longer at first. If that’s you, plan to move a little slower through the first unit.

Getting started

Chose a planning calendar you are comfortable with. Here are a few options you can download:
Year at a Glance – one page, back to back

year at a glance

I love that I can see the whole semester on one page with this calendar. There is room for 3 separate rows of text on each date, but two of them are pretty microscopic. Good for noting special schedules and lesson minutes.
2018-2019 traditional school calendar template

traditional school calendar

Handy for someone who likes to a little more space to write or who prefers to see only a month at a time.
Look up your own district calendar and put any holidays, staff development days or other special events on your document.

Some planning information and pacing guidelines to help you:

In our district, there is one teacher on special assignment supporting each grade level as they roll out the Illustrative Mathematics curriculum. These are some rough calendars we made to assist our school site PLCs in pacing out their year.
planning and pacing info 6th, 7th, 8th
The grade level I support is 8th grade, and I have reworked and revised this several times. I think it would be ideal if we could finish unit 4 before winter break, but that leaves little time to go slower at the beginning or establish class norms. You will see both versions reflected on this document.
Here is an example of how I paced 8th grade using our district calendar. As you can see, it really does all fit. Yeah!
8th grade calender draft This map is color coded to match the workbook covers. That makes me unreasonably happy, so if you are into details like that, you might enjoy this one.
Did you sit down and try it yet? No time like the present . . . everything is right here.

A Good Start

Take a moment to enjoy the sense of accomplishment as you look at your completed calendar. You know there will be little adjustments as things come up during the year, but with the number of minutes and the optional lessons noted on the document, it will be easy to make those adjustments when the need arises.

Sharing the work

Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) can be wonderfuls ways to share the workload and advance your practice. But it is easy to let them become bogged down in the details of calendars and the tasks that need to be done. This year, with this new curriculum, you are going to need to spend that precious meeting time on the math and the teaching. In fact, when discussing with school districts who used IM this last year what teachers needed most in the way of administrative and district support, they universally said time to talk and plan together. We encouraged out site leadership to be ready to provide substitutes so teachers could have this time to prepare. And as teachers, I encourage you to do whatever you can to take care of those routine tasks in advance or via email. Save meeting time for digging in and uncovering the mathematical purpose for each activity and warm up, so you can make sure your students get out of them what they should.
In support of that, there are some recurring jobs that will need to be done. Below I have listed a few tasks that your team might find helpful to delegate.You may able to be able to lighten your load even further by cooperating with the person that has a similar role at other sites. Check if there is someone in your district who can help facilitate this inter-site collaboration.

possible plc jobs

An aside about final exams

An aside about final exams. We are considering using this as the final retake opportunity. Since the curriculum is coherent and the practice problems are spiraled, student continue to have opportunities to improve their understanding of content from previous units. We want to honor their continued hard work at growing their understanding and computational fluency. If the final is loaded into our assessment program with questions grouped by unit, teachers can chose to replace a unit score with a higher score on that unit at final exam time.

But what about me?

If you are the only teacher on your site that is using IM, consider linking up with other users via the Facebook User Community Open Up Resources 6-8, by Illustrative Mathematics. It is a closed group, but if you ask to join you should receive acceptance pretty quickly.
Speaking of the user’s community, one of the hot topics there has been organization and storage. That would be another great thing to get set up before school begins. See a small piece of this conversation blelow:

facebook community 1
And here are some other recent posts:

facebook community 2
If you are on facebook, I encourage you to make this group a part of your year.

Next up – planning a unit, a lesson.

All in with OUR/IM – The Big Picture

The Big Picture

You can’t really get a picture of where you are going in a new city looking only at the zoomed in 30 feet of street that is shown on your phone’s navigation app. That’s handy and helpful, but almost everyone I know starts by zooming out and looking at the big picture. Where am I now and how does that relate to where I am going?

So time to zoom out a bit. Let understand a little about how the course is put together. I promise I’ll try to keep it brief, but I’ll give you places to look for more detail.

From Lecture to Problem Based Learning

For 20+ years a typical day in my classroom begin with going over homework questions, me “giving notes”, and then students working together in pairs or groups to practice the concepts and procedures I had just attempted to deposit in their heads. In my “giving notes” I made it a priority to make connections and help students really understand the mathematics. I tried hard to keep students engaged, asked them to discuss their thinking with their partners, and invited them to ask clarifying questions for the good of all.  “No such thing as a stupid question” and “If you are wondering, so is someone else” were repeated again and again.

This was how school had looked when I was a student, and I did my best to replicate and improve on the experiences I had as a learner.

Attempts to venture into changing the way class was organized were difficult.  Books were written to break things down into tiny separate procedures, and if I was going to make it through the curriculum, I needed to get through one of those procedures pretty much every day. My classroom structure was the most efficient way to get that done.

If you have been teaching very long, you know that not every student can gain complete understanding and fluency in a day.  And so, every year, some kids would get left behind. Not because I didn’t believe “All Means All”.  Not because I didn’t give every lunch and after school to support them. Just because the ideas were flying by so fast that it was hard to keep up.

Add to that those students that at 13 just can’t stay focused consistently on a math lecture for 20 to 30 minutes.  The in and out of the natural attention span of an adolescent created gaps in understanding, missing connections, and fuzziness regarding procedures even if my explanations were flawless.

It felt like a trap.  The only way we could “get through” the material was inadequate to actually have all students learn the material.

Until now.

This new curriculum from IM gives me hope that we can keep all of our students engaged. We can let our students’ understanding of the content deepen over time. We don’t have to leave any students behind. This curriculum is built differently, to allow it to be taught differently.  

From this point on, I will be referencing the curriculum course guide. I strongly recommend you take the time to read it. I have only pulled out a small portion of the many parts that I think will really help you get a better view of the big picture

How IM is Built

Unlike the many text book series that I taught from, which were designed for lecture based classrooms, Illustrative Mathematics 6-8 curriculum is designed to support Problem Based Learning (PBL). The overarching idea of PBL is that students learn math by doing math. This curriculum was written to set teachers up to make that happen.

“In a problem-based curriculum, students work on carefully crafted and sequenced mathematics problems during most of the instructional time. Teachers help students understand the problems and guide discussions to be sure that the mathematical takeaways are clear to all.

From the course guide

One of the pieces of the IM 6-8 curriculum that I am continually impressed with is how carefully crafted it actually is. Here are a few posts from the Illustrative Mathematics Blog that brought this idea home for me:

Warm Up Routines with a Purpose

Vocabulary Decisions

Respecting the Intellectual Work of the Grade

All together, the pieces of each unit tell a story, with each individual lesson bringing new dimensions of that story to the table. “The goal is to give students just enough background and tools to solve initial problems successfully, and then set them to increasingly sophisticated problems as their expertise increases.”**

From the course guide again

How IM is Taught

As a teacher new to problem based learning, the most common error is to focus on what students are doing (fold, cut, pass to the left) instead of what math students are learning.  Each activity and lesson has a purpose, and students are supposed to land somewhere. As a teacher your job as you prepare is to understand the mathematical idea behind each part of the lesson, and make sure at the close that you bring those thoughts to the forefront.

“Not all mathematical knowledge can be discovered, so direct instruction is sometimes appropriate. On the other hand, some concepts and procedures follow from definitions and prior knowledge and students can, with appropriately constructed problems, see this for themselves.”

Once more from the course guide (might be worth a peek)

You are the essential piece to the puzzle, the one that makes sure the intended math is clear to all. If you are running out of time, it can never be this lesson close that you skip. However in that close, you don’t have to do all the talking.* Since the kids are working for much of the lesson, you have time to be listening. Be listening for those key learnings that you might draw out from students.**  

If you are now hankering to get a peak at what a lesson might look like, guess what? The course guide is a good place to find that information. Time for you to break down and follow a link to the section of the course guide  titled How To Use These Materials.


Because ideas deepen over time, one lesson does not start and end the teaching on a subject.

The initial lesson in a unit is designed to activate prior knowledge and provide an easy entry to point to new concepts, so that students at different levels of both mathematical and English language proficiency can engage productively in the work. As the unit progresses, students are systematically introduced to representations, contexts, concepts, language and notation. As their learning progresses, they make connections between different representations and strategies, consolidating their conceptual understanding, and see and understand more efficient methods of solving problems, supporting the shift towards procedural fluency. The distributed practice problems give students ongoing practice, which also supports developing procedural proficiency.”

-From guess where? ( spoiler: the course guide!)

I am going to make a prediction here. You are going to worry at the end of a lesson that your students don’t seem as fluent in procedure as they did with your previous curriculum.  Be patient. Remember how carefully crafted this work is and trust a little bit. Notice in the quote above the learning progression:

Activate prior knowledge – invites all students in

Introduce representations and contexts – essential for developing an understanding of the mathematics

Concepts – where I used to start if I did a great lesson

Language and notation – where I started if I was pressed for time

Connections and consolidation – the place where students can move to the most efficient method of solving problems

Procedural fluency – what we tend to focus on as the goal.

Being patient enough to let your students have all those stops along the way is the best way to help them learn in a way that lasts past a unit test.

This video by Dr Jo Boaler from Stanford University explains that further:


According to one IM trainer, the two biggest concerns that teachers seem to have with the IM curriculum are

  1. The pacing seems really tight

  2. There is not enough skill practice built in

I am not going to say to you that pacing will be a breeze or that you won’t want to add extra practice activities from time to time. But I am going to say that both these problems are exacerbated by a lack of patience.

The pacing will definitely be tight if we over-teach. If we think the first time something is mentioned you have to teach everything there is about that subject, you will consistently run out of time. One way to help yourself trust the curriculum is to stay ahead in your planning. First look at the big ideas of each week in a unit, so you can see when things will come up again.***

The pacing will definitely be tight if we try to keep everything else we always have done and add Illustrative Math. This is a complete curriculum. You do not need to be scrambling to make warm-ups and find performance tasks. It’s all in there. Each and every lesson starts with a thoughtfully chosen warm up ready to use. Each and every unit ends with a culminating task that applies the mathematics. And because topics continue on throughout the chapter, going over homework time isn’t the only chance you have to revisit the previous lesson’s ideas. As an example, look at the development of major work of 6th grade:

And what about that “not enough skill practice” worry? Students do need to practice and apply skills. But if you look at the lesson progression above, where do you think it is appropriate to have the bulk of the skill practice? It won’t be on that first day. By spiraling the homework we allow students to get practice over time, as they move through consolidation and toward procedural fluency.**** 


We all have a lot of learning to do, but based on the experiences of the teachers who used the curriculum this year, we have a lot to be excited about. We are part of an amazing shift in math education. Finally all really can mean ALL.

Extra Resources:

  • *One of my favorite ignite talks about learning to cede the role of sage on the stage:

The less I talk, the more they listen by Graham Fletcher

  • ** A fabulous book for helping us learn to lead discussions for math learning is The Five Practices for Orchestrating Mathematical Discussions. Much of the learning from that book is baked into the IM 6-8 curriculum. A couple Illustrative Math blog posts on the topic are linked here:

How the 5 practices changed my teaching

The 5 practices framework- explicit planning vs explicit teaching

  • *** Speaking of over-teaching, see this IM blog post on why teaching students to cross multiply is delayed in grades 6 and 7:

Why We Don’t Cross Multiply

  • ****A non-IM aside – if you do decide on a certain section that your students need more practice, there are a million wonderful resources for creative skill practice out there that can be just as effective as a 1-31 odd worksheet. Truth -sometimes they are just an old worksheet, just delivered in a more interactive way.  Here is a post that lists some popular practice strategies and games.
  • Much of what I am going to share in this post can be found in the Course Guide  provided by IM for each grade level. If you are looking online, you can find it here:

If you purchased the print Teacher’s Edition that same Course Guide is the small darker green book that came in the package.

Pro Tip:  if you did not purchase print versions of the material for your students, you may still enjoy getting the print Teacher’s Edition for yourself.  Everything it says is also online, but I find it easier to highlight suggested questions and add post-its to remind myself of something for next year if I have a hard copy.  It comes with a separate booklet for each unit, which makes it really nice for carrying back and forth to school.  Here is where to contact about any print option needs. 

All in with OUR/IM – Materials Prep

So I know, we should start with the math, with understanding what focus, coherence and rigor actually mean, with the philosophy of Illustrative Mathematics and of Open up Resources.  But I am going to assume you have done your research and have already decided that the is the curriculum you will be using in the fall.

If I am wrong, I suggest a deeper dive at the sites above, and perhaps a look at Brooke Power’s Blog posts about her experiences with the 7th grade IM curriculum last year:

Sept – Seeing the Light of Conceptual Understanding

January – Letting Go of What I Thought I Knew

April- Closing the Gap

But if you are all in, I am going to start at an unusual spot – materials preparation.  Not because it will give you the happy feeling that you are getting something done. It will, but it will not fool you long. The dull realization that you have no idea how to teach like this, the worry that it seems like an awful lot to manage, and the question ‘will it really be best for my kids if their teacher has a nervous breakdown in the process?’ will keep you unsettled until we address those things in future posts. Don’t worry . . . we’re gonna get there. You’ll be ready and it will be awesome.

The reason we are starting with materials prep is money. The fiscal year ends in June, and that means budgets are wiped clean and start over. In our school district, teachers have a Teacher Center account that will be reset on July 1st. Money you didn’t use by June 30th is not yours anymore, and you account balance is reset to $100 for the upcoming year. So to get the most out of that budget, you want to print as much as you can afford before the end of June (especially if color cardstock and laminate is your thing).

Before you rush to your copy machine, a tiny bit of of preparation will make life easier. Start with your computer.  Whatever disorganized collection of individual pieces you have downloaded in the past is not going to do if this is your core curriculum for the entire year. So start clean.  Make a folder for IM, fill it full of empty unit folders, and rename with a quick copy and paste.

making im folders

You may be tempted to make folders inside each for cooldowns, student practice, assessments. Hold on . . .those will happen automatically as you download and unzip files.

Now head to your grade level curriculum site. Here I am at grade 8.

curric home page

Choose unit 1, and then click on unit

downloads near the top. Unit downloads

Unit 1 downloads

For now, focus on Student Handouts.  We’ll get to teacher preparation in a later post.

Student handouts

If your district has purchased the print workbooks for your students or if you are working 1 to 1, the only things you need to download are the Blackline Masters and the Cool-Downs. If you are without workbooks and computers, I would go ahead and download them all.

For now, we are going to focus on the black line masters.  If you can take care of these things in advance you will never have a night during the school year when you have to decide between knowing what you are doing and preparing handouts.

Here is what that Unit 1 blackline master download looks like.  Make sure you have downloaded in into your Unit 1 folder before you extract.

Blackline masters compressed

Then, go ahead and click Extract now.extract compressed folders


PDF versus Word Downloads

A pause here for those of you who are noticing these are pdfs and the site also has word documents available.  I mean, why not get something I can easily edit and personalize, right?

A couple reasons actually.  I did that last January when we decided to try a unit, and editing and resizing takes TIME. It took two of us working full time on the process several days to finish all of unit 1. And it really wasn’t worth it.  The cool-downs, for instance, we wanted 2 on a page because copy money and paper were scarce at some of our sites. This meant rearranging graphics and respacing. But guess what, my printer prints multiple copies per page if I chose. Why did I make it so hard??

In addition, there is a formatting issue in the word copies. (At least there was this spring. Maybe it is fixed by now? Someone comment and let us know). The numbering does not download correctly and renames problems in ways that do not match the on line images you might chose to project.  Fixing all those issues was one of the big time wasters when we used the word versions.

And honestly, you really need to learn the curriculum as is.  The tiny decisions of why this particular warm up are not obvious at first glance. For instance their might be a number talk warm up that brings up multiplying by fractions in a lesson on scaling, because later in that lesson, mid problem, students will need to access that skill.  Although we’ll do our best to prepare, some   things you won’t notice until you are mid second period next year. My strong advice is this year trust the process AND save yourself some work.

The Blackline Master Report

This little document is a lifesaver – don’t miss it! This is the list of blackline masters for Grade 8 Unit 1. A lot, but don’t worry.  It had more than any other unit from grade 8.

blackline master report 1

See? Here is Unit 5:

blackline master report 5

Let’s decode for a minute looking at unit 5.  The first Classroom activity you are going to use in lesson 1. It will be the second activity of that day. Hence 1.2. (The long name is, which means Grade 8, Unit 5, lesson 1, Activity 2)

For that activity you are going to need 1 copy for every 4 students. It is not a one time use, so one class set will do you for the whole day. If you look up and down  the list from unit 1 and unit 5, notice there is only one time where you need a new set for each class. Classroom ACtivity 1.2 does require cutting, but that doesn’t have to happen right now. If worse comes to worse, period 1 can do that for you. It does not need to be run on card stock. Although some will chose to do that, or to laminate, to make the activity more durable, you don’t have to.  I only found one or two in all of 8th grade that required cardstock, so this doesn’t have to cost you a fortune. And it doesn’t need colored paper. I know, colored paper is pretty, and if you have free access to colored paper, cardstock, a laminator, and unlimited cutting help, go wild.

So here’s how we did it with our teachers. We printed all these black line masters and master reports and loaded them into folders for our teachers so they were ready to go. First semester on side 1, second semester on side 2.


You probably have to do this yourself. If you run things off this summer, you can pass that folder around your PLC to help everyone get off to a good start.

To see what kind of time we were talking about, I went and made myself the whole year of blackline masters.  It took me under two hours.  I had a big stack of 9 by 12 envelopes and for each activity I dropped it in an envelope and wrote on the envelope to label what it was. I didn’t take the time to cut up and I didn’t laminate, but I did run each unit in a different color to help me keep organized as the year went on.  At then end I walked out with a paper box about half filled with standing envelopes. If I was in the classroom that would just slide in the back cupboard, and as the new unit approached I would hand over cutting and bagging jobs to the students that are inevitably hanging around my classroom at lunch or before school.

A warning – one of our schools, so excited after the IM training we had, went to the teacher center together to knock materials prep out.  They used colored card stock and laminated everything with the high quality lamination machine. Several hours later they were only finished with a little more than two units and had blown their whole collective budget at the teacher center. And that much uncut laminating takes up way more space than my one little paper box, so the cutting has to happen now. Once they are all cut and rubber banded they will be awesome, but right now, it has turned into a big, expensive job.

I love the pretty laminate, but don’t trap yourself into thinking it is a must have.  If this year you run them all just on paper without laminating, that can work. Spend your evenings this year learning the curriculum – what math am I supposed to get out of this activity? Being able to connect and synthesize the lesson is about one million times more important to your students learning.


I hear your self -talk.

“But the laminated cardstock is so pretty! And it will last forever if I just put in the work this one time.”

Don’t kid yourself. Unless this is your first year, you know it won’t.  Their will be the pieces that get lost, the pieces that get used to hold someone’s piece of chewing gum, the pieces that get thrown away as a group cleans up, or swept into someone’s backpack. And when you go back to make one more set, the color of the paper will be slightly off. And it will drive you crazy.  You know it’s all true.

You know what prep will last forever? The knowledge you develop, the connections you make, the understanding you grow within yourself as a teacher and a mathematician. Put your time in there.

So yes, go use the rest of your 17/18 school budget and get some materials made. Go back in July and knock the rest out. If you keep it simple, you can be done this summer, and spend your limited time during the year focused on prepping the instruction. You won’t regret it.

A few quotes from teachers who taught out of IM 6-8 this year:


I became a better teacher in year 13 thanks to @openupresources and the #LearnWithIM curriculum. I’m not sure I ever thought a curriculum would make me better but @IllustrateMath did. Then @Milken helped give me a stronger voice and now the sky seems to be the limit. So thankful.

— Brooke Powers (@LBrookePowers) May 30, 2018


Up next – All in with OUR/IM – The Big Picture.

Open Up Resources 6-8 Math by Illustrative Mathematics: All together, All In

If you are part of the online math community or a reader of Ed Reports, the fact that Illustrative Mathematics’ new middle school math curriculum is taking the math teaching community by storm is no surprise. We heard whisperings as it was being written and heard glowing reviews from the piloting districts. We recognized many of the research based instructional practices and structures. They were things we had worked hard to embed in our classroom – desperately trying to teach in ways true to our standards using materials that were criminally misaligned.

Since this curriculum is published by Open Up Resources, a non-profit publisher dedicated to “increasing equity in education by making excellent, top-rated curricula freely available to districts”, we didn’t have to wait. We logged on, dug in, and tried out a few lessons. But as anyone can tell you who has looked deeper, the materials are artfully crafted, with the key ideas of the grade woven and deepening throughout the course. Teaching anything less than the full curriculum is a disservice to the work.
And so next year – we’re all in.
Lots and lots of us.

For some of us, it is with full district support, with training and coaches and enthusiastic teammates in our PLC to learn with. Open Up’s commitment to providing the curriculum freely to all means that lots of districts have money for training, and some of us have had the pleasure to attend and begin our work toward an awesome school year.

But for others, they are venturing forth with very little back up. . . because they believe (hope) it will be what is best for their students.
If that is you, this series of posts is written with you in mind.

You don’t have to go it alone.


Some spots to learn:

Follow to receive emails when there is a new post, so you don’t have use your limited time to lurk expectantly.

  • The Twitter hashtag #learnwithIM :

A place where the community of educators using or learning about the curriculum can ask questions, share successes, and collaborate to improve our practice. Not on twitter? Start by just googling the hashtag and seeing what types of things you find. You don’t have to make an account or sign in to read what is there. If there is a comment that interests you, click on the side to pop it out and read the full conversation. Twitter is a place that educational professionals go to share and learn. Since so much of our days are spent shut in a room with no other adult, we need this forum as a spot to grow our practice. When you are ready to ask a question or join a conversation, make a twitter account and join in. There is not an “in crowd” here. The authors of the curriculum are as likely to join the conversation as a first year teacher. All are welcome.**

  • And for the summer at least, add this blog to that list.

I am a teacher on special assignment in a central California district, and my job for the next year is to support the teachers of my district as they spend a year piloting Illustrative Mathematics 6-8 curriculum. So while I am at it, thought I might as well add you to the list. I am a professional, but not an expert.* I’ll be sharing the things I am figuring out along the way and passing on to the teachers of our district. And to you too – welcome!

Next post – All in with OUR/IM – Materials Prep

*For experts I encourage you to find a IM sponsored training, even if you have to pay your own way. They are fabulous quality, and really gave those of us lucky enough to attend a clearer view of how it all works together.
**Other hashtags that will connect you to math teachers are #iteachmath and #mtbos . (Yes,that’s a weird hashtag. Follow the link if you are curious).
***If you need to play the whole song now: