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3 Hidden Gems Between the Covers of Understanding the Math We Teach and How to Teach It (Math Monday)

Posted by admin on Dec 13, 2021 9:00:00 AM

Highlighting Ideas from Understanding the Math We Teach and How to Teach It (K-8) by Marian Small.


Understanding the Math We Teach and How to Teach It is one of those books that lives, for many teachers, within close reach of wherever they do their planning. Maybe a teacher grabs it off their shelf as they plan the launch of a unit to remind themselves of the big ideas underlying the math. Or perhaps they flip through a chapter looking for the activity boxes to use as meaningful student tasks. And while there’s no denying that Understanding the Math We Teach and How to Teach It is a big book, it’s one that teachers continue to read deeply, to dip in and out of, and to reach for again and again.

Today, in the first of a two-part series, we’re highlighting three “hidden” gems within the covers of Understanding the Math We Teach and How to Teach It and how teachers might use them.

Hidden Gem #1: The “In a Nutshell” Section at the Beginning of Each Chapter

We often hear that our instruction should focus on the “big ideas” of math. But what exactly are these big ideas? Marian Small has provided us with an invaluable resource in her “In a Nutshell” section that appears at the beginning of each chapter. Each “In a Nutshell” provides a list of three to six big ideas for that chapter’s mathematical focus. These ideas center our practice as teachers and remind us of the important math ideas that build across the grades.

209 In a Nutshell

The “In a Nutshell” section that begins Chapter 10: Fractions summarizes five big ideas that are foundational for fraction understanding in grades K-8.


Hidden Gem #2: The Blue Activity Boxes

No one creates open and meaningful, yet simple-to-get-ready math activities like Marian Small. And lucky for readers of Understanding the Math We Teach and How to Teach It, she has sprinkled these activities throughout the chapters, organized by math topic, and easy to find in the blue boxes across the pages.

For example, if you’re working on addition fluency within ten, you might try this activity from Chapter 7: Developing Fact Fluency.

7.4 page 141Or if you’re working on rounding numbers within the bigger idea of building number sense with larger numbers, you might select this activity from Chapter 8: Representing Larger Whole Numbers.

8.10 page 157Whatever your mathematical focus, you’ll find activities worthy of students’ time in every chapter.

Hidden Gem #3: The Red Number Talk Boxes

The best number talks are accessible to all students while also allowing for creative and divergent thinking. Marian Small’s unique take on number talks accomplishes this goal every time.

Much like the blue Activity boxes, red Number Talk boxes are scattered throughout each chapter, ready for you to select based on your mathematical focus.

A teacher encouraging their students to think about multiplication and division might select this Number Talk from Chapter 6: Early Operations.

number talk page 123

Or if your students are learning about decimals, you might choose this number talk.

number talk page 255

But Wait, There’s More!

There are so many gems within Understanding the Math We Teach and How to Teach It that we couldn’t choose just three!

So tune in for our next Math Monday post in the new year for three more hidden gems within the covers of this book.

But in case you just can’t wait, we have one more surprise for you! The brand new study guide for Understanding the Math We Teach and How to Teach It has just been released and is available for free download on our website. This study guide is perfect for teacher book groups, coaches planning for professional development, or those who are planning a course based on the book. Also on our website you’ll find a free preview of two chapters from the book that you can read right now or whenever you choose.

Until next time, may your Monday be mathematically marvelous!


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Topics: Math, #StenhouseMath