Week 13 – Wishing You Had Planned Differently

Week 13 – Wishing You Had Planned Differently

It’s the last day before Thanksgiving Break.  My school gives us the entire week off which is excellent.  I thought about doing a vlog for a ‘day in the life’ this week but had some testing going on and figured that wouldn’t be a very excited day in the life.  A few points of interest for the week are my curriculum choices for my 6th grade math, Jeopardy test review, and post-test math riddles.


So coming from public school, I was used to sort of being told what to teach and when to teach it.  My previous school did give me some freedom and room for innovation in HOW I taught, which I know many public schools don’t have.  When I came to Khabele, I was given a list of topics and some ideas from previous teachers.  I had the freedom to develop my curriculum as long as it aligned with the Texas Education Standards.  I wrote about the struggle to do this at the end of the year last year.  This year, I looked at a 6th grade Common Core text book (from what I could tell, the new Texas Standards are pretty similar to the Common Core) to see how they arranged the concepts and what order they chose to put them in.  The order seemed to make sense.

Our first unit was all operations with decimals; learning how to add, subtract, multiply, and divide decimals.  I sort of had to re-teach mulitplication with 3-digit numbers as well as long division.  It took a while to get through this.

The second unit was one-step equations and expressions.  Basically being able to say if you have an expression like x + 5 and you know x = 7, you can evaluate it as 7 + 5 = 12.  We also just started solving one-step equations with addition and subtraction.  That’s if you have something like x + 8 = 20, you figure out what the value of x is.  I realized I probably should’ve done some of the more fundamental 6th grade skills before delving into what is really pre-algebra.  We haven’t done order of operations and some of my kids remember it, some don’t.  We haven’t done any operations with fractions.  We haven’t explored negative numbers which I had to use to help explain what to do if you have x – 5 = 9.  I used negative numbers there to explain that you have a value and 5 negative 1’s (or anti-ones), and that results in 9 ones.  To get the x by itself, you have to eliminate those anti-ones with positive ones (add 5) and do the same to both sides.  They seemed to get it!  I used this resource by Julie Reulbach.

All that to say, trying to revise your curriculum is tough.  I figure ‘why reinvent the wheel’ and end up using resources that make sense during the summer, but when I get to it later in the year, I think ‘I feel we should’ve covered that other stuff before this stuff.’

I think my strength and passion lie much more in finding creative ways to teach a curriculum rather than actually coming up with a curriculum (granted, there’s a lot of overlap between the curriculum and how it lends itself to be taught).  Sometimes it really is easier to have someone just say ‘here’s what you need to teach, now just figure out how to teach it.’


2015-11-17 10.57.13Last year I wrote a post about how review games in math class pretty much have very little math actually being done by most of the students.  I do Jeopardy in my class but instead of whole class Jeopardy (where students are put on the spot to answer a problem quickly for their team), students pair up and work together to get as many points as they can as a team.  They’re given these instructions:

  • Each of you solve the problem individually
  • Come to a consensus on the solution
  • See if you got it right
  • Full points if you got it right, half points if you got it wrong but can figure out why it’s wrong

I was going to make an online Jeopardy game but figured there were quite a few already made for all operations of integers.  The one I found ended up having five wrong answers, which actually worked out ok.  I told students there were some wrong answers so before they assumed they got it wrong, they should evaluate their work to see if they indeed were correct.  They basically had to convince themselves (and me) that they were right.  It ended up me floating around the room to students saying ‘I think this answer is wrong!’ and then me being very skeptical of their actual right answer (forcing them to articulate why they were so sure they were right).  They seemed to really like it.  It was much more engaging than the Plickers review activity I did for the last test.


I gave a pretty brief test that took most students only 45 minutes of our 1.5 hr long classes.  I decided to use a math riddle found on YouCubed.  It was a hit with the students.  Here’s the riddle:

  • It is between 8,500 and 8,800.
  • When multiplied by 8, the result is a whole number.
  • The digit in the hundreds place is ¾ the digit in the thousands place.
  • The sum of all digits in the number is 26.
  • The digit in the hundredths place is 200% of the digit in the tenths place.
  • There are no zeros in the decimal places.

There’s more than one solution.  The ‘multiplied by 8 results in a whole number’ seemed to trip up the most students (and me when I first did it because I wanted to do 0.025 but I couldn’t have a zero in the decimals).

Give it a shot and let me know what answer you got 🙂  If you’re feeling ambitious, you can also add one more clue that will result in only getting the number you got.

By Thom H Gibson

I help middle school STEM teachers create meaningful & memorable experiences for their students. Teacher, podcaster, YouTuber. Two-time teacher of the year

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