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Essential Understandings
Posted by Robin Bott on November 29, 2019 at 10:20 amI am teaching math to 6th graders for the first time in 16 years. Although it is only November, I am fairly confident that I will not be able to help my students gain a deep understanding of every content standard. Where should I put my focus? Which concepts are critical? Which ones can I leave for last, knowing we may not get to them. Or is it somehow possible to do it all well?
Kyle Pearce replied 2 years, 11 months ago 6 Members · 9 Replies 
9 Replies

Hi Robin ( @robinbott ), I’m a 6th grade math teacher as well, and understand your concern. It is very difficult to get to all of the content standards in a school year, much less have students gain a deep understanding. I plan on trying to spiral the curriculum for the rest of this year and all of next year. I think spiraling will give time to move from a basic understanding to a deeper understanding later in the year. I also think that finding connections in the curriculum will help as well. Teaching in “silos” is too cut up and time consuming. For example, I think teaching properties of operations including the distributive property should come when we are teaching multidigit multiplication and division, instead of waiting until we teach “expressions and equations”. Whatever I do, I always find that I am either cramming our data standards in at the last minute or not getting to them before the standardized test.
I would really love to hear what you’re thinking of doing, and of any successes you’re having! I will be happy to do the same. ðŸ™‚
 This reply was modified 2 years, 12 months ago by Jon Orr.

Hi Karen, I am going to try the spiraling idea too! I figure it is not too late to start that. Keep me posted on how it is going with you and I will do the same.

Hi Robin,
Itâ€™s seems at any grade level, it difficult to complete the desired outcomes. I am also beginning to spiral the content. By reminding myself of the big ideas for the course, and then choosing 3 act tasks or projects, that include several of the learning outcomes, I keep returning to the key topics. I am them able to â€œrepurpose â€œ the activities so I am not constantly looking for new ones. Each time I return to a learning outcome, I try to come at it in a bit different way and add further depth if the students are ready. Donâ€™t put too much pressure on yourself. Just do your best. Good luck

I teach 7th grade math at a private school. We have made choices about our priorities. Our priorities are to teach skills that help students be prepared for Algebra since Algebra is the foundation of upper level math. As a result, we may not get to all the geometry and statistics standards. Also we don’t teach expressions and equations in 6th grade. Instead we teach it in 7th grade before moving into linear relationships. In 6th grade, we focus on the meaning of operations with fractions and decimals, so that students really understand what it means to take a part of a part or groups of groups and that students really understand the two types of division. This helps us later when we teach linear and exponential relationships. We can then leverage that understanding (repeated addition is multiplication for linear, repeated multiplication for exponential growth, and a part of a part of a part for exponential decay.)

Wow, @LeslieMeier! So rarely do I hear folks talk about the two types of division or spending any time on it. In The Concept Holding Your Students Back course here in the Academy, we spend significant time coming back to both quotative and partatitive division. Glad to hear you see the importance.
I’d also agree that some concepts are less critical than others. Number sense is so key as students must have a conceptual understanding and build fluency / flexibility over time. These two types of division are big parts of this as well in order to help access proportional reasoning concepts like ratio, rate, and proportional relationships.


Hi there. Planning is sometimes the barrier. We are asked to submit year plans. I wonder if we sometimes get more caught up in sticking to the plan then responding to the needs of kids. I know I did. And I’d say another part if this is data conversations with both colleagues and kids. What might they already know? Where might I gain more time because of this, or where might I need to go slow to go fast later? As mentioned in other posts, spiraling really helps. Are there other grade six math teachers in your school? I’ll bet the “spirallers” in this forum would love to share ideas that you can then make your own.

Thank you so much for all the ideas! I have been talking with our grade 6 and 7 teachers and I think we are all going to try spiraling of some sort. We are all new to the idea, but we are excited to try.

The holidays are a great opportunity to try to think through a plan!
