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  • Lesson 4-1: The Stages of Mastery Action

  • Jon Orr

    May 1, 2019 at 11:53 am

    Select a concept you will be teaching in the next week. Use the Stages of Expertise template to brainstorm what each of the stages might look like including:

    • Possible student thinking
    • Student responses
    • Math concept used by the student

    Add a comment here to share what you came up with!

  • Mark McLenaghan

    April 2, 2020 at 8:05 am

    This is a great tool to get the teacher thinking about success criteria and short-range planning. I like the idea of recording and thinking about what the students will be thinking as they progress through the levels. It helps to see where they might be and what prompting the teacher might do to get them to the next stage of understanding.

  • Christle Johnston

    April 5, 2020 at 2:32 am

    I like the idea of thinking of the students going through these stages to solve problems. I feel like this doesn’t just apply to math, but to almost any new thing we learn in life. Since we are not in school right now, I can’t work through a specific problem with these stages, but I can think back to many situations where I feel like students experienced these. However, I feel like maybe they don’t always go through all of these stages when they are just trying to solve a regular pencil and paper problem. I feel like they may not actually feel conciously masterful because they may just have gone through the motions and got the correct answer, but maybe were not sure really how they got to that point or did not feel that they had fully mastered that skill. If they had started with a more concrete visual representaion they they might have felt more success in the end.

  • Susan Eaton

    April 9, 2020 at 3:43 pm

    These stages made me think about the different ways my own children (14, 15, and 19) relate to math. For my older two children, math comes pretty easy to them and it seems that they move to the 4<sup>th</sup> and 5<sup>th</sup> stages pretty quickly. However, my youngest struggles much more with new math concepts. A few weeks ago, she was becoming frustrated with her math assignment. Her older brother tried to help her, but his explanation was a little too complex. I tried helping her, but it was something I was not familiar with. She and I watched a few videos on it and we began to understand the basic concept, but not the broader concept. My oldest then joined us and explained a little further how the process worked. At that point in our learning, my daughter and I were able to ask more specific questions on what we did not understand. Even though we had a better understanding, were still probably at the second stage. Later, my middle son asked why his explanation didn’t help his sister, but that his older brother and I were able to help. What I realized and shared with him was that her stress level came down and she was more comfortable with not understanding when there was someone learning with her and she was able to work through the learning at her own pace. I realize now how important it is to evaluate where students are in the stages of mastery in order to adequately support them.

  • James Broyles

    April 12, 2020 at 3:25 pm

    I hope this shows up. It does on my computer.

  • Justin Shircliff

    April 18, 2020 at 9:08 am

    I’ll be introducing Absolute Value.

    Unconsciously Incompetent: I can start at zero and count how far away it is.

    Consciously Incompetent: I know there’s another way to do this without counting, so maybe it’s the distance is the number?

    Consciously Competent: I know that the number represents that distance it is from zero, and the absolute value will always be the distance. I wonder what happens with negative numbers?

    Unconsciously Competent: I know that the distance a number is away from zero is always positive, because distance is not negative. Therefore, regardless of if the number is positive or negative, the absolute value will always be positive.

  • Kelli Fisher

    April 18, 2020 at 3:15 pm

    I have middle school students who have not grasped the concept of what fractions/ratios are equivalent to 1. When I review this concept with them/reteach, I can see the stages of expertise as I go through it with them.

    Stage 1: Many think 1 is the same as 1/4 or 1/5. They do not understand the rationship between a fraction versus a whole number.

    Stage 2: They may understand that 1/4 and 1/5 is not the same as 1 but they don’t understand why and still give the same answer.

    Stage 3: Student may realize that ratio is the same as a whole. They may visualize a pizza with 4 total slices and think 4/4 = 1

    Stage 4: Student may know that 1/1 = 1 due to Automacy. Memorized, like multiplication facts.

    Stage 5: Student can represent their thinking in may ways. A circle broken into 4ths show that 4/4 is the same as 1 whole . Fraction bars showing four 1/4 pieces is equivalent to 1 whole. There are many more strategies that could be shown.

  • Kabryna Andino

    April 20, 2020 at 10:39 am

    For some reason I am having difficulties with printing and posting the paper I completed. So I will try and type it all out:

    Adding 3 digit numbers

    1. Not knowing where to start. (Hundreds First)

    2.Students that are adding the ones first might run into the issue of not being able to regroup correctly.

    3. Adding and regrouping the ones correctly but not the tens place

    4. Adding and regrouping correctly 70% of the time

    5. Can solve the problem correctly most of the time and by using several different strategies, such as using standard form and expanded form.

    123 100+ 20+3

    345 300+ 40+5

    468 400+ 60+8=


  • Premila Goorye

    May 26, 2020 at 1:57 pm

    For my grade 2, I will be working with addition up to 20. For example 15 + 2

    Unconsciously Incompetent:

    Students will use manipulative or count 15 by 1’s and then add the 2 (again the whole concept skip counting by 1)

    Consciously Incompetent:

    Some students might skip count by 5’s to 15 , then add the 2

    Consciously Competent:

    Students will start with the biggest number 15 and add 2

    Unconsciously Competent:

    They will just say the answer, but cannot represent their thinking in anyway!

    Consciously Masterful:

    Students will understand that we start with the biggest number 15 and then add 2

    They can also represent their thinking using a number line or base 10 blocks to represent the 10 + 5 + 2

  • Claire Beck

    June 2, 2020 at 4:46 pm

    Since we are on summer break, I decided to start with the topic place value since that is where I will start off with my 4th graders at the beginning of next year. This was kind of a struggle for me. I was not sure what to put for student responses in the first two stages. I would love any feedback about how I could alter my levels of mastery to make it better. Place value is something some kids really struggle with in my experience. We use manipulatives: place value blocks, place value disks, and drawn models to show to regroup. I was thinking of even using fake money this year to see if that would help any of my kiddos. Below is what I came up with, but again I would love any feedback.

    • Erin Wahler-Cleveland

      June 23, 2020 at 10:15 am


      Thanks for taking a stab at this, I’ve been thinking a lot about place value as we’ve worked through this workshop and have struggled to envision using the strategies with this topic too, so I’m so glad you started. I wanted to share a few thoughts…

      I wonder if what you have for CI could actually be UI… maybe the starting point is that students can show a one, ten, hundred with a concrete model and that the fact that they are different sizes would then be obvious, but they aren’t sure by how much.

      Then what you have for CC coul be CI… I’m aware there is a pattern in the changes from one place to the next, but I’m not sure what it is. I might try +9, +90, etc.

      CC would then be becoming aware of the pattern of x10 going from one place to the next, maybe by setting up a table and showing the repeated relationship. I’m not totally sure on UC then, but maybe it would be just having internalized the rule with automaticity and not needing to see the pattern to remember it.

      Thanks again for posting, this really helped me wrap my mind around what this could look like… let me know what you think!

      • This reply was modified 1 year, 3 months ago by  Jon Orr.
  • marianne aamodt

    June 4, 2020 at 5:46 pm

    I found this difficult! I guess I am “unconsciously competent” leaning towards “Consciously Competent”! I chose a lesson on drawing parallel lines.

    1. Student does not know /remember definition of parallel lines or protractor.

    2. is able to draw parallel lines using a ruler and is beginning to figure out how to use the protractor to draw parallel lines

    3. Can follow the steps to draw using a protractor but this is still difficult

    4. Can use a ruler easily to draw parallel lines.

    • Linda Andres

      July 16, 2021 at 6:00 pm

      I felt the same way doing this. Trying to put the language together reminds me of what I still don’t know. It’s an exciting journey though.

  • Nancy Van Hall

    June 4, 2020 at 9:55 pm

    In learning to add decimals:

    UI: I know the digit farthest to the right is always in the ones place and that numbers get ten times larger as they move to the left.

    CI: I see there is a dot in the middle of the numbers, but think it works like a weird comma, and don’t know what to name the those numbers.

    CC: I know the dot is a decimal that separates the whole numbers from values less than one, and understand as they move to the right, the numbers get ten times smaller.

    UC: I can add decimal numbers like a normal number as long as I keep the dots (decimal) in the same column.

  • Stephanie Moore

    June 6, 2020 at 5:34 pm

    I decided to see if I could break down learning about the concept of initial value in linear equations based on the video from Lesson 3-6 using Stacks of Paper. Given 1 pack of paper = 4.95 cm tall and that 5 packs of paper on a table is 130.75 cm tall, find the height of the table.

    U.I. The student adds 4.95 five times or multiplies 4.95 by 5 to get that 5 packs of paper is 24.75 cm tall. They then subtract 24.75 from 130.75 to find the height of the table is 106 cm.

    C.I. The student makes a table of #packs vs. height from floor by starting with 5 pks plus table is 130.75, 4 pks is 125.8 and on down to 1 pk is 110.95 and 0 pk (just the table) is 106 cm. They think there must be a way to generalize this to any number of packs stacked on a table, but aren’t sure how to do this.

    C.C. Student knows they can multiply #packs times hgt/pack and add the table height so they can write total height = #packs(4.95) + table height and then 130.75 = 5(4.95) + 106 which they can connect to y = mx + b once they are shown how.

    U.C. Student automatically looks for dependent and independent variables and solves for initial value using y = mx + b whenever they are faced with a situation like this.

    C.M When learning another function family, perhaps exponential functions, student postulates that the y-intercept may be the initial value and tests this theory out.

    Would appreciate feedback as I’m not sure if I’m mixing too much in and not making it granular enough.

    • Bailey Mortensen

      March 4, 2021 at 11:32 am

      I really like the way you’ve broken this down. I think mastery might include representing the problem as a graph on the coordinate plane.

  • Sheila Akinleye

    June 15, 2020 at 2:32 pm

    The concept I decided to focus on for this assignment is a major one in algebra and pre-algebra and has to do with student’s basic understanding of how functions work. The Lesson Goal is “understand that a function assigns to each x-value (independent variable) exactly one y-value (dependent variable)…” Traditionally I’ve used mapping diagrams, sets of ordered pairs, the vertical line test, etc. and still a number of kids get the meaning of functions backwards. What I’d like to use is the analogy of a Coke machine. Here’s how students might progress through it.

    Unconsciously Incompetent

    With a vending machine you put something in and get something out.

    Consciously InCompetent

    When you press Coke, you should get Coke.

    Consciously Competent

    I can tell whether or not the machine is working based on whether or not my selection (input) matches what I get out (output).

    Unconsciously Competent

    When you press Coke, you should get Coke, but if you always get Sprite instead, it doesn’t mean the machine is not functioning, it could just mean someone put in Sprite where Coke belonged.

    Consciously Masterful

    A function is where I get one output for each input, whether or not it was the output I originally expected.

  • Shelley Nash

    June 16, 2020 at 6:32 pm

    My first concept this fall is area and composing and decomposing shapes to find area.

    Unconsciously incompetent: I can count up the number of squares in the shape

    Consciously incompetent: I know there is a better way than counting all the squares, but I don’t know what it is. Or what if there are no squares?

    Consciously competent: I can find area by making a unit square of any size and use the array model idea to find the area.

    Unconsciously competent: I multiply the width by the height to get the area. I can do this to all the various shapes and put it all together.

  • Melissa Sutton

    June 17, 2020 at 11:09 am

    I found this really difficult to do since we are not in school and I’m not sure that I captured the steps correctly. I’m attaching my worksheet.

    • Jon Orr

      July 5, 2020 at 10:06 am

      @melissa-sutton I think you’ve done a fine job with this assignment. The big idea is to think about how a student would move from not knowing into becoming fluent with a skill/idea. Thinking through the steps helps you recognize where a student would be on this trajectory and how you can help them move onward. Good stuff.

  • Kyle Ferreira van Leer

    June 17, 2020 at 12:21 pm

    Topic: Comparing Slopes of Proportional Relationships in Different Forms (8th Grade)

    1. Unconsciously Incompetent
      • Can point out that lines look different
      • May be able to use words like ‘steep’ or ‘shallow’
      • Struggles to see slope (steepness) when not in graph (visual) form
    2. Consciously Incompetent
      • Can identify which line is ‘steeper’ when both in visual form [can begin to compare]
      • May be able to identify slope from equation
      • Struggles to make comparisons from table (without visual)
      • Struggles to identify how much steeper something is
    3. Consciously Competent
      • Uses triangles to identify slope visually, with “easy” sides
      • Can use ∆y and ∆x from table (subtraction) to identify the slope as “rise over run”
      • Is able to find slopes independently to say which one is “steeper” and uses subtraction to indicate by how much
    4. Unconsciously Incompetent
      • Can look at two relationships and compare, often using the unit rate (1, r) to make the comparison immediately
    5. Consciously Masterful
      • Understands that the slope appears as the unit rate in proportional relationships, and can demonstrate where it appears in graph, table, and equation form
      • Is able to make the comparison to unit rates in proportional relationships to the slope in a linear relationship, especially in graph forms
      • Make comparisons with division of proportional relationship slopes, and knows that they can look solely at ∆y, so long as ∆x is constant.
  • Ashley Bryant

    June 18, 2020 at 10:09 am

    Skill: add two digit numbers

    Unconsciously Incompetent: Student uses manipulatives or fingers to attempt to count to get a sum.

    Consciously Incompetent: Students starts with one number and counts up?

    Consciously Competent: Student adds numbers, but doesn’t carry over when number is over 9.

    Unconsciously Competent: Student adds numbers correctly carrying when number is over 9.

    This is all a guess as I have never taught fourth grade, but I see that we teach this within the first unit. Anyone have experience with fourth grade and students’ stages, please chime in so I can better anticipate what I’m up against this fall!


  • Sara Mason

    June 19, 2020 at 2:42 pm

    I first thought about finding the slope of a line on a graph. There is a lot of prior knowledge there and I have really only taught it through memorizing rise or run then reduce. I could only think of stages 4 and 5.

  • Barb Fleming

    June 21, 2020 at 3:34 pm

    This was challenging for me as it’s a new way of looking at student expertise and a new grade level. I took an easier concept. Would love to see other ideas of how to break down other concepts (i.e. decimals, fractions, patterns, geometric concepts…) to use as a model.

    So… grade 4 solving problems involving addition and subtraction of 4-digit numbers (e.g., 2135 – 1982)

    UI: I know I need to stack the numbers (having seen or been taught only the standard algorithm and trying to follow the procedure)

    Student might not know what to do when borrowing needed and just subtract the lesser top number from the greater bottom number (e.g., 8-3 in tens column instead of 13 – 8) and not understanding the difference.

    CI: “I know I can use a number line to count up instead of count back, but I can’t remember how to do it.” or “I know I can use base ten blocks to help me subtract, but I don’t know what to do when I don’t have enough tens/hundreds…”

    Student also may not know where to start with student generated strategies he/she has seen.

    CC: “For me it is easier to add than subtract so I can use a number line to count from on from 1982 by 10s and 1s to get to 2135.” Student may use base ten or number line ideas from CI above and be able to accurately solve problem, although maybe not using the most efficient way.

    UC: Student may use a number line still, but be able to make larger jumps, rounding

    (1982+18 = 2000 + 135=2135. So 135 + 18 =145 + 5 + 3 = 153)

    CM: May be able to see multiple ways to manipulate the numbers (e.g., If I add 18 to 1982, I can round it to 2000, so I’ll have to add 18 to 2135 as well. 2000 from 2153 is 153) and calculate the solution by visualizing the scenario in his/her head.

  • Lisa Page

    June 22, 2020 at 4:48 pm

    My students struggle with Conservation topics (momentum & energy) quite often. I purchased an elementary balance to show a visual/concrete representation pre-COVID and I think it will work nicely here before we do the math. We will use similar objects to balance at first: 10 on left, 10 on right. We will then change objects but still try to get it to be level: 10 on right, 5 larger ones on left. Make estimates about mass of left side compared to right side, etc. Finally, we will talk about conservation of quantities within the system as simply moving from right bin to left bin. Nothing is being added to the, “balance system” it simply changes sides/location.

    Primary/Junior School Balance | Balances | Measurement ...

    Unconsciously Incompetent: I know there is energy in the system, I just don’t know what it is or how it got there.

    Consciously Incompetent: I know there are 2 types of energy: kinetic & potential, but I don’t yet know how to apply conservation concepts to a system nor do I fully trust that energy can be changed from one form to another.

    Consciously Competent: I know that if something moves, it has kinetic energy. I know that if something is lifted above a ground level, it has potential energy. I can calculate KE & PE and I can also solve for velocity or height if those values are known.

    Unconsciously Competent: I can look at the parameters of a system and determine the amount of kinetic energy, potential energy and total energy. If 2 of these values are known, I can determine the missing value. I fully understand that energy can change form and can explain how/why it happens.

    Consciously Masterful: I can build a plastic tube roller-coaster (tygon tubing and a bb) and based on the initial measured height of the system I can determine the amount of KE and PE and total energy at any location on the journey using principles of conservation.

  • Tammy Gelenaw

    June 24, 2020 at 1:16 pm

    First lesson in Ready Math for 6th grade, “Find the Area of a Parallelogram”

  • Heidi Warrington

    June 25, 2020 at 12:45 pm
  • Luisa de Carteret

    June 27, 2020 at 6:31 pm

    Solving (multi-step) equations:

    Unconsciously incompetent: Students just guess numbers that “fit” into the equation. Often students don’t know how the value they found is right or wrong. Guess and Check

    Consciously incompetent: Students know they should follow a certain process but don’t remember it so they default to guess and check. However, I feel these students can tell about their thinking.

    Consciously competent: Students know that they should be using opposite operations on both sides of the equals sign. They can “unpack” the equation to get the variable alone by “undoing” the parts given in the equation by working backwards.

    Unconsciously competent: Students have internalized and follow the steps for “undoing” each operation in the equation.

    Consciously masterful: Students consistently solve equations correctly (and know that they do) because they understand that only one value would make the equation true while all others would make it false. Given this they are able to check their answers. Additionally, they are able to use, or rather, not use opposite operations when not necessary (as in one step equations) because they understand they are looking for the input that will give you the desired output.

    • Regina Dill

      July 2, 2020 at 4:45 pm

      A lot of equation lessons in this discussion…so may pieces that need to be at least conciously competent for this to all work out!

  • Jacquelyn Harland

    June 28, 2020 at 3:55 am

    1. Unconsciously Incompetent

    Upon hearing that we are going to be discussing solving equations through equality, possibly at this point I will receive a blank stare.

    2. Consciously Incompetent

    I may show a picture of objects on each side of the equation and ask them to tell me what they see and wonder? Students may have some idea of the concept yet still not sure where this may go.

    3. Consciously Competent

    Then I display an equation with numbers and variables on both side and the concept may start to take form, yet they know that both sides need to be equal.

    4. Unconsciously Incompetent

    Then, I prompt the students through solving the problem. After awhile they think, they have it and I change the problem up and they realize maybe they do not have it.

    5. Consciously Masterful

    After catching themselves several times, they gain conceptual understanding and competency thus enter mastery stage.

    • Regina Dill

      July 2, 2020 at 4:43 pm

      I really like the way you explained this and I feel like I have walked a mile in your shoes!

  • Lauren Teather

    June 28, 2020 at 4:51 am
  • Jason Garner

    June 28, 2020 at 12:13 pm

    I’m not 100% certain I used the Stages of Expertise accurately. I feel like the 3rd and 4th stages threw me off a little bit because they are so similar. I gave it a shot though. I focused on adding decimal numbers. I started with the idea that so many students usually just use their prior knowledge of adding whole numbers and don’t think to use place value and line up the decimals. In stage 5, I ended with students being able to use place value (maybe even mentally) and estimation to assess reasonableness. There might be some visual/manipulative representations that I could add in stages 2 or 3. I have had some difficulty using manipulatives, such as base ten blocks, with decimals. It always seems to confused the kids because they are used to using base ten blocks for whole numbers. I would welcome any feedback on these stages. This did help me really think through the stages that kids go through when learning a new concept.

    • Kyle Pearce

      July 3, 2020 at 1:10 pm

      Hi @jason-garner

      There is definitely no “right way”, but rather to use this as a template to think through how students might work through developing a deep understanding and essentially build automaticity with concepts. I like the way you thought this through…

  • Steven Rohrbeck

    July 1, 2020 at 3:41 am

    4th grade place value

    UI – Students have a general idea of place value from 3rd grade, but do not know how many times greater when moving from one place to the place at the left (ones place to tens place)

    CI – Aware that there is a pattern when changing from one place to the next place.

    CC – Aware that the pattern is times 10

    UC – Able to move from one place to another such as ones place, to tens place, to hundreds place by multiplying by 10. Or ones place to hundreds place

    CC – Develop the idea that when moving from a larger place to a smaller place you divide by 10.

  • Anisha Baboota

    July 1, 2020 at 4:23 pm

    Skill: Patterning and looking for an ABAB pattern

    Unconsciously Incompetent: The student will use a specific manipulative (e.g. colored teddy bears) to figure out a pattern.

    Consciously Incompetent: The student will activate his or her prior knowledge about patterns and experiment with the manipulative to figure out which pattern he or she will solve and figure out.

    Consciously Competent: After first seeing a teacher modelled lesson about the possibilities of patterns, the student will then be able to pick out two different colors to make an ABAB pattern.

    Unconsciously Competent: The student will reinforce his or her understanding of the newly acquired concept by extending the pattern using two new different colors. He or she will then also be able to extend the thinking by trying out a different pattern (e.g. AABAAB), and explain the thinking to the educator.

    I have seen many FDK students grasp this Math concept fairly quickly so this is the reason why I would look at doing this Math strand early on in the year (e.g. September).

  • Regina Dill

    July 2, 2020 at 4:39 pm

    I am making an assumption that students have reached at least consious competence with finding thecircumference and area of a circle. I would like to address the surface area of a cylinder. Stage 1: Students would have differing thoughts about what surface area is and what shapes make up a cylinder. Stage 2: Students realize the concept of surface area and the shapes but have difficulty figuring out where they get the length of the rectangle. Stage 3: Students are capable of finding the areas of circles and they find both not realizing quite yet they are the same. Students find the circumference of the circle for the length and multiply by the height…they realize they need to add all sides together. Stage 4: Students find the area of 1 circle and then multiply by 2, find circumference of circle and multiply by theheight, add all sides together and assign the correct unit squared. Stage 5: Students can find the surface area of a different cylinders with a vriety of rational numbers.

  • Kimberlee Margosian Ruelas

    July 2, 2020 at 5:21 pm

    I really like this tool for anticipating student responses and developing teacher moves ahead of a lesson.

    I was thinking of graphing lines using y=mx+b.

    1. Using a table to graph the line

    2. Plotting one point then using the slope to find the next point OR Plotting the y-intercept then finding another point. Use those two points to draw the line

    3. Plot the y-intercept then use the slope to go up and right or up and left.

    4. Being able to use the equation to graph a line that does not fit nicely within the window of the coordinate plane being used

  • Rick Hill

    July 6, 2020 at 10:03 am

    I took the expectation of drawing shapes using millimeters. I like this tool because it helps you understand where students are on the continuum of learning and what they are ready to be taught. It could also help you with math groups to have students only one stage of expertise away from each other? The discussions and helpful tips from each other would be very valuable.

  • Natalie VanWyngaarden

    July 6, 2020 at 1:21 pm

    What a great tool for planning a lesson. A backward design approach could be used here too. Start with thinking what you hope they would achieve at mastery level and then move back. This could be used for assessment too or even to group students into guided groups depending on where they are on the trajectory and how they struggle or move through these stages.

  • Bakare Hassanah

    July 8, 2020 at 12:21 pm

    I have tried my hands on the early skill of number sense- counting 1-20

  • Paula Harlin

    July 9, 2020 at 3:47 pm

    Grade 4 rounding to nearest 10, 100, 1000.

    Stage 1- Student uses a number line to visually see if the number given is closer to 0 or 10. Student needs visuals to round numbers to nearest 10, working up to 50.

    Stage 2- Student uses a rounding poem or song or “rule” to round numbers to nearest 10 or 100 or 1000.

    Stage 3- Students do not need to refer to number line or poem or rule, they just know how to round to nearest 1000.

    Stage 4- Students can round 4 digit numbers to the nearest hundred, 3 digit numbers to the nearest ten, etc. They can do this because they have a solid understanding of place value.

    Stage 5- I’m actually not sure where to go from here!!

  • Luanne Mudgett

    July 9, 2020 at 5:03 pm

    This is a concept we cover in chapter 2. I do not give them the equations for percent proportion (which I despise because the book teaches it by using cross products and I am not in favor or that as there is no conceptual understanding there, it is a “trick”) or the percent equation right off so this was my thinking for the stages of expertise concept map. Would be grateful for any feedback on the beginning stages I am presenting here or on how to transition to the percent equation.

  • Bryan Henning

    July 13, 2020 at 6:56 pm

    Concept: Finding the midpoint of a line segment given two endpoints (especially ones far away, like (-1,12) and (9, -8)

    Unconsciously Incompetent: Draws a picture and attempts to visualize the middle, counting the length down and over on the coordinate grid.

    Consciously Incompetent: Same as previous but is aware that there must be a better way.

    Consciously Competent: Subtracts coordinates to find x- and y-distance, cuts each distance in half, and adds to/subtracts from one endpoint – may use a diagram like a number line or right triangle

    Unconsciously Competent: Finds the average of the x-coordinates and the average of the y-coordinates. Also may use the previous strategy with mental math.

    Consciously Masterful: Can explain how both of the above strategies arrive at the same conclusion.

  • Angela Clubb

    July 14, 2020 at 12:10 pm

    It’s July so I can’t teach my class but I did have a Number Talk saved in my Drive from my grade 3 class that I can speak to. The question came from the book, “Number Talks” and the question was “39 + 16”. These were the student responses that I received: (below). We were using Lawson’s scale to determine how students were solving mental math problems and their flexibility with numbers. Now I’m wondering if maybe I could have used concrete materials to make the question accessible to all and then I could have also seen how they would have grouped the blocks, etc. to solve (39 red counters, 16 yellow), etc. Some students may have made the leap to multiplicative thinking had we done this instead?

  • Cherie Martinez

    July 14, 2020 at 12:57 pm

    Concept: Linear Equations

    Unconsciously Incompetent: Notice a pattern and can use it to reach an answer

    Consciously Incompetent: Notice a pattern and are aware that there is a better way to calculate an answer but still just uses the pattern to get to the next solution.

    Consciously Competent: Understands and calculates slope (rate of change) to calculate answer

    Unconsciously Competent: Uses slope to plot change and uses the starting value to create an equation and to graph a solution

    Consciously Masterful: Recognizes that a real world situation can be solved with a linear equation. Also it is understood that by plotting the line they are showing all possible solutions to this real life situation.

    Is this correct?

  • Amy Rensko

    July 14, 2020 at 2:26 pm

    Concept: Solve problems using equivalent ratios.

    Problem: There are 5 apples and 4 oranges in each fruit basket. The fruit baskets contain a total of 100 apples. What is the total number of oranges in the fruit baskets?

    Unconsciously Incompetent: Students may draw out (or skip count) groups of 5 apples and 4 oranges until they have a total of 100 apples and 80 oranges. This is an additive strategy.

    Consciously Incompetent: Students continue with a additive strategy like in stage 1. Perhaps they organize their skip counted numbers of fruits in a table.

    Consciously Competent: Students begin to use a multiplicative strategy but not the most efficient one. Maybe they multiple 5 apples by 10 to get 50 apples then multiply by 2 to get 100 apples. Then, do the same multiplication steps with the number of oranges to arrive at 80 oranges.

    Unconsciously Competent: Students move to a more efficient multiplicative strategy. Such as: 5 apples x 20 = 100 apples so there must be 20 fruit baskets. So, 4 oranges x 20 = 80 oranges.

    <b style=”font-family: inherit; font-size: inherit; color: inherit;”>Consciously Masterful: Students continue a multiplicative strategy but use equivalent ratios to find the answer. 5 apples/4 oranges = 100 apples/80 oranges.

  • Brandi Sidley

    July 15, 2020 at 6:47 pm

    I worked with using visual patterns to help students create algebraic expressions. I found it easier to start with the Unconsciously Competent stage and link that to my learning goal and then work backwards. I’m thinking this may work as I learn more about the learning progressions for each domain. I struggled a little with the Consciously Masterful for this example but thought that maybe it would be when students then were able to use substitution to check their own answer and or extend their thinking to more complicated patterns.

  • Jill Fulmer

    July 17, 2020 at 2:35 pm

    Concept: Multiply by multiples of 10. Example: 30×6=

    UI: Many deer in headlights. Some will begin to add 6 thirty times, others will remember the commutative property and add 30 six times.

    CI: Ask how can they might use what they know about partial products to solve?

    CC: Student knows that 10×6=60 and that 3 of those = 180. Can extrapolate to 300×6.

    UC: Know to multiply and add the correct # of zeros! (Yes, this “trick” should only be used AFTER they understand this conceptually!)

    CM: Flexible with 30 x 60 = 3 x 10 x 6 x 10 and use understanding of associative rule to group (3×6) x (10×10) = 18 x 100 = 1800.

  • Alyse Olivieri

    July 17, 2020 at 3:37 pm
  • Joanna Brown

    July 17, 2020 at 10:57 pm

    I enjoyed examining the progression.

    • This reply was modified 1 year, 3 months ago by  Joanna Brown.
  • Marsha McDonald

    July 19, 2020 at 7:13 pm

    Concept: Adding two-digit numbers.


    1. Students may use manipulatives to create the 2 separate numerical piles, then add up from one through the next-one at a time.

    2. The student may remember that they know how to add two-digit numbers to one digit numbers, but are confused by the two digits. They may attempt the part they know or continue to add individual manipulatives up from the 13.

    3. The student may combine the manipulatives to look for a skip counting pattern and begin skip counting and adding any extra pieces at the end, depending on how they lined up the rows by columns. They may also remember the math fact that 13 + 27 is equivalent to 27 + 13 and choose to count up by 13 from 27.

    4. At this stage, students may choose base ten blocks as their manipulative recognizing place value and create the 2 numbers separately before adding or regrouping. they may also use a place value chart. If they continue using the previous strategy they might multiply the columns and rows instead of skip counting.

    5. I can not remember the term but at this stage students might separate the numbers by there place value (ex., 10+20 and 3+7) to solve. Sum might do (13+7) +20 or (27+3) +10.

  • Rebecca Gedney

    July 20, 2020 at 5:58 pm

    A concept that I might be teaching next week is exponents. Stage 1 is recognizing the superscripted number, but not knowing its meaning. Stage 2 is the same. Stage 3 is listing out the base multiplied by itself based on a diagram. One option is dimensions (only really works for degree two or three). Another option are tree diagrams. Stage 4 is seeing that exponential form is shorthand for repeated multiplication. Stage 5 would be combining two tree diagrams or two scenarios to show that you add the exponents when multiplying together two numbers in exponential form that have the same base.

  • Kayla Robillard

    July 21, 2020 at 7:26 pm

    I found that not being with the students right now made this is harder than I thought. Here is my go at subtracting multi-digit numbers. I can see how this would be very beneficial when teaching a topic, when its a new topic or something you have been teaching for a while.

  • Frances Kirkpatrick

    July 27, 2020 at 1:43 pm
  • Gregory Napoleon

    July 29, 2020 at 11:44 am

    Topic: Multiplying double digit numbers (This is what students in the past did)

    Stage 1: Students used repeated addition to get the correct answer. This led to mixing up numbers and losing track of where they added.

    Stage 2: Students attempted different strategies and could set it up, but not be able to solve the problem correctly.

    Stage 3: Students are able to chose a strategy that works for them and solve it correctly. (I find most students are at this stage. I want to find ways to continue to push them to Stage 4)

    Stage 4: Students are able to answer the problem in their head. The only problem I have had with this one is that the student was able to get the right answer, however when I would ask them how they did it, they could not explain it. Is this a problem????

  • Riann Warman

    August 4, 2020 at 9:45 am

    After reading some of the other posts, I’m in the same boat as a few others. It’s summer, I don’t have students in front of me and I’m moving to a new grade level that I’ve never taught before Astonished. I took a concept that I know we will be hitting in 4th grade as well as what I learned from teaching 3rd last year. I’m hoping I am on the right track!

  • Cynthia Williams

    August 4, 2020 at 3:03 pm

    Hope this works

  • Brent Sturtevant

    August 6, 2020 at 8:50 pm

    Since it the summer time, I am not teaching at this moment but I am using this class to help me plan for the coming year.

    The concept I would be introducing is slope.

    Unconsciously incompetent: I know its rise over run when see it on a graph.

    Consciously incompetent: I know there is another way to find slope with points and that you need to use x values and y values but can’t put it together.

    Unconsciously competent: I know that you subtract the y values to get the rise and the x values to get the run. I wonder how this gets the slope and used in the equation.

    consciously competent: i know that when finding the differences of the x and y coordinates that they can be divided to find the slope which is the same thing as counting the rise and run of line on a graph.

    Just writing this out has helped me understand how to look for students understanding of the concept. Thanks

    • Kyle Pearce

      August 8, 2020 at 6:51 am

      Isn’t it shocking how helpful taking a few minutes to reflect on new learning can be? I am constantly wondering to myself where students are along this particular path.

  • Christina Tully

    August 9, 2020 at 5:04 pm

    Topic: Transformation of Graphs

    My brain is on teaching jargon overload. I think I’m thinking of these stages in the process correctly, but any feedback would be great! I know these stages in learning exist and have seen students flow through them – just having difficulty pinpointing specifics right now.

    • Kyle Pearce

      August 10, 2020 at 9:21 am

      Ha! Don’t worry about the jargon as much as the big ideas under the jargon! From reading your annotated PDF, it appears that you’ve got the idea here!

      For me, the big take away is that often students don’t know what they don’t know, then eventually move to becoming aware of what they don’t know…

      Then, they start to gain some knowledge but they must work hard to think it through / use what they know…

      Finally, they get to this place where they can almost automatically do things and it is almost masterfully!

  • Marissa Krasowski

    August 11, 2020 at 10:51 am
  • Theresa Sterling

    August 21, 2020 at 9:58 am

    As classes have not started back for me yet, I took a concept I like to start my Grade 7 class with. I found it difficult to isolate the individual stages they would be going through, even though I feel I understand how they progress all the way through to consciously masterful (if that makes sense).

  • Nicole Jackson

    August 23, 2020 at 6:52 pm

    Estimate to Add Multi-Digit Numbers

    234 + 127

    Unconscious, Incompetence: “I think I am supposed to add these numbers.”

    Conscious, Incompetence: “I know this has something to do with rounding, but I can’t remember the rules I learned last year.”

    Consciously, Competent: “My answer will be incorrect if it is the exact sum of the numbers shown. In order to find the answer, I will round the given addends to numbers that are much easier to add. Then I will find the sum.”

    Unconsciously, Competent: “Estimate means to round. I will round both numbers and find the sum.”

    Consciously Masterful: “Because I am being asked to ‘Estimate to find the sum,’ I know I have options. I can either estimate using rounding or use compatible numbers. There is more than one correct answer to this problem.”

  • Rowena West

    November 19, 2020 at 9:52 am

    Currently I am working with six students who are not succeeding in Algebra I. These students have been a problem for the teacher, so I offered to pull them and work with them. I instantly realized that they had no background in variables and balancing equations. I pulled out my handy, dandy manipulatives and used my knowledge of Hands on Algebra, from Borenson to work with them. We have now moved to the representative stage or in the Mastery stage, the Consciously Competent phase. They can draw the figures but don’t realize that they are actually solving the problem on their own. I love how I can now use these stages to describe to the teacher what to do to help other students.

  • John Gaspari

    February 16, 2021 at 8:33 pm

    I did find it a challenge to think through the stages of mastery for the concept of theoretical probability. There is developing an organized way to list all the outcomes and then using fractional thinking to represent the probability of different outcomes as a fraction. Students needs to develop an understanding that the total number of possible outcomes represent the whole.

  • Trina Gratrix

    February 17, 2021 at 10:21 am

    Next week, I’m going to be trying to teach 6th graders what it means to divide. In the craziness of the last years, this seems to have been missed. I see them being mostly at the Unconsciously Incompetent stage right now, “Equal groups- HUH”. I want to quickly move through the Consciously Incompetent stage, “I know I need to make equal groups, but how?”, to the Consciously Competent stage, where they might build arrays or share equally (by building piles). I think the Unconsciously Competent stage will be them able to explain why they shared the pieces the way they did. Finally, the Consciously Masterful will look like them knowing the difference between same number of groups and sharing equally among groups and being able to explain that.

    Wish me luck!

  • Robert Barth

    February 17, 2021 at 12:08 pm

    I will be teaching linear regression.

    Level 1: Will be an exploration on desmos called “Fit Fights” to get get the students to level 2.

    Level 2: There will be a second Desmos called “scatter plot capture” to hone in on the idea of the purpose of lines of best fit and hopefully moving them into the “conscience and competent stage.

    Both of these lessons will be supported with a video assignment for homework to add a layer of support.

    Level 3: Will be a lesson on correlation coeffient and its relationship to make sure our lines of best fit are strong respesentations of data. Students will be creating equations for best fits for a 3rd day and can hopefully move to level 4.

    The last move to hopefully get student become consciencely masterful will be a final desmos activity called “Is college worth it?” that will require them to put all these ideas together.

  • Jody Soehner

    February 21, 2021 at 8:05 am

    I am in the midst of teaching operations with fractions so I selected multiplying fraction.

  • Scott McNutt

    February 22, 2021 at 8:31 pm

    I have a class of 7th-grade students who are on track to take Algebra as 8th graders. We have been working on linear relationships and will learn how to find a line’s slope when two points are given. I imagine the stages of expertise will look like the following.

    Unconsciously Incompetent: Students can look at a linear relationship through a graph and recognize positive slopes, negative slopes, and identify points that fall on the line.<div>


    Consciously Incompetent: Recognize that the slope ratio changes as the line changes’ steepness, but will not understand how to get to values for the slope ratio.

    Consciously Competent: When finding two lattice points on a graph, students will be able to find the change in y (Rise) and put it over the change in x (run) to create a slope ratio.

    Unconsciously Competent: Students will be given any graph or Identified two points on a graph and find the slope ratio.

    Consciously Masterful: Students will be able to graph the constant rate of change in science and find the slope and interpret the representation of the slope.

    I feel this is the stage of student learning for expertise, but I know there is a lot of sparking curiosity and fuelling sensemaking to get to each stage of expertise.


  • Maryanna Biedermann

    February 22, 2021 at 8:34 pm

    This structure, Stages of Expertise, refocuses me on the varying degrees between not knowing and knowing; when I take the time to consider these stages of understanding, incorrect student responses still provide me guidance on how to facilitate learning the knowledge. I can see using this as guidance for all of our content; starting off broad and then going deeper.

    • Kyle Pearce

      February 23, 2021 at 6:48 am

      Love it! Thanks for sharing!


    February 26, 2021 at 5:06 pm

    Solving multi-step equations:

    Unconsciously incompetent: Students look at pairs of “dog walker” diagrams with different properties of equality shown and say it is unbalanced because there are not the same number of dogs on either sides (even if they have different pull strengths and are balalnced)

    Consciously incompetent: Students look at a dog walker diagram with a missing dog pull value on either side using a ? and know they can make it balanced by guessing and checking different values

    Consciously competent: Students realize they can cross out values from either side and lead to a simpler problem; can start to see the connection between a dog walker diagram and a symbolic algebraic representation when placed next to each other

    Unconsciously competent: Students can use the symbolism of variables, coefficients, constants, and an equal sign and do inverse operations – all without the dog walker diagram but referecing that in his/her head

    Consciously masterful: Students can name and describe different properties of equality they could use to find a missing value – and how some methods are more efficient than others

    • Kyle Pearce

      February 27, 2021 at 6:14 am

      Great breakdown and example! I’ve never thought of the dog walker contest for use with developing equality! Cool idea. Reminds me of solve me mobiles!

      Your break down of the stages of mastery (or expertise) is fantastic. Way to reflect to help you hang on to this new learning.

  • Michelle Grebe

    March 14, 2021 at 3:22 pm

    This is what came to my mind:

  • Laura Las Heras Ruiz

    April 1, 2021 at 2:37 pm

    while I was listening the video I have related This 5 stages of expertise with the Bloom’s taxonomy. When we do the Master degree, here in Spain, to become a secondary school teacher they show us this taxonomy, we should take in account all his stages to make the programming activities and to evaluate the students. But what you are teaching us now is even easy to understand and relate to our lessons, I ‘ve loved the concept of consciously and unconsciously.

  • Jeremiah Barrett

    June 2, 2021 at 12:21 pm

    Surface Area of a cylinder.

    Unconsciously Incompetent: ” I only see two circles and an unknown shape”. “I don’t know what LA is”.

    Consciously Incompetent: ” I know that there are other shapes besides circles that make up a cylinder”. ” I think that LA is”????

    Consciously Competent: ” I know that a cylinder is made up of two circles and a rectangle”. “If I can find the areas of each one I can find the total surface area”.

    Unconsciously Competent: ” I know that the length of the rectangle is circumference of the circle. “So length is (3.14)d”. “I can find the areas of each part and add them up to find total surface area”.

    Consciously Masterful: ” I can find the surface area of a cylinder using a net”. ” I also know that I can use the area formula for a circle, and the lateral area formula to calculate the total surface area”

  • Gerilyn Stolberg

    June 16, 2021 at 11:42 am

    This summer I will be working with incoming third graders. We will start with place value and adding and subtracting 10 to a whole number. Students will enter at the unconsciously incompetent level being able to count objects and use manipulatives to add or subtract. Students will move the consciously incompetent stage when the can count on without manipulatives. They will enter the consciously competent stage when they notice that when we add or subtract 10 from a number only the digit in the tens place is increasing or decreasing by 1. They will enter unconsciously competent when student begin to automatically increase or decrease the number in the tens place. Finally they will enter consciously Masterful when the can add/subtract by units of 10 (20, 30, 40, 100, 200, etc..)This has made me think more about scaffolding learning and assessing students on the spot at the beginning of a lesson and throughout the lesson.

  • Karynn Faivre

    June 16, 2021 at 8:47 pm

    I have been thinking about how students solve algebraic equations.

    Unconsciously incompetent – apply inverse operations

    Consciously incompetent – Follow memorized procedural steps – Use distributive property first to clear any parentheses; apply inverse operations of each term that appears on both sides of the equation.

    Consciously competent – Are there times when a different order to the steps will work? Why does multiplying by the reciprocal work or clearing out fractions by multiplying by the common denominator.

    • Karynn Faivre

      June 16, 2021 at 8:59 pm

      As I was writing this out, I realize that my thoughts about the lesson are too broad. As a coach, I want to help teachers understand this process. They get really frustrated with those students who have not mastered number facts. Thinking about this activity will really help me to offer them suggestions of how to support struggling students, so they can understand grade level content.

      • Kyle Pearce

        June 17, 2021 at 7:14 am

        Fantastic to hear and I agree, really narrowing down why some students might appear to “know their facts” while others don’t is much more complex than that. I wonder what that might look like / sound like as you bring this learning to the table?

  • azuka ojini

    June 17, 2021 at 6:25 pm

    This tool, I think will help to direct my intentionality. From the first prompt of the lead off material of the day, the stages of expertise (mastery) will mediate me ( the teacher) towards the ultimate goal of guiding my students through the labyrinth of the mathematical practices, such as making sense of problems, and persevering in solving them, providing logical reasoning in their responses, and use appropriate tolls strategically, to name a few.

    The concept I will be navigating next week is the unit rate. I look forward to moving through the stages of mastery with voices of Jon and Kyle guiding me through.

    • Kyle Pearce

      June 18, 2021 at 6:49 am

      Fantastic to hear!
      Rates and ratios are a pretty muddy area for most (educators included) as there is such varying opinions on what is a ratio and a rate. Now, I’d argue there is no such thing as a unit rate – but I digress!
      A great unit for this work is called Planting Flowers and it should be out in the next week or so! We also have some other units that can prove helpful in the tasks area.

  • Diane Fortune

    June 21, 2021 at 4:07 pm

    Lesson 5.4 from our required curriculum – lesson focus is to count 10 and some more.

    The directions read: Count. Circle groups of ten. Write the numbers.

    The picture shows:

    I wonder about showing only the picture to notice and wonder.

    1st stage might be: student counts all cubes.

    2nd stage might be: student knows there is an easier way than counting all cubes but isn’t sure what it is.

    3rd stage might be: 9 groups of 4 cubes and 1 group of 3 OR it might be: 3 groups of 10 cubes and one group of 9

    4th stage might be 3 groups of 10 cubes and 9 more so there are 39.

    OR it might be: 4 groups of 10 cubes with one missing so there are 40 -1 and that’s 39.

    5th stage might be: 9 groups of 4 and one group of 3 and that’s 39.

  • Anthony Waslaske

    June 28, 2021 at 2:14 pm

    The problem I used was just the volume component of the last task.


    The student either doesn’t attempt the problem or attempts to randomly add or multiply the numbers. If the student adds or multiplies without taking the units into account this stage would have a stronger case.


    The student realizes there are multiplicative properties at work and may attempt to apply their understanding of the area of a rectangle to the volume of a cylinder. The student has taken the circle into account.


    The student devises a strategy to estimate the area of the circle but also sees its area in another relationship with the height of the pool.


    The student makes use of formulas and demonstrates evidence of their understanding.


    The student may or may not use formulas to estimate the volume of the pool, but sees the cylinder in relation to other geometric shapes like a cone or sphere. The student uses those relationships to estimate the volume of the cylinder.

  • Penny Johansson

    June 30, 2021 at 2:04 pm

    Grade 3: addition with re-grouping (ex. 74+19)

    Unconsciously Incompetent:

    -Count up (19, 20, 21…) or count backwards (74, 73, 72…) with manipulatives

    Consciously Incompetent:

    – Line up the problem and start with the tens place and then move to the ones (might get the answer 74+ 19 = 815)

    Consciously Competent:

    -attempt the proper path to follow in the addition steps, but need to break it down (70 + 10 = 80 and 4+9 = 15 to 80+15=95)

    Unconsciously Competent:

    They are able to do it without consciously going over each step.

    Consciously Masterful:

    They will understand each step and why we move from the ones place to the tens place to the hundreds place and so on, and how to properly re-group.

  • Andrea Cadman

    July 2, 2021 at 3:08 pm

    The problem I used was one-half = x over eight.

    I was not sure about the first two stages and may have flipped them??

    Unconsciously Incompetent: use manipulatives to show or draw out 1/2 repeatedly until you get 8 as your denominator to find x.

    Consciously Incompetent: add 1/2 + 1/2 + 1/2 + 1/2 to get 4/8, or just ‘know’ that 1/2 and 4/8 are equivalent. Many students know facts like this but don’t know why it is true.

    Consciously Competent: Finding the relationship or scale factor between the denominators and applying what they come up with to the numerators.

    Unconsciously Competent: use cross-products to solve for x.

    Consciously Masterful: able to show different representations of 1/2 = 4/8 as well as explain when it might be more efficient to use one solution path over another one.

    I am curious to hear if you feel I am on the right track with this because I am unsure.

  • Lori Plate

    July 2, 2021 at 3:11 pm

    This assignment is for my grade-level courses for 8th grade math.

  • Marjorie Allred

    July 3, 2021 at 6:54 pm

    I have been doing the “Spin to Win” task for summer school to teach probability. Students predict what will happen when two spinners are used, one half and half red and blue, and the other one 1/3 red and 2/3 blue. If both spinners are the same color, you put that color cube on the board, if the spinners show different colors, you put a black cube on the board. I would expect that the students who are unconsciously incompetent would say that they don’t have any idea what to do. They might then recognize that they needed to find the probability of each of the color cubes being needed.

    As students become competent, the might make a table of the possible combinations with from the two spinners. A student who is reaching mastery might reason that there is a 50% chance of getting black because no matter what is spun on spinner divided into thirds, there is a 50% chance that the other spinner would land on the opposite color. The chance of red would be 1/2 of 1/3 and the chance of blue would be 1/2 of 2/3.

  • Peter Gehbauer

    July 4, 2021 at 1:08 pm

    Problems arise when students unconsciously and competently apply mal-rules to their work (e.g., operations with negative numbers, exponents or order of operations; multiplying squared binomials, etc.) Time is often needed to unlearn these broken practices then replace them with correct ones.

    What suggestions do you have when an “I know this already” student needs first to unlearn then learn?

    • Jon Orr

      July 6, 2021 at 7:06 am

      Great wonder here @peter.gehbauer We often ask our students to show us why your method works. Often times they can’t and we discuss the importance of knowing why we do what we do. We also ask students to showcase learning in multiple ways as a regular part of class. So, if it’s a norm that they have to demonstrate learning in multiple ways then the “memorized way” is just one.

  • Terri Bond

    July 9, 2021 at 12:54 pm

    The concept I am using to think through the Stages of Expertise is using the subtraction with regrouping standard algorithm. I’ve been saying for 20+ years that this is the very hardest concept for elementary students to master! After being made conscious of these stages, I can definitely pinpoint behaviors I have seen at each stage. Although I can’t teach it right now because it is summer, I will use what I have seen in fourth grade over the years.

    Unconsciously Incompetent – In this stage students will usually make mistakes as to which number is the minuend and which is the subtrahend. They don’t understand that the lesser number is being “taken away” from the larger number. This student may not even know that the difference they end up with must be smaller than the starting number. Sometimes this student may try to draw the number of items to take away from, even if it is in the hundreds. It’s a strategy that works with a small number of items, but if there are hundreds it isn’t efficient. This student is unconscious of the possibility of using place values to subtract.

    Consciously Incompetent – In this stage students will attempt to use place value to aid in subtraction. However, they know that they are confused as to when to “rename” and will make mistakes within each place value. They often use a move that I call “flipping the digits” which means that if there is an 2 in the tens place in the minuend, and an 8 in the tens place in the subtrahend, they think, “I know I can’t do 2-8, so I’ll do 8-2.” They know it isn’t the correct thing to do, but aren’t sure whether to rename or not. Sometimes they will rename correctly, and other times they won’t, maybe even within the same problem.

    Consciously Competent – In this stage students have realized when to rename, and when not to. They are even adept when two or more place values have to be renamed. They realize that the difference must be lesser than the minuend, and they will often voluntarily check their work with addition.

    Unconsciously Competent – In this stage students fluently subtract in as many place values as necessary, and are not even thrown off when there are the dreaded zeroes in the minuend. they can line up place values correctly, even if the numbers to be subtracted have different numbers of decimal places. They spot check themselves by checking “harder” problems with addition to make sure they are on the right track. And if the sum does not match the minuend, they can find their mistakes.

    Consciously Masterful – In this stage students can use either front end subtraction or the traditional algorithm. They can quickly get an estimated difference before they even start and state why or why not their answer is reasonable. They can also subtract multi-digit numbers mentally.

  • Lisamarie Barnes

    July 10, 2021 at 2:35 pm

    I find this lesson to be rather challenging due to my inexperience. So I have decided to reflect on a first grade lesson I did during my student teaching. The lesson focused on way to compose 10 by finding relationships between digits 0-9.

  • Carrie Winland

    July 12, 2021 at 1:31 pm

    Algebra 1 – We always begin the year reviewing 8th grade concepts starting with solving multi-step equations.

    3(2x – 7) = 9

    Unconsciously Incompetent – “Guess and check method for coming up with numbers that can be plugged in for x to find the answer.” Start with a positive whole number and see if it gets us close to =9 and adjust.

    Consciously Incompetent – “More skilled at the guess and check. They may decide to distribute the 3 through to make guess and check more simple.” 6x – 21 = 9

    Consciously Competent – “These students can undo steps and work backwards to solve for x.” Add 21, Divide by 6.

    Unconsciously Competent – “These students may begin by dividing by 3 to simplify the problem or they can undo the steps in their head.” When I ask them how they solve, they usually say they did it in their head. After some probing, I can usually get these students to tell me they worked backwards.

  • Karen Kiefer

    July 12, 2021 at 10:45 pm

    Topic: Linear Patterning

    1. Unconsciously Incompetent

    Thinking: I will count the blocks in the pattern

    Response: I counted the blocks in each figure of the pattern and noticed they increase by 5

    2. Consciously Incompetent

    Thinking: I know there must be an easier way to see the pattern than drawing out each figure

    Response: I counted and noticed each figure goes up by 5

    3. Consciously Competent

    Thinking: I can put the figures in a table to show the pattern

    Response: I still see each figure increasing by 5 each figure number

    4. Unconsciously Competent

    Thinking: each figure increases by 5

    Response: figure number plus 5 gives number of squares

    5. Consciously Masterful

    Thinking: I can find the number of any figure in the pattern by adding 5 to figure number

    Response: I can write a formula (equation) to obtain the number of blocks in pattern using y – number of blocks and x – figure number and the formula is: y = x + 5

    **I was also thinking they would be able to go to a graph either before or after this equation step.

  • Jennifer Maher

    July 13, 2021 at 12:59 pm

    Elapsed Time with Grade 3: Solve elapsed time problems using seconds, minutes, and hours

    1 Unconsciously Incompetent – Students might still be struggling with identifying the hands on an analog clock, the idea of intervals of 5 that stop at 60

    2. Consciously Incompetent – they might be able to tell elapsed time within the same hour, but struggle with times that pass the hour mark. Or they might try moving to abstract ways of solving elapsed time using the skills they already know that are based on place value, only to find that the 60 minutes in an hour throw of their usual methods of addition and subtraction

    3. Consciously Competent – they can solve elapsed time problems using a variety of tools, like a t-chart or time represented on a number line, or even fraction pieces. They might struggle with different types of elapsed time problems – start and stop times are known, or end time is known and students have to find the start time based on a given elapsed time

    4 Unconsciously Competent – different variations of problems with elapsed time no longer through student off, they just grab the most appropriate modeling tool for the problem

    5 Consciously Masterful – can use elapsed time across a variety of situations, including estimating whether or not a person has enough time to accomplish a set number of tasks, predicting when a person needs to start getting ready to leave the house based on a set departure time, and how to time different components of a meal so that that the entire meal is ready at the same time.

  • Mary Herbst

    July 15, 2021 at 3:21 pm

    I worked on powers/exponents. One thing I struggled thinking about was how the unconsciously competent would think.

  • Tracy Arriola

    July 15, 2021 at 4:12 pm

    I really liked to process of thinking through the Stages of Expertise.

  • Linda Andres

    July 16, 2021 at 6:10 pm

    Sharing ideas with other adults is always harder for me than teaching children. This is what I came up with for this. I am staying with concepts of patterning which will be what I will be teaching for much of the first month of school. Patterning in objects, shapes, numbers, etc is so important in learning math concepts and using math in real-life situations. This builds on this concept by sorting and describing shapes.

  • Betsy Lesley

    July 19, 2021 at 10:08 am

    Macaroni day is a big deal in 6th grade. I model an upside down (frowny) macaroni =-1 and a smiley macaroni =+1 and together they create a circle =0. From there students make several zero pairs with various integers. Then, on their own, (without prompting) students begin to add non-zero pairs, discovering that the solution is the “left over/orphan macaroni”.

  • Denise Grightmire

    July 19, 2021 at 11:58 am

    Using a CEMC problem change adds up: https://www.cemc.uwaterloo.ca/resources/potw/2018-19/French/POTWC-18-NN-PA-06-S.pdf

    Students are required to count the coins in the piggy bank that add up to $10

    Stage 1: students start counting, recognize there is 11 less dimes than nickels, unsure where to go – concrete

    Stage 2: knows there is a relationship with number of dimes and nickels and the total value, but is still unsure – possibly thinking creating a visual (diagram)

    Stage 3: Recognizes the importance of using a variable to create a relationship with the dimes and nickels and can solve algebraically – (algebra)

    Stage 4: student can apply concepts to a larger number of coins, by using the relationship concept

    Stage 5: Leads to independent and dependent variables; integers for coins, decimals for value

  • Betsy Murphy

    July 20, 2021 at 8:50 pm

    I’m planning to start the new year with proportions, so before proportions it is important to see what students remember about fractions and then build on the prior knowledge and/or fill in the gaps by reteaching/catching students up:

    UI: Cannot convert a fraction to a decimal to a percent, does not understand connections

    CI: Can apply fraction knowledge to create equivalent fractions by adding or subtracting to N & D

    CC: Can use equivalent fractions to add and subtract fractions

    UC: Can multiply numerators and denominators to find the product of 2 fractions

    CM: Can use a variety of fraction skills/knowledge to calculate a BEDMAS fraction equation

  • Denny Nelson

    July 21, 2021 at 3:58 pm

    My curriculum is often pretty good in this regard. When dealing with congruence students don’t start using the actual math terms but rather discuss “what is the same and different” about various figures or shapes. Later the correct terms are used.

    So in the congruence example:

    Stage 1 = “I think these are the same and I don’t know quite why.”

    Stage 2 = “I’m not sure how much has to be the same like do all the sides have to be the same? What if one is just a bigger copy of the other? Is that the same or not?”

    Stage 3 = “I know I can multiply the sides of this first one all by the same thing and I get the sides of the second figure.”

    Stage 4 = “I can draw models and explain different ways to show that two figures are the same.”

    I’m not accounting for all aspects of congruence but I think I’m at least close to where students would be on the 4 stages of “Mastery” or “Expertise” depending on which term is prefered.

  • Mary Jackson

    July 23, 2021 at 5:04 pm

    The concept I decided to focus on for this assignment is the first concept I will teach this coming school year: Movement of Rigid Transformations on the Coordinate Plane (Focus – Translation)

    The Lesson Goal is “understand and perform a translation and give the coordinates of the new figure

    Specifically- Describe the effect of translation using coordinates (8.G.3)..

    The Learning Progressions towards this Goal:

    Be able to plot points on the coordinate plane

    Understand what a Translation looks like

    Translate Rigid objects in both directions (x and y)

    Identify the resulting points on the coordinate plane

    Traditionally I have had students first practice plotting points on the coordinate plane and then given students notes on the definition of translation and on how to move rigid objects in both the x and y directions. Finally students take notes on how to write translations algebraically.

    What I would like to use is the concept of rearranging furniture and moving objects from one room to another using the layout of a home on the coordinate plane. Students will work on Vertical white boards that have grids and a task cards with the before room and the after room. Together they will determine how to give directions to the “Movers that are coming to move the object in the house” . Students will be challenged to describe the directions verbally and algebraically.

    Unconsciously Incompetent – I can read a grid

    When rearranging a home you must have movers move heavy objects from one place to another. You will not be present when the movers come so you must be very specific with your directions. Coordinate Grids can help you map out directions and locations before moving and after moving.

    Consciously In Competent

    I can locate an object on a grid given ordered pairs

    Consciously Competent

    I can move an object from one place to another on a coordinate grid given where I would like for it to go

    Unconsciously Competent

    Know that when you move an object up that is in the positive direction and when you move it down that is in the negative direction

    Know that when you move an object left that is in the negative direction and when you move an object to the right that is in the positive direction

    Consciously Masterful

    Being able to write the movement of an object as a algebraic expression using( x +/- number of steps, y +/- number of steps)

  • Andrea Earle

    July 23, 2021 at 8:04 pm

    @lisamarie.barnes and @linda.andres Thank you for your time and effort to post on the Stages of Expertise. I almost skipped the call to action and clicked “mark complete” because it hurt my brain to apply this lesson to grade 2. After reading your work, I have a greater understanding of how the stages of expertise might look in the early years. I’m a little less unconsciously incompetent now. I will be keeping an eye out for your posts in future lessons since you both help me so much, both in this lesson and previous ones. Kind regards, Andrea

  • Holly Dybvig

    July 24, 2021 at 3:06 am

    I spoke with my Principal this summer about grading by our standards rather than by each assignment. I found interest in this after this past year when I had multiple students removed from the advanced math class to my on-level math class. Upon getting to know them and seeing their abilities in each topic I began questioning why they were removed from the advanced class and some of them answered that they either forgot to turn in assignments or were just overwhelmed by the amount of work they had. After completing this model I felt that I had the answer to how I would want to grade by our standards rather than their assignments. This way students can complete as much or as little of an assignment as necessary to show their level of expertise. I can utilize more engaging platforms such as flipgrid to let students tell me what they know rather than blindly accept their completed assignments that may not be their work. This will no longer be about if an answer is right or wrong, this is now about HOW they demonstrated their solution.

    So I turned this chart into a type of rubric that can be updated for each standard with detailed descriptions of what to look for based on the basic description of the expertise. I did give credit to makemathmoments.com and jonbergmann.com/the-five-stages-of-mastery-learning/

    Please let me know if this is unacceptable and I will remove all stage titles and quotations. Thank you!


    Concept: solve one-variable, one-step equations.

    1. Student repeatedly substitutes various numbers in for the variable haphazardly on scratch paper until they find an answer that matches the expression on the other side of the equal sign.

    2. Student expresses knowledge of steps to solving an equation but can’t remember how to use the steps and continues to repeatedly substitute various numbers in for the variable haphazardly on scratch paper until they find an answer that matches the expression on the other side of the equal sign.

    3. Student starts to solve the equation as instructed with steps but occasionally must revert to some guess work or drawing diagrams to help find the solution.

    4. Student follows all steps from the notes on solving the equation for the variable; they may have some scratch work, but all steps are in order and in the correct place.

    5. Student is able to follow all steps from the notes in addition to coming up with their own ideas of how/why one would solve a two-step equation, or may be able to create their own real-world situation to explain the equation.

    • Jon Orr

      July 25, 2021 at 7:28 am

      Thanks for sharing Holly! I’m digging this.

  • Linda Andres

    July 24, 2021 at 3:23 pm

    @Andrea Earle, Thank you for your comment. It gives me an incentive to keep going. I, too, struggle with moving this information to the early years, but I think it is still helpful. Could you note my name on your future contributions so I can follow you as well?

    • Andrea Earle

      July 24, 2021 at 9:38 pm

      @linda.andres You are lovely. My email is andrea.earle@nbed.nb.ca should you wish to contact me. I’m a grade 2 teacher in New Brunswick, Canada but many of students come to me struggling to grasp “kindergarten” and “grade one” math outcomes/concepts. It is my sincerest hope that I will become competent enough to use what I am learning so I can support their conceptual understanding and accelerate them along the stages of expertise. Perhaps we could encourage each other along this journey. 🙂 @lisamarie.barnes If you should wish to contact me, please know you are welcome, also.

      • Jon Orr

        July 25, 2021 at 7:33 am

        I’m loving this collab that is happening here!

      • Linda Andres

        July 25, 2021 at 1:19 pm

        Thank you for opening the door.

  • Jill Miles

    July 24, 2021 at 4:13 pm

    Not in class right now but using multi-digit subtraction of decimals: 54.3 – 1.28

    UI: Students would simply stack the numbers on top of each other without the understanding to line up the decimals. Why would they? They don’t know they are to do so. They would just subtract a number from another number without borrowing or anything. Here, a student might get 425.

    CI: Here, the student would probably express needing to do something with the decimals but not sure exactly what. They would also know that you can’t take 8 away from 3 but wouldn’t know exactly how to do this process.

    CC: Here, the student would know to line up the decimals and to add a 0 after the 3 in order to have the same amount of digits. They would also know to borrow when subtracting .08 from 0 but probably couldn’t explain why that works.

    UC: Students would be able to correctly line up decimals, correctly borrow, etc., and could solve the problem correctly.

    CM: Here, students could correctly set up and solve the problem, and could also provide additional strategies of solving and explaining the problem.

    Hopefully this is on the right track. I look forward to seeing this in action this coming school year!

  • Velia Kearns

    July 29, 2021 at 1:32 pm

    Concept: Graphing a Quadratic Equation in Vertex Form
    (simple example) y=(x+1)² + 2; vertex (-1,2)
    Side Note for Readers: Table of Values (TOV); Axis of Symmetry (AOS)

    UI: Possible Student Thinking: “I’ll use a TOV”
    UI: Student Response: “Use a TOV with x range 0 to 6 to find y-values”
    UI: Strategy: Create a Graph with TOV default x range of 7 numbers
    UI: **Note: Identify and work through TOV calculation of y-values or identification

    CI: Possible Student thinking: “This doesn’t look like a Quadratic Graph!”
    CI: Student Response: “Miss, should I different x-values because the vertex has a negative x-value?”
    CI: Strategy: 0 to 6 are not mandated x-value starts for a TOV.

    CC: Possible Student Thinking: “What numbers should I use?”
    CC: Student Response: “The vertex must have something to do with this”
    CC: Strategy: Centralize the 7 points used in your TOV with your vertex
    [Example: vertex (-1,2) so x-range -4, -3, -2, -1, 0, 1, 2 would be better]
    CC: **Note: Work through troubles identifying the vertex before doing a TOV and understanding the number line so TOV is from small to big.

    UC: Possible Student Thinking: “The numbers on the left of the vertex are the same as the right side of the vertex! Can’t I use that as a short-cut?”
    UC: Student Response: “In my TOV, I’ll just do the numbers on the right side”
    [Example: vertex (-1,2) so x-range 0, 1, 2 could be enough]
    UC: Strategy: Quadratic equations have an AOS so you can Mirror Points

    CM: Possible Student Thinking: “I see a vertex in this Quadratic Situation!” [any quadratic situation (equation or otherwise) when a Graph might be used]
    CM: Student Response: “AOS works as a short-cut! It’ll save time with TOV!”
    CM: Strategy: Knowledge and Understanding of AOS and Mirroring of Points

  • Joanne Duval

    July 30, 2021 at 3:34 pm

    As a special education math teacher, I would say many of my students get left behind somewhere between conscience incompetent (2) and unconsciously competent (4) on most skills…they are usually still struggling when the class moves on….

  • Jeff Harvey

    August 12, 2021 at 12:58 pm

    In this Grade 6 Math problem, students are constructing “palaces” out of pattern blocks. Each different type of pattern block has a different type of value (10, 100, 1000 and 10 000). To complete this problem students need to understand place value addition upto 100 000, unitizing, part-whole relationships with fractions and be good with estimation strategies.

    (0,0) Unconsciously, Incompetent –> Student applies one of the constraints (palace size or value) but does not understand how to connect both constraints together.

    (0,1) Consciously, Incompetent –> Student will be aware that to get the correct size of the more advanced 4th palace they have to do something because the current palace size is not easily divisible by 3. So aware there is an issue, but not sure how to go about it. (i.e. not aware they need to express the area in terms of parallelograms or triangles)

    <b style=”font-family: inherit; font-size: inherit; color: inherit;”>

    <b style=”font-family: inherit; font-size: inherit; color: inherit;”>(1,1) Consciously, Competent –> Student can determine the size of the 4th palace and can exchange pattern blocks to get within the appropriate place value range. They can also express their thinking by explaining the trades made and the place value concepts to get the total.

    (1,0) Unconsciously, Competent –> Student starts to think even more abstractly and develops sets of all possible solutions for each palace, or creates constraints for another student to try with a trick in it that requires a deep understanding of all the concepts from this task.

  • Vanessa Weske

    August 12, 2021 at 2:17 pm

    This next week, one of my teachers will be teaching 3.OA.1, Basic Multiplication. Unconsciously Incompetent: Student might be able to count one-by-one the total number of objects. Consciously Incompetent: Student might notice that classmates are finishing the same problems faster and wondering what they are doing. Consciously Competent: Student may begin to use grouping strategies. Unconsciously Competent: Student is grouping items together and is writing expressions. Consciously Masterful: Student is grouping, writing expressions and reworking expressions using multiplication properties.

  • Valentina Mejia

    August 17, 2021 at 10:10 pm

    Next year I will be doing geometry with my students. I think the possible stages will be:

    1. Student can identify parallel lines but can’t draw them or explain why they are parallel/perpendicular

    2. Student is able to draw the parallel/perpendicular lines with ruler but can’t use their compass.

    3. Student can somewhat use a compass to draw the lines and can somewhat explain why they are categorized as they are.

    4. Can use a ruler and compass to draw both lines and can explain their defining features

    • Kyle Pearce

      August 18, 2021 at 7:21 am

      Nice! Thanks for sharing!
      I wonder what the student thinking might be during these stages. For example, conscious vs unconscious?

      • Valentina Mejia

        August 18, 2021 at 3:24 pm

        Wouldn’t unconscious be them knowing the different lines but not understanding the why/reasoning? Therefore conscious being able to explain and defend the differences through mathematical terminology?

  • Serina Signorello

    August 20, 2021 at 2:50 pm

    Concept: Graphing Systems of Equations

    Unconsciously Incompetent: “I can see there are two equations but I don’t know what to do with the graph or what that has to do with a solution.”

    Consciously Incompetent: “I already know how to graph the lines, I see that the lines sometimes cross, but I don’t know what you mean by a solution.”

    Consciously Competent:“When given an equation in slope-intercept form, I can graph the lines, and find the point of intersection.”

    Unconsciously Incompetent: “I know how to graph the lines, and find where they cross.”

    Consciously Masterful: “I can graph the lines and I know that the point of intersection represents a value that makes both equations true.”

  • Peggy Allen

    August 26, 2021 at 6:03 pm

    This is a problem that I will use with grade 7 students. There is not likely to be much difference between the first two stages…I do not believe the student will be able to complete the problem correctly symbolically; however, if algebraic tiles or a diagram is used to represent the problem, I think the student might be able to answer correctly by counting up from the 8 unit tiles to 24 then noting how many unit tiles equal a variable tile.

    It is important to acknowledge the stages of expertise and to understand what is missing at each level, but I don’t imagine that this would be an easy task to do every time.

  • Rachael Young

    September 17, 2021 at 6:17 am

    Connection between fractions, decimals and percentages.

    “I don’t know what these things are, or I might have heard of them and can give some examples of them but I didn’t know that they were connected”.

    “I know that some fractions and percentages are connected to each other (eg the most common ones: ½ = 50% etc), I know that there are some connections between fractions and decimals (eg the most common ones), but I didn’t know that all fractions have a related decimal and %, and I don’t know how to convert between them”

    “I understand that fractions, decimals and percentages are different ways of representing the same amount of ‘stuff’. I can explore physical representations of these. I can apply the formulae successfully and get the right answers”

    “My understanding is solid and I can apply the formulae successfully and quickly and often mentally to get the right answers”

  • Jackilyn Wolford

    April 1, 2020 at 10:59 am

    Don’t know if you meant this to be funny, but I got a great laugh from it – because it’s crazy true these days!

  • Andrea Benson

    April 14, 2020 at 7:46 pm

    Juile, I was thinking about using this idea as well. I started with finding areas of squares and then from the area findin the side length. At stage 1 students were “confused and complacent” on the fact that while we could’t find an even side length for an area of 27 tha the calculator could. In step 2, student were breaking up the area of 200 into squares of sizes 10×10… from there we took this idea and applied it to other areas such as 27. We then discussed simplest radical form in steps 3 and 4. I believe step 5 is perhaps connecting to adding subtracting and muliplying radicals… but Imnot quite sure yet on how to first make it visual and then abstract… I think it would be like adding tiles of different sized squares? Thoughts?

  • Kyle Pearce

    April 14, 2020 at 9:08 pm

    @claudia-sever love how you’ve broken this concept down into the different stages to really get a sense as to how students might progress through learning this concept.

    Now the fun part… how did the lesson go and would you change anything now that you’ve put your planning into practice?

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