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Shorter Math Block
Posted by Robin Bott on January 26, 2020 at 6:13 pmI am a 6th grade teacher and currently have 3 sections of math, each about 50 minutes long (except on days when the announcements run long). Do you have any suggestions for how to fit all the good math thinking into a 50 minute block? Is there time for a mind’s on/warmup, a full task (including consolidation), and an exit ticket? Is it a good idea to split a task over 2 days so we can spend time going deep into the thinking or should I try to pick shorter (less meaty) tasks? Do I skip the warm up? Rotten decisions to have to make.
Nicholas Rhodes replied 2 years, 9 months ago 6 Members · 7 Replies 
7 Replies

I will be interested in hearing what others have to say around this topic. The 5th grade teacher I work with also has approx. 50 minutes on paper to teach math. Time is precious especially since we have 90 minutes in 35. She is struggling to fit in all of the components of the series she is teaching from never mind finding time to add other pieces.

I teach grade 8’s and I have about 50 minutes for math.
We have time for 3 act math activity, then about 2030 minutes for working on practice questions. The issue for me is including time to take up homework questions on top of that.

Hi @robinbott
This is such a great question as it is a challenge for so many. In a perfect world, I think am a math block is 100 minutes. I come from the secondary side of things where our classes were 75 minutes.
Ironically, during my first 8 or so years teaching, 75 minutes felt like an eternity because all we were doing was memorizing steps and procedures. Now, I constantly find myself pressed for time when I am teaching a lesson in a high school classroom as I have gained comfort with the 100 minutes we have in most of our elementary math classes.
If I had a 50 minute block each day, I think I would treat the “ideal math block” as two parts. This means that math talks might not happen every day, but maybe only twice a week.
As for the tasks, my perspective has shifted significantly from the belief that a curious task needs to be “completed” within one class. Now, I see that stretching those contextual situations for multiple days is a HUGE asset. So stretching a task over two days is not a bad thing at all.
I’d encourage you to check out the “Hot Chocolate Unit” we now have up in the Curiosity Task Tool area to see what I mean by stretching a context.
Let me know your thoughts!

I feel your pain as I only have 45 minutes teaching my Math Intervention class. I have to make time for the Math 180 curriculum/workbook, Online component, and then anytime to allow students to ask for assistance with outside academic Math class help.
I also do not have my own classroom and feel like I use the first 58 minutes setting up my cart/computer before I can start. I cannot enter the room until the previous class ends and the students have left the room. It is amazing how much time it takes for middle school students to leave a room. LOL
I have learned to make my students “think” about what we are doing each day, how can they help us get started while I am setting up my computer with the screen. What are they doing that is helping and what should they be doing if they aren’t.
I also encourage them by thanking them for helping me when we actually start earlier because it was a good day overall with set up.
Thinking about my classroom time, it is difficult to spend 5 minutes on an intro problem followed by transition 1/2 the group for a lesson with me and the other 1/2 on their computers using the online program, then transition again by switching places 1/2 with me and 1/2 on computer, followed by end of class review, clean up, dismissal.
I really need a good solid 20 minutes of computer time for my students to make a difference filling in gaps. I can help them while I teach a lesson but I need time to investigate/talk with my students getting a lesson. If my group gets involved in a cool discussion, I don’t want to stop. This drags out and I wasn’t able to switch/transition.
I am interested in hearing ideas from others with a short classtime. I am also interested in hearing from those who also live in their cart and are limited with timeframe because they have no classroom of their own.

Hi @kyle,
I was looking at the Hot Chocolate Unit last week, since we are starting our exploration of ratios and proportions this week! I am going to give it a try starting Monday. I will let you know how the timing goes for us. I am thinking Days 1 and 2 might take us 3 days total because we are working in 50 minute blocks. This will be fun to explore.

Hi @robinbott,
That’s awesome to hear! If you are up for it, consider posting your reflections at the bottom of each “day” of the task.
There is a discussion area for each day at the bottom of each “day”… also note that you can upload images of student work!
Super excited to see how things go for you!
Going to tag @yvette as I think she’ll be super curious to see how things go. We put our brains together to come up with that unit in its current form.


Hi Robin,
I hope I can help you here! I also have 50 minute class periods. I know that time is a factor when you are required to teach all of the standards in your course, however I have found that you can actually save time if you can find tasks that address multiple learning goals. I teach Algebra 1 and have used the following task (shown below) to explore two learning goals. Don’t feel that you have to find a task for every standard or learning goal. I usually spend about a week on a 3 act math task to leave time for a “sequel” task, which usually opens the door to either another learning goal. I would be more than happy to help any way I can. ðŸ™‚
Basketball Shots (https://www.101qs.com/1421basketballshots)
Learning Goal #1: Solve a System by Graphing
Learning Goal #2: Solving a System by Elimination