“The Traditional Algorithm”

“The Traditional Algorithm”

I’m sitting here listening to Steve Leinwand state that everyone in the room wishes we could return to our districts and ban the traditional algorithm. In my case, he’s right. Because the truth is, there is no such thing as THE traditional algorithm. He is inspiring, energetic, and makes conceptual math teaching feel urgent. I’m ok with missing Dan Meyer and Tracy Zager because my lovely colleagues will share those sessions with me.

Here is my proof that he is right, there is not one single traditional algorithm.

In no order whatsoever:

Equal Addition & Subtraction

Subtracting into Negative Numbers

Jesus’ strategy aka Partial Sums & Subtrahends


Add up to Ten to Subtract

Number Lines (which aren’t an algorithm, but it goes along nicely)

Know of another algorithm!? Share it in the comments below…

Multiplying Decimals with Area Model Lesson

I recently participated in a 5th grade lesson on multiplying decimals. The team had wanted to inquire about dividing fractions and decided this was the prior learning students were lacking to build a solid foundation. So a team of 6 of us spent a day researching standards, discussing the learning sequence, then collaboratively planning the lesson. With an expectation that we would all team teach, one brave teacher offered to lead the lesson in her classroom. She did the bulk of the hard work and we jumped in when we saw an opportunity for the perfect question. I was lucky that our support provider – a woman with wisdom and experience beyond my comprehension – was with us for this lesson since I’m still developing my proficiency in intermediate content. She pushed my thinking and what resulted from this 6 hour planning session was a lesson that blew all of our minds. Continue reading

What’s In a Name

Who can ever remember which is the minuend and which is the subtrahend? Why couldn’t they be called something easy, like “addends,” where both have the same name!? So simple. It makes sense that they have different names since commutative property doesn’t apply to subtraction. The two numbers at play have different roles. Sure. I can be convinced of this. But still, why couldn’t we have agreed upon slightly less foreign terms? Terms that fit within my vernacular. I was curious about the etymology of these words, hoping upon hopes that knowing the background might help me remember which one is which. Here’s what I’ve found, hopefully it will help you, too… Continue reading

“Well, when I wrote it myself I thought about it more.”


The most recent blog by Exit 10A references Dan Meyers’ suggestion that we all “be less helpful.” Tracy Zager talks about her frustration with homework in a way that struck a chord with me. This is all related, I swear…

So often I meet with teachers. We cover topics such as formative assessment, standards-based lessons, academic discourse, high quality tasks. We read Hess’ Matrix, Dylan Wiliam, Jeff Zwiers, Smith & Stein, and so much more. We watch TED Talks and YouTube videos. Teachers get excited as we talk about inquiry lessons, incorporating engineering and science. We plan gorgeous lessons that are matched to students’ ZPD and challenge them in new ways finding inspiration from Marilyn Burns, Kathy Richardson, Van de Walle and so many like them. And then the ball drops… Continue reading

It’s not about Common Core…

After yet another Common Core diatribe on Facebook yesterday, I invited a friend to a conversation to discuss the new curriculum. I offered to send articles, if that would be helpful. The response I got back was, “Sure! I am not well read in that area so any articles that have been peer reviewed would be appreciated.” My first response was to be offended. Was he assuming I’d send him a blog full of propaganda? Am I viewed as yet another bandwagoner, here to spread the gospel of Common Core as if the debate were about Planned Parenthood and abortion or gay marriage? I came to the conclusion that he clearly doesn’t understand what I do for a living (to be honest, we’re not close enough friends that I couldn’t tell you what he does on a daily basis either, so… touche). And that his only experience with Common Core is in the world of propaganda. In other words, maybe it’s not all about me.

But then I reflected: Am I a Common Core bandwagoner? Well, some background information first… Continue reading