Monday, September 26, 2016

SMP Scavenger Hunt

    Find evidence of each Standard for Mathematical Practice.  In one week, with at least one example from every grade level.  No cheating by looking at the teacher's manual.  On your mark, get set, GO!

SMP 1- Make sense of problems and persevere in solving them
Grade 2, Friday, September 16

Even after his teacher told the class to put their journals away, this student continued to work on a self-created broken calculator  problem.  I was impressed with the way he challenged himself, his determination, and the willpower he showed not to use the broken key.

SMP 2- Reason abstractly and quantitatively
Grade 4, Thursday, September 15

The fourth graders were presented with the above problem.  Because they were in the middle of a unit on estimation and rounding, all students obediently rounded each of the numbers to the nearest hundred.  They added 500 + 200 + 300, got 1,000, and answered yes.
  All, that is, except for this student:

As he later explained, there was no need to round the numbers to the nearest hundred.  He front-ended them, added 400 + 200 + 300, got 900, saw the 63 left from 463, and immediately knew they would have more than 950.  Done.  He was also able to calculate mentally how far past 950 they would be, without even being asked by the teacher. 

SMP 3- Construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others
Grade 1, Wednesday, September 21

Is there an easier way to incorporate this practice than Which One Doesn't Belong?  I've used this prompt countless times, and never once has a student explained that the basketball didn't belong because, "It's the only one that bounces.  If you try to bounce the other ones they'll get smushed."  Gotta love those first graders!

SMP 4- Model with mathematics
Grade 3, Tuesday, September 20

Multiplication and addition equations, pictures and number lines.  Same problem, many paths, many models:

SMP 5- Use appropriate tools strategically
Grade 5, Monday, September 19

Volume time again.  I described this project here.  Calculators and rulers are the tools of choice.

SMP 6- Attend to precision
Grade 5, Monday, September 19

Estimation on a number line.  Too low, too high, and just right.  Which student attended to precision?

SMP 7- Look for and make use of structure
Grade 3, Wednesday, September 14

This student is using the structure of the hundreds grid and what he knows about place value and patterns to help him fill in missing cells.

SMP 8- Look for and express regularity in repeated reasoning.
Grade 5, Wednesday, September 21

Deriving the formula for finding the volume of a rectangular prism.

Some reflections:
  • I'm fortunate to work in a position that gives me access to a wide range of grade levels.  The fact that I was not able to get into a kindergarten classroom doesn't mean that there isn't great math work and thinking happening there, because there is.  
  • I realized there were two practice standards I didn't fully comprehend.  My friend Graham Fletcher helped me with SMP 8, which he describes as "algebrafying."  The other was SMP 2, and I'm still not totally sure my example fits. 
  • I found many activities and tasks with overlapping standards.  For example, the volume project that I used to illustrate SMP 5 could also fit with SMPs 1, 3, 4, 6, and 8.
     Most days I find myself lost in the content standards: what they really mean, how they fit together and progress across grade levels, whether or not our curriculum really does align, how we can do a better job engaging kids and hitting them with meaning.  Pulling back for a week and viewing the math in my school through a practice standard lens was refreshing, and made me realize that I was missing the forest for the trees.  Lesson: don't miss the forest for the trees.


  1. Love this challenge Joe and the pics are spot on. The evidence you've captured is so much better than just talking about the SMPs. Thanks for helping us all build a better understanding.

  2. Thank you for helping me to better understand the practice standards. Especially 8! Now that I know what I'm looking for I see it everywhere.

  3. This is a fantastic idea that I'd love to incorporate into my work with teachers! Thanks for sharing!