I gobbled up Peter Liljedahl’s “Building Thinking Classrooms in Mathematics” over winter break. My school is still online due to Covid, so I decided to try to implement some of his ideas during my Zoom lessons. It’s NOT EVEN CLOSE to being as good as it will be in person, but the kids enjoyed the structure and learned a lot!

A bit of context: My students are already pretty good thinkers; I looped with them from 6th grade and we’ve been using the Open Up Resources/Illustrative Mathematics curriculum – a problem-based curriculum that asks students to think deeply every lesson. Because of this, I felt comfortable jumping right into using curricular thinking tasks.

The lesson’s goal was, loosely, to get kids thinking about adding signed numbers.

Here is what I came up with! I’d love feedback from anyone – especially those of you who are more familiar with Thinking Classrooms in Mathematics. All of the materials are linked at the bottom of the post in case you want to try it out too.

The launch: Since we are online and internet can be spotty, I chose to type the launch questions for clarity. Kids can’t always hear me well on zoom. (Liljedahl found it’s best for teachers to talk about the opening question without writing the text on the board.)

I designed a sequence of tasks using problems from Open Up Resources 7th grade curriculum and Don Steward’s brilliant site. (Check out both sites if you’re not familiar!) Everyone started with 1A and then skipped ahead to 2A unless they needed more practice at the same level. Here it is:

Student Work:

The class worked on these in groups of 3 on one massive Google slide deck. I popped in and out of breakout rooms while scanning their work, giving feedback (usually by typing on the slides), and giving them the next sequence when they were ready.

Here is the template that students worked in. I just had to make a separate copy for each class and then copy in the problems they needed from the problem set when they were ready.

Synthesis: When students returned from their breakout rooms, we did a quick notice and wonder and then closed out with my favorite Zoom synthesis: a Slow Chat. I simply ask students to think about the question, type in their answer, but WAIT until I say “go” to send it in. They all send in their answers at once and, I call on one or two people to explain.

That’s it! Kids figured out a lot and we continued with more the next day!

Materials:

Here are my launch slides.

Here is the problem set in google slides.

Here is the slide deck for the student work in breakout rooms.