Exponents and Scientific Notation in a Building Thinking Classroom

My school uses the Open Up Resources 6-8th grade math curriculum by Illustrative Mathematics. I’m in the process of adapting Grade 8 Unit 7 to the “Building Thinking Classrooms” style.Mostly, this just requires re-formatting the questions. A few notes on how I’m implementing it:

Cover of Building Thinking Classrooms by Peter Liljedahl
Find it on amazon: https://amzn.to/3YAVBVC
  1. Warm Up: I chose to keep my Warm Up structure. The Warm Up is projected on the board when kids come in. They sit in their assigned seats and chat about it with their classmates. We do a quick share out, making sure to hit on the key points suggested by the curriculum. (~5 minutes)
  2. Launch: If needed, I launch the first activity, following the directions in the curriculum. (~2 minutes)
  3. Visibly Random Groups: I sort kids into groups of three using flippity and assign their spots around the room. (I’ve bookmarked each class and just shuffle three times in front of the kids.) ( ~2 minutes)
  4. White board Work: Each group works at their own pace, raising their hands when they are ready for the next level. I pass out the main activities first, followed by the “Are you ready for more?” problems. I also have a set of “visual patterns” on offer for groups that need more to work on; some of these are exponential, but not all. (~25-30 minutes)
  5. Synthesis: Kids share out their work which I have pre-selected based on the learning goals. We review the learning goals and synthesize the big ideas. (~8 min)
  6. Notes + Cool Down: Kids go back to their seats and take time to write notes to their “future forgetful self” and do the cool down. (~8 min)

The adapted materials: (A growing list. More soon!)

Notes to your Future Forgetful Self: (My 8th graders needed a lil’ structure to push them towards writing better notes.)

Extra visual pattern handouts for early finishers sourced from https://www.visualpatterns.org/.

Lesson 1: Exponent Review

Lesson 2: Multiplying Powers of Ten

Lesson 3: Powers of Powers of 10

Check Your Understanding Packet #1: For Lessons 1-3 using the practice problems.

Quick Note:

If you are new to Building Thinking Classrooms, here is a short summary about it: https://buildingthinkingclassrooms.com/14-practices/

But I highly recommend reading the book! It is one of the best education books I’ve ever read and it made me feel so excited about teaching again.


  1. Have you tried verbally sharing the launch while having students standing? I am in the middle of reading Building Thinking Classrooms and am looking at how to start with Unit 1 in the fall. Do you tell your students when to move on to the next activity? Do they not erase each problem until they share out? Thanks for your help.

    • Hi! No – I haven’t tried launching with kids standing….mostly because the curriculum is so visual and it’s hard for everyone to see when they are standing. In fact, because Units 1 and 2 are so visual, I didn’t do much standing white board work until Unit 3. Even then, I typically had kids do one activity at their desks and one up at the boards with a random group. It wasn’t until this unit that I did all activities up on the boards – these lessons are “thin-sliced” so nicely. I think the tip in BTC is to box the solutions that you want kids to save for the share out so then they can erase the rest if you need more space.

Always happy to hear from readers!