The Problem

I was trained to do math in a very classical fashion. Start by what you are certain that you know, and build from there. Pedagogically, this makes a certain amount of sense: once you can figure out where students are, you can build on it.

Using traditional textbooks to teach a math course, implies that you should start with a chapter that students understand well, and from there, go to a chapter that would (a) use what they've already learned, to (b) extend their understanding. In theory, this sounds like a good idea. In practice, there are nuances. With each new group of students (and with each new chapter), you need to figure out which students know what, and how to best get them where they need to be. And using a traditional textbook, it can be hard to figure this out.

I like planning long-term. I've used Nelson Math to create grade 8 long-range plans, and to create grade 7 long-range plans. I've used Jump Math for grade 8 long-range plans as well. And I've compared Nelson Math and Jump Math for grade 8 and for grade 7. There is something comforting about having a plan and knowing where you want to go next.

But every year, as the realities of teaching the students in my class have set it, I've either heavily modified or completely abandoned those plans. (Helmuth von Moltke might have something to say about that!)

Download for Word: 2016-01-25 Grade 8 Math Multi-Strand Long-Range Plans

Download as PDF: 2016-01-25 Grade 8 Math Multi-Strand Long-Range Plans

A Possible Solution

So, here's my next idea. I am certain it is at best an imperfect solution, but it's better than the other solutions I've tried so far. These plans are based on the EduGains' "Continuum & Connections" resources, which date from 2010. I've mirrored them here, in case that website goes down at any point.

The original documents are:

While I have only been working with this system for a few months, I have found a number of benefits:

  • It implicitly covers all of the grade 8 Ontario math curriculum (though I find I still need to refer to the curriculum regularly to make sure).
  • It allows for flexibility in what I teach next. For example, while focusing on fractions, I could cover algebraic expressions and experimental and theoretical probability as two different facets of the same idea, rather than as two different "chapters".
  • It allows me to evaluate all of my strands simultaneously. Hopefully, I'll never be stuck again trying to do just one more chapter so that I can have a mark for report cards.
  • It allows for more fluidity in my strategy walls. I don't have to throw out everything from the last chapter in order to make room for the new chapter.

The downside I have seen with this method is that some students perceive this approach as less structured. They miss the reassurance of knowing they are going to do chapter 10, starting with section 10.1 and going through section 10.8, and knowing that there will be a quiz at the halfway mark and a test at the end. And I have to say that I do miss that structure as well to a certain extent. But so far, I feel like the tradeoff is worth it.