I looked at my math calendar and I realized that I have to give my Unit 1/2 benchmark assessment on October 22nd. I am still in the middle of unit 1 and my kids still need to learn the standard algorithm for long division, dividing decimals, exponents, prime factorization and dividing fractions (with models first and then the standard algorithm...which could take forever). Plus most of my students have very little understanding of fractions...sooo I will have to spend time reviewing equivalent fractions, etc. We are also supposed to start our 3rd unit before this even if it isn't assessed. Is this normal? I feel like it will take forever for my kids to even learn just the standard algorithm for long division!! My mentor teaches inclusion and my classes are about two days ahead of hers which makes me feel a little better but still.

It is a district and school pacing guide. They said my decimals unit should take 12 days and it will probably take me until the beginning of October. I'm also losing time because we don't have a curriculum so I sometimes don't plan a lesson that works and I have to reteach, etc. My mentor said that she spends a ton of time on our first unit but my pacing seems in line with hers. The other 6th grade teacher teachers pre-AP and covers everything in a day because she has to teach a year and a half of curriculum.

Have you looked at the benchmark assessment? Are all of those topics definitely on there? And in equal proportion? I wouldn't be spending a lot of time on dividing decimals by hand if I could avoid it. I can't remember the last time I divided decimals by hand, and I've taught all the HS math courses from algebra 1 through calculus.

I am frustrated because I am not allowed to see the benchmark assessment until a few days before the test. Umm...how am I supposed to teach to help kids pass an assessment when I have no idea what is on it and I have no curriculum. I asked the math coach who is basically no help. I'm going to send her an email tomorrow with more specific questions (ex. is it multiple choice, are there story problems, is there an open response?) I agree that dividing decimals isn't the most useful skill...but it is the 6th grade standard! We also have to teach unit rate so they have to know it. I have about 5 kids in each of my classes who are failing. I'm not really sure what to do with them but if they don't get division, they'll struggle through the whole year. I obviously can't pull them or stop 29 kids because 5 need help.

If most students get it but 5 do not, you are right - you can't stop the other students from learning. No matter what subject you teach, you'll always have a few who are behind. Do you have any time where you can differentiate during your class, even if it means have these students do a little less of something else? If possible, you could have them review on Khan Academy or another math website for a few minutes each day.

We don't have technology (can request a chromebook cart but that will be a time suck imo) and with 33-34 kids it's hard to plan for any differentiation. My main focus is the behavior, so even sitting with one group will not work with my students for the time being. The math coach said I need to find ways for students to help each other but these kids have severe gaps in their understanding. These kids need direct instruction on computation and practice. The math coach also says I can group students and as long as the kids on level are doing an "engaging activity" the behavior will be fine but we know that is not always true. I did try this once and I was able to support a few kids but the other kids weren't super on task.

Differentiation is one of those things that always sounds good in practice but doesn't always work as intended, especially small group intervention when the rest of the class is still in the room. It's ideal, sure, but not always realistic. I like the buddy idea. Do you have them assigned to mixed ability groups for partner work, for example 1 high, 2 medium, 1 low level?

I'm not sold on the "high teaching the low": partnerships for me (I have four sets of partners for each kid) are created by putting two students that are relatively close to each other with each other. That is, a student who is an incredibly strong reader might be paired with someone who is moderately strong, but not with someone who is working on their phonics. Essentially, it's the concept of the ZPD - zone of proximal development - similar to in reading how the most growth will be from reading books that are not too challenging, not too simple, but "just right". In terms of differentiation - what grade are you again? I can send you some resources/links that might be able to help you differentiate a bit easier. I had 30 last year, and a huge range as well, but was able to differentiate decently (though it was weaker than I wanted). In regards to pacing, are you required to have an assessment/follow the pacing exactly? And if you are, are you able to talk to admin at all? Because honestly, pacing should literally follow where the kids are at. If you need to take longer, do it. If that means down the line you have to double up a bit, that's fine...but students need to develop a strong core, otherwise they'll be caught in an ongoing struggle throughout the years.

^ Thanks!! I am teaching 6th grade this year. My math coach said I would need to have the kids help each other (ex. high teaching the low) because I can't give much individual attention. Right now they're grouped in mixed ability groups (mainly based on behavior.)

It seems like the kids have to take the test on October 22nd so I at least need to get through 2 units.

I'm guessing this isn't the first year for the benchmark at your school, and you mentioned that your mentor's ICS classes are even further behind. Is she worried about it at all? How did it go last year?

I would look at Jo Bowler's stuff and Non-Permanent Vertical Surfaces. There is so much cool stuff going on in math right now in terms of meeting kids at a range of abilities within a classroom. The math classrooms I've co-taught in look nothing like traditional classrooms and it is truly awesome. You can try one or two things to support differentiation - you don't have to do it all at once - but absolutely how we teach math now and the resources we have are better than even what we had 5 years ago.

I actually really like Jo Boaler's stuff but none of it is actually aligned with the Common Core Standards for my grade level. I think that's part of the issue with the "problem solving" approach to math. The curriculum I have seen with this approach can also be very confusing to kids. One of my friend's showed me suggested hw from her curriculum and it asked kids to prove or disprove certain identities. I think there needs to be some middle ground.

I think if you want to teach math in a differentiated way you may have to create your own stuff using what is available. Jo Boaler, Miriam Small, Kyle Pearce and John Orr and are great resources, as are NPVS.

Have you checked out the new Algebra stuff that they posted? Plus, I'd venture that some of the activities, even though they might seem not "perfectly aligned", actually do align in some ways... you just would need to play with it a bit. In general though, the low floor, high-ceiling kind of problems can be a extremely powerful way to differentiate while still all doing the same activity.

^ I haven't seen the new algebra stuff but I will take a look. I'm excited to teach our Algebra unit! I definitely see the value in low-floor high-ceiling problems but I honestly do not have the time for "extras" when I barely have the time for own own content standards. My entire college curriculum was about problem solving as a way to learn math, low floor high ceiling tasks, etc, so I have a lot of experience looking at these types of problems/curriculum. I think some tasks might align with some of the standards that I will see in the future. Right now, I am just teaching computation and it is really difficult to teach it through low-floor high ceiling tasks or problem solving. We had a day where kids shared division strategies which was great but it's really difficult to connect partial quotients to the standard algorithm . The main focus now is achieving fluency with the standard algorithm and dividing decimals and some of the kids just need direct instruction in skills that they haven't learned in elementary school.

I'm also going to be honest...differentiating is not my goal right now. It is classroom management and planning structured and engaging lessons.

Have you actually tried NPVS? Because the problems you are describing would be greatly helped by NPVS. When teachers feel like they don't know where to start with differentiation in math, as a co-teacher I always say lets start with NPVS. It's easy. It's not too expensive. And it leads to better outcomes for kids.

Is it normal to feel like you are always behind in the curriculum? I am FINALLY finishing my unit on decimals on Thursday which took a month even though it was supposed to take 12 days. I lost 2 days to behavior in one of my classes. I now have only 9 days to teach fraction division with models, word problems, etc. which is crazy!! My mentor is in the same place as me and I'm hoping I can speed up my pace (I lost a few days to not planning too well/not knowing where the kids are coming from) and to behavior which I do not want to allow to happen again.

A month vs. 12 days is rather significant and unusual (and the losing two days to behavior is worrisome). That said, a good teacher will be flexible and adjust to his/her students' needs, which often requires slowing down or speeding up with the pacing. Taking a day or two extra here and there if needed is fine.

^ Last week, we did lose one day to behavior (it was a 1/2 day and the kids could not focus on the lesson) and we lost a day (or maybe 1/2 a day) to behavior on Friday in one class (tried to do stations and failed unfortunately). This is mainly for the class I have been posting about and it is frustrating. My mentor is also on target with my pacing. I definitely spent way too long on multiplying decimals because I had no idea so many kids wouldn't even know the standard algorithm! So I had to backtrack which wasted time. I am thinking that the pacing guide did not account for the fact that most kids are coming in not even knowing the standard algorithm. So we had to do a day on comparing strategies, several days just teaching the standard algorithm, expressing the remainder as a decimal, decimals in the dividend and finally decimals in the divisor. It is a lot and it seems like there isn't a ton of time. I'm hoping to make my fraction division unit quick because it needs to be. But we have to do manipulatives, models and equivalent fractions. It's a lot!

NO!!! Operations with fractions are SO MUCH more important than all that decimal stuff. For next year, PLEASE short change the decimals in favor of fractions. When they get to higher math, no one cares if they can multiply and divide decimals by hand, but if they can't work with fractions, they're screwed! When I get kids who want to do EVERYTHING in decimals and it takes a tenth of the time to just work with the fractions, it makes me sad.

I agree -- I wish I flipped it. This entire unit has been painful to teach but all of these topics are in the standards. It's just that I couldn't move on when I had half my class who can't multiply and then I had to teach the standard algorithm for division in 6th grade which is ridiculous in itself and took forever. I will be spending a lot of time on ratios this year. My math coach encouraged me to spend more time on multiplying and now I am rushed! I'm also frustrated that these standardized assessments are so HARD. I looked at last year's test and the division question was a five digit number divided by a two digit number. Seriously?? I don't get why they always have to assess at such a high level. Maybe it's just that I teach a lower group of kids but it's frustrating. I'm just thrilled that most of my kids can finally use the standard algorithm for smaller #'s. My mentor also said she wants to teach fractions in 9 days.

So I am still trying to figure out pacing and I feel behind compared to the pacing guide! My kids are taking a district assessment next Wednesday and Thursday. I want to wrap up my fraction division unit by Friday. I am hoping that I will be able to because my next unit (ratios) will take forever. My mentor said she is moving on to ratios asap as well. My issue is that the students have to take a fraction division test! I was thinking that they could take the fraction division test on Friday but that would mean that they are testing 3 days in a row & they might not be ready. My math coach wants me to do more with models and spend more time but I trust my mentor when she says that ratios will take forever!

There's nothing saying (well, unless there is for you - ha) that you can't wait and give the test slightly after you start working on ratios. Why not start on Friday, and then take the fraction division test next week? That'll also give you time to do any reteaching before the test for those kiddos who might still have a bit of trouble.

I think it might be a little bit confusing for the kids...I'm not sure. I honestly have no problem giving the test on Friday if they are ready. I will review for about 25 minutes anyways so it's not like the whole period is the test. I also wonder if the district test will take all period...

Does the district assessment contain problems on fraction division? If xo (and if there are enough, could a sub-score from those problems also be used as your "fraction division" test?

Yes...but the test is hard. Mine will be easier & will assess different things. In my opinion, there's not a lot you can get from a multiple choice test. I want to see that they can draw the model, use the rule for fraction division, and solve word problems.

I also realized that we are supposed to teach all of this stuff before state testing but I know I will be able to teach the whole curriculum even if after testing. Last year, my mentor didn't get to one unit and taught it afterwards. But she also teaches inclusion while I do not. However, I do feel like with larger classes pacing is unfortunately slower and she has two teachers in the room.

Just a thought. If you don't mind doing the test then, then go for it -- they'll be resilient. But just keep in mind that if students end up not being successful testing on a concept they learned just because they learned another concept in between then and the test, then we probably haven't taught them well enough. I have to hold myself to that same standard.

I’m leaning towards a Monday/Tuesday test as I want them to learn the material. My mentor is giving hers on Tuesday too. But she teaches inclusion so I feel like I should be ahead of her...

Don't compare. Every student, every teacher, every classroom dynamic is different. I'm 3-4 days behind my colleagues. But we spent some time at the beginning focused on mindset that I'm hoping will pay off. I'm not worried; down the line, if extra needs to be fit in, I will.

It's frustrating because I CAN teach the whole curriculum in a year but state testing is in April!! My mentor said I should at least try to teach the whole curriculum by April for test scores.

I kind of disagree with this. Do you think their scores will be better if they are taught 80% of the curriculum very well, or 100% of it just jammed through for the sake of covering everything? I recommend looking at what the test covers, and arranging the topics so those things that show up the least on the test can come later.

I'm honestly not sure. The last unit is on absolute value/negative numbers so it seems important. I heard that the highest pass rate for state testing for the level that I teach is 50% and that was 8th grade. We don't get to decide the order of our units. I wish I could teach negative numbers before statistics and do statistics after testing.

Hi there! I love reading your posts and questions. Pacing is such a challenge sometimes. Things to remember: 1. Kids are often the rustiest at the beginning of the school year. 2. You've been working with them and they are improving. 3. If your experienced co-teacher is at your place, you are not doing badly. 4. You can likely pick up the pace as the year progresses. However, don't skimp on the super critical skills like fractions. I don't think the extra time on decimals is a bad thing because it is a great way to segue into fractions that are not tenths and hundredths. Most kids don't get enough practice and experience with all of the operations and fractions. 5. Give it your best shot. You seem like the kind of person whose best shot will be better than most other people's efforts. You care. You work hard. You ask great questions. You are not afraid to try new things. You are looking at every student and working to help them all. I'd say you are in good shape, and so are your students. Watch and see. As you keep working, as they keep learning, you will be able to pick up the pace. You've been given great advice regarding the assessment so I'm not piling on that.