Teaching the Distributive Property

A guest post by Rachel Chou I have been a classroom mathematics teacher for 20 years.  I have heard students use the phrase “the distributive property” more times than I can count.  Many of them misunderstand what “the distributive property” even is.  But maybe I think that because I don’t really know what “the distributive property”… Continue reading Teaching the Distributive Property

Asilomar Notes: Story Tables

In my last post, I shared notes from the California Math Council meeting last weekend. I focused on a couple of talks about the use of technology (Asilomar Notes: Tech). Today I write about a different sort of tool, the story table. Shira Helft and Taryn Pritchard’s Asilomar workshop introduced us to this powerful representation of algebraic expressions,… Continue reading Asilomar Notes: Story Tables


In my last post, I offered guidelines for sequencing math curriculum. The response I got on Twitter (and in one comment to the post) was quite positive. However, one point I made triggered some disagreement:Start with definitions? No! Most students find it difficult to understand a definition for something they have no experience with. It is more effective to start… Continue reading Vocabulary

Puzzles for the Classroom

In my last post, I shared some generalities about puzzle creation. Today, I will zero in on the specifics of creating puzzles for the mathematics classroom. I will do this by way of analyzing some examples. Multiple PathsA characteristic of all classrooms is that they are constituted of students whose backgrounds and talents vary widely. … Continue reading Puzzles for the Classroom


Many students have weak arithmetic skills. Many teachers blame this on calculator use, but it is just as likely that the real reason lies elsewhere. For one thing, the teaching of arithmetic traditionally does not involve developing any understanding, so the learning is shallow and fragile. For another, students correctly feel that mindless arithmetic is… Continue reading Calculation

More Notes from NCTM Phoenix

See Part 1 of my notes from Phoenix: A Brief History of Math Education (NCTM President Matt Larson's presentation.)Here is Part 2.Growth Mindset: telling is not teachingIn his short session, Dylan Kane pointed out that talking about growth mindset may be helpful to students "in the middle". But there are students in our classes who… Continue reading More Notes from NCTM Phoenix