Mathematical Standards of Practice Stations

My second annual “intro to math week” just concluded, and all in all I’d say things went well. Starting on the first day, I set up eight stations around the classroom, each corresponding with a different common core standard.


Look how welcoming my classroom is!

In case you’re not as focused on those as I’m trying to be this year, I’ll note the standard as I describe each station.

1. Make sense of problems and persevere in solving them.

This station was a list of number and letter puzzles that students needed to decode. I’ve heard it called the mental flexibility test. For example, 7 W of the W would stand for “7 wonders of the world.” A handful of the kids got all of these with little trouble, and several were entirely lost. I distinctly remember being handed a sheet of these in sixth grade and being very mad about 57 H V because I hated ketchup and there would be absolutely no way I could have gotten that one.

2. Reason abstractly and quantitatively.

I filled a jar of jelly beans and asked them to estimate how many were in there. The vast majority of students guessed about 100 too few jelly beans, but a couple of them had guesses in the 1000’s, so the average was still eerily close to the real answer. Ironically, I failed at quantitative reasoning when I purchased the jelly beans, buying over twice as many as I really needed.

3. Construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others.

Here I found some statements containing logical fallacies and asked students to say where the logic broke down. I made sure to let the classes know we’d be doing proofs – this year 3/4 of them will be.

4. Model with mathematics.

I got this great problem from nrich, walk and ride.

5. Use appropriate tools strategically

This standard is really important, but mainly requires students to properly apply a new strategy they’ve encountered or that I’ve shown them, perhaps in a new situation. I do really like this as a concept, and I’m sure it will happen, but it’s not really something that can be done as a station – it’s kind of a long-term thing. So I decided to focus on the “strategically” part of the standard, and asked them to play the dots and boxes game and note an effective strategy. Here’s a cool website where you play a computer – good luck, because it is formidable.

6. Attend to precision.

For this one they had to cut a strip of cardboard to fit perfectly inside one of the circles in the back of my chairs without bending. Shockingly few rulers were used during this station.

7. Look for and make use of structure.

I made an IRL version of this NLVM manipulative, fill and pour. The downside: my cups do not actually hold the number of ounces I labeled them as, so what was supposed to be 1 ounce was half the 5-ounce glass. This may have thrown them off, I’ll admit. Next time I may just set up my laptop with the virtual one – and that way when they get the answer there’s a duck!

8. Look for and express regularity in repeated reasoning.

I made my sweet little tower of Hanoi.


One of the pegs fell out, but one of the students kindly taped it up with a significant amount of masking tape. How sweet. This station went over well with the students because it’s so physical – I’ll have to keep that in mind.

This was good – students worked well together, got a lot accomplished, and seemed to feel comfortable with the difficulty level, regardless of prior knowledge or skill. I’m optimistic moving forward.


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