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Sweet Home…Sweet Feedback!

Title: Sweet Home…Sweet Feedback!


James Bialasik – Sweet Home Senior High School 

James Bialasik is a quarterback for the Common Core state standards in Amherst, NY. We could call him a Common CORE-terback. He teaches Algebra I at Sweet Home Senior High School and his unique and fun lessons can be found on CC.BetterLesson. His lesson “Introduction to Systems of Equations” has introduced teachers around the country to his teaching style, as it’s Unit 1, Lesson 1 in his curriculum. Those teachers, in turn are showing James how thankful they are in the Community Feedback section of the lesson. See for yourself!

Click on the lesson image to access the lesson on CC.BetterLesson!



Sign into your CC.BetterLesson account (or sign up for one – it’s FREE!) and check out the rest of James’ curriculum here. If you’re logged in, you can leave your feedback on a lesson in the Community Feedback section at the bottom!

Tax Day Math Lessons

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It’s Tax Day!!! Don’t forget to file!

It’s never too early for students to learn about taxes. Why should they be excluded from the “fun”?

Master Teachers on CC.BetterLesson can help you teach your students about taxes so that they can “celebrate” Tax Day, too.

Let’s start with Grade 12 Master Teacher Hilary Yamtich’s lesson “Progressive Income Taxes and Piecewise Functions”. In this lesson students create graphs to show the relationship between a person’s income and how he or she will pay in taxes. This lesson is aligned to Common Core state standards HSF-IF.B.4 and HSF-BF.A.1, as well as Math Practice standards 1 through 7. Hilary teaches at Lighthouse Community Charter School in Oakland, California. You can bet her students will have a head start once they arrive in the world of W-2s and 1099’s.

At Champion Middle School, in Columbus, Ohio, students begin learning about taxes as early as 7th grade! Malissa Thomas-St. Clair’s lesson, “Money, Earnings, Tax”, students calculate how much tax is deducted from wages using number sense, equations and percentages. This lesson is aligned to Common Core state standards, 7.RP.A.2b, 7.RP.A.2c, 7.RP.A.3,  7.NS.A.1d, 7.NS.A.2c, 7.EE.B.4 and 7.EE.B.4b.

Her tax lessons don’t stop there. Check out Malissa’s entire Grade 7 Curriculum (specifically Unit 3 “Proportional Reasoning With Percents”) to brush up your middle schoolers on how taxes work.

Give your classroom a peak into the real world of finance on Tax Day!

Or…You know what? It’s getting nice out. You’ve done your taxes.

Take them on a field trip to the amusement park instead. CC.BetterLesson can help with that too! Andrea Palmer’s lesson will help you figure out  “What Rides Can You Go On?”.


When you’re at the amusement park, save your receipts. You’ll need them next April!

Morris Family Math Games – Featuring Instructional Coaches Michele and Peter Morris

Michele and Peter Morris are two of our outstanding instructional coaches. They just so happen to be married. Interestingly enough, they’re also married to gamifying math instruction. We were so inspired by their fun approach to learning math that we asked them to write blog posts on our behalf about some of their games.SET1

Today’s Edition: SET by Peter Morris (a game that helps teach MP1, MP6 and MP7)

SET is perhaps my favorite commercially produced game for the math classroom.  The classic mode of play is a fast-paced card game of logical reasoning and visual perception.  However, it is because of its versatility and effectiveness in promoting strategic thinking that the deck of SET cards has become a staple resource in my classroom.

The SET deck is comprised of 81 cards, each card displaying a different combination of 4 features; color (red, green, purple), symbol (squiggle, diamond, oval), shading (solid, striped, open) and number (one, two, three) of symbols.

Playing SET:

To play by the prescribed rules, 12 cards are placed face-up on the table and players call out “Set!” when s/he sees three cards in which there’s a predetermined “Set” (ex. all cards are the same color, all cards have the same symbol, all cards have the same shading, etc.)

If correct, the player collects the set, the vacant spaces are filled with three new cards, and play continues until one player has found a predetermined number of sets.

There are a plethora of variations that I won’t discuss here (links to a few are provided below).  Instead, I’d like to share two of the ways I use SET cards to promote logical reasoning in my students.


How I Use SET:

While relevant content is, of course, a vital component of math education, I believe my most important objective as a math educator is to help develop students’ thinking and reflection. (the coaches’ too!).  This is why, though they are both essential, I place greater emphasis on the Math Practice Standards than the Math Content Standards.  I believe that how we teach is of even greater importance than what we teach.

I use SET in my classroom to help develop students who can think strategically.  The ability to think strategically and reflectively (metacognitively) is a critical skill for students if they are to make sense of problems and persevere in solving them (MP1).

When introducing SET cards to kids, I begin by having them sort the deck in as many ways as they are able so we may identify and define the different attributes.  In analyzing the attributes of the cards, identifying commonalities, and organizing the cards in different ways, students are honing and applying their ability to look for and make use of structure (MP7).  If students create a group other than one of the attributes defined above (such as “not green”), I encourage them to create groups that can be defined by a single word.  That said, I only explicitly identify each attribute by name after students have structured their groups accordingly.  I want them to discover these attributes on their own.  At the same time, I recognize the need to provide them with the expected vocabulary (the symbol and shading attributes are particularly difficult for students to describe), so they have the tools necessary to communicate with clarity and precision (MP6).  I make an effort to hold students accountable for communicating using these naming conventions.

The following activities can be done individually, in pairs, or in small groups. (I have several decks of SET cards around to enable some flexibility).  These activities can also be done with a set of attribute blocks or other set of attribute pieces.  It is important to note that during these activities, I ask students questions that help focus their thinking, but I avoid explicitly teaching them strategies for accomplishing these tasks.  The benefit for students is in using their own reasoning and becoming more efficient over time as they make new connections and gain new insights.


To make a chain, start with any card and place it face up on the table/floor.  This is the first link of the chain.  The next card (the second link) to be placed must have only one difference from the first card (i.e. 3 attributes must be the same and one attribute must be different).  The third link in the chain must then have only one difference from the second link.  I challenge students to try to use the whole deck of cards to create a one-difference chain.  An added challenge is to create a chain where the last link can connect back up with the first link because there is only one difference between the two.

When students have mastered the one-difference chain, I have them create a two-difference chain in which two attributes change (and two remain the same) between each link.


To create a matrix, students need to form an array where the cards within each row and column share a common attribute.  I have students begin with a 2×2 matrix and work their way up to a 6×6 matrix (at which point the six columns and six rows would together use all twelve values).

Play SET in your classroom today!

On CC.BetterLesson, we have several lessons aligned to MP1, MP6 and MP7 taught by Master Teachers all over the country. Our coaches, like Peter, support the Master Teachers in “sharing what works” through their lessons. Coaches work virtually with teams of teachers all across the country to surface the “what”, the “why” and the “how” of their daily instruction. Thanks, Peter, for sharing a staple resource of your classroom and how you use SET to help develop students who can think strategically!



Further Exploration with SET:

While I use SET cards to promote logical reasoning in elementary classrooms, the deck is rich with opportunities for higher level mathematical investigations.  A selection of articles exploring SET’s potential applications in the classroom can be found on the SET website. Among the articles found here include:

SET Variations:

Articles on Thinking and Reasoning with SET:

Articles Exploring Middle and High School Applications for SET:

Additional means of playing SET include:

  • The SET iPad app for a fast and convenient way to play.
  • The daily SET Puzzle featured in The New York Times Crosswords and Games section.

Teacher Feature – Michelle Schade


Subject: Grade 6 Math

School: Indian Trail Middle School

Location: Plainfield, IL, USA

Keep up with Michelle on Twitter: @Michelle_Schade

In Her Own Words: It’s not always easy engaging students for 80 minutes every day, but when the students hear the bell and they reply ‘Math is over already?’, I know I’m doing a good job!”

Instructional Coach Testimonial: “Michelle is a very observant and patient teacher.  She is a model veteran teacher because she is always pushing herself to learn new teaching techniques and to improve aspects of her classroom.  She is not afraid to take risks if she thinks it will benefit her students.  She balances the high demands of teaching with a calm that is admirable.  I would pay to have my own children taught by her!” - Katie Denslow

Read about Michelle in the Chicago Tribune!

 Click on the image below to see professional video from one of Michelle’s lessons!

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Click the lesson image below to access Michelle’s entire Grade 6 Math curriculum on CC.BetterLesson!

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Take a tour of Michelle’s classroom in the video below:

If you like Michelle’s lessons, check out these other amazing Grade 6 Math lessons!


Andrea Palmer


Carla Seeger

New Lessons From Proven Master Teachers

This week, hundreds of new math and ELA lessons were uploaded to CC.BetterLesson by Master Teachers all over the USA. As you may know, CC.BetterLesson is a living, breathing body of knowledge that is constantly growing with real, accessible classroom lessons.

Some of this week’s new lessons are from Master Teachers who have already received great feedback on their lessons on CC.BetterLesson.


Grade 1 Math teacher Tommy Young, from Waitsfield Elementary School in Waitsfield, VT, has 56 new lessons this week in 5 different units including his: “Shapes Within Shapes” unit and his “Working With Numbers, Operations and Story Problem” unit.

Here’s some feedback from an excited teacher who used Tommy’s lesson “Finding the Hidden Addend” as well as Tommy’s reply:

Kelly Klausing: I am so excited that I came across this lesson! I am a first year teacher and have an observation tomorrow, I was going to just do the lessons out of our textbook that I always do, but now I am totally revamping the lesson and going to play these games. The kids are going to love it :) Thank you, Kelly | one month ago | Reply

Thomas Young: Responding to Kelly Klausing Kelly, How did it go? Let me know if you have any follow up questions. | one month ago | Reply


Julianne Beebe teaches Grade 8 ELA at Larchmont Charter School in Los Angeles, CA. This week she has 25 new lessons in her “House on Mango Street” units to share on CC.BetterLesson. Teachers have already found Julianne’s lessons useful in their classrooms. See for yourself:

On: “Analyzing Texts for Voice, Tone and Mood

Sonja Kassube: Hi Julianne! Thank you so much for putting together this lesson! I love the variety of texts which displays a difference in voice, mood and tone! My students have enjoyed the lessons all week long and I appreciate the already created lesson. This has always been a challenge for me to teach; however, I even have a better grasp teaching it this way. :) One thing I did to add to the text lesson was have students highlight words as they read each passage that helped them determine voice, tone, and mood. I can’t wait to hear what they will write with the Victor T. Monroe lesson. Thank you again! | 15 days ago | Reply

On: “I Get It! Breaking Down the Power of Names

Annette Shannon: Julianne, the lessons you have provided are articulate, thoughtful and very helpful. Thanks Annette | one month ago | Reply


Allyson McHugh

Allyson McHugh teaches Grade 9 ELA at Waltham Senior High School in Waltham, MA.

She uploaded 24 new lessons this week, adding many new lessons to her “Great Expectations” units. One teacher insists that Allyson’s lessons are the best she can find:

On: “Heads Down Writing; Heads Up Conferencing

Alice Gayle: Your lessons are to the point which makes it very easy to review for consideration in my curriculum. They also have the details needed to create a lesson plan that is easy to customize for my needs. I’ve been on multiple lesson share sites and your lessons are by far the best. Thank you.. Thank you… | 2 months ago | Reply 

Log in to your account at CC.BetterLesson and be the first to give our Master Teachers feedback on their new lessons!

Teachers Helping Teachers Round the Common Corner!

We’re excited to see that CC.BetterLesson is helping many of you adapt to the Common Core state standards. We love the positive feedback. Our Master Teachers are excited to be able to share their lessons with you so we are happy that it’s paying off!

Here are some testimonials from teachers who have used CC.BetterLesson in their classrooms:

 Grade 7 Master Teacher Heather Stephan


Applications of One Step Equations

Sheila Hanes: “Ms. Stephan, the equation notes and application problems were so helpful. I am glad that I found the BetterLesson site. The lessons and resources that many of you have created and are making available to classroom teachers is making the transition to common core curriculum much easier. As a teacher, I feel better about how and what I am teaching to prepare my students for success.”

Grade 11 Master Teacher Cassy McCoy


The Power of Rhetoric – Day 3 of 3

Brittiany Claiborne: “I love this lesson. I have already created a unit plan that uses the same texts  associated with this lesson and the prior unit. As I seek to make my units closely aligned with Common Core standards, I will definitely be using ideas from your lessons. Thanks so much!”

Grade 6 Master Teacher Andrea Palmer


Adding and Subtracting Fractions – Day 1

Linda Jones: “This is great. It is so nice that we finally are having more resources for the common core.”

When it comes to Common Core, our Master Teachers have your back. See for yourself at CC.BetterLesson!

Conversations With Master Teacher James Dunseith


James Dunseith is a remarkable Master Teacher at North High School in Worcester, Massachusetts.

You can access his Algebra I curriculum on CC.BetterLesson. While you’re there, you can also interact with James. If you are logged into CC.BetterLesson, you can leave comments in the feedback section at the end of each lesson you view. Our MTs love your feedback and they’re open to your suggestions. On top of that,  they’re available to answer the questions you have. James has engaged with several teachers who have left him feedback.

Here’s a conversation around James’ lesson “Problem Set : Number Lines”:

 Jennifer Wright: Hi James, I thought your lesson was great. The only thing I was wondering about was in your warm up, problem B, you have the students multiplying by a negative number. I thought that this standard moved up to 6th grade. Such a great website! Can’t wait to explore it more! Jenny | 17 days ago | Reply

James Dunseith: Responding to Jennifer Wright Hey Jenny, thanks for the comment! You’re right that signed arithmetic has been “moved up” in the CCSS. But kids can always use the practice on this topic. Over the first few weeks of school, I make sure to touch on this, just to brush off the cobwebs that some kids can develop over the summer. Best wishes in your work, and I’ll look forward to seeing you elsewhere on the BL site! James | 15 days ago | Reply

This conversation stemmed from James’ lesson entitled “ Irrational (and Other!) Numbers on the Number Line”:

Jenny Park: Circling Up seems like a great Idea. Do you just have them form a circle around the desks? I think I might do that, especially because there are too many “cliques” and I want everyone to feel comfortable and support each other. | one month ago | Reply

James Dunseith: Responding to Jenny Park Hi Jenny – thanks for the comment! I do have them form a circle around the desks. On the first day of school, I take a few minutes to show everyone what I mean when I say “Circle Up!” I walk a lap of the room to illustrate where I’d like the circle to go. It does go a long way toward making everyone feel comfortable and like they’re participating in something! Let me know how it goes! | 15 days ago | Reply

Check out James’ entire curriculum here on CC.BetterLesson and let us know what you think in the feedback section of each lesson. (Don’t forget to log in first!)




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