Math Routines are repeated activities that support middle school students in becoming confident users of mathematics, powerful quantitative thinkers, and productive problem solvers. Math Routines encourage students to think deeply about problems and reason about the information in them, construct viable arguments based in mathematical reasoning, justify their own understanding in mathematical ideas, and persevere through challenging problems by using familiar mathematical ideas to make sense of new and unfamiliar situations.
Math Routines are minilessons that launch instruction 23 times per week and take anywhere from 1030 minutes to complete based on student needs and progress. The Math Routines included can be applied in any middle school grade unless specified otherwise.
Please find four types of math routines we employ in our middle school math program:
Number Strings are minilessons that enhance scholars’ numeracy, fluency, and confidence with math. When executed at a high level, Number Strings encourage scholars to visualize numbers and operations and to choose strategies that make problems friendlier. Number Strings look deceptively simple, but they require careful planning and flexible execution.
Implementing successful number strings requires flexibility. Wellplanned strings fall flat when teachers inflexibly rely on prescripted plans without responding in the moment to what scholars actually say.
Evaluate whether you are making progress toward your goal by listening authentically to scholars and asking questions that focus their thinking about the concepts, models, or strategies you are working to develop.
Asking questions requires scholars to do most of the talking, and thus most of the thinking.
Number Strings include problems that all scholars could solve with pencil and paper, so getting to the right answer is a very small part of this routine. Agreeing on an answer must be the beginning of the conversation, not the end.
In isolation, the problems in most strings are neither challenging nor interesting. The point is for scholars to compare different problems and strategically manipulate challenging problems to make them friendlier.
Not all questions will take the same amount of time. Plan for which questions are worth spending time on. Strategically ask for multiple answers or strategies on challenging or highleverage problems.
In a Number String, your job is to put up the problems one at a time, then ask scholars to share how they solved, and represent their thinking on a visual model for the whole class to see. As scholars share their thinking, press them to tell you exactly what they are envisioning on the visual model so that you can represent their thinking accurately. Keep the problems and visual models displayed as you progress through the string so that scholars can make connections to previous problems and models.
As you work through this string, represent scholar strategies with arrays and equations. When multiplying a singledigit number and a multidigit number, it’s often helpful to multiply the single digit by the value of each digit in the larger number, and then add the products. For instance,
129×8 can be solved by 100×8, 20×8, 9×8, and then adding the products. The goal is for scholars to understand why this works and why it’s helpful, which will set them up to understand the standard multiplication algorithm.
100×8
109×8
129×8
200×8
4×8
60×8
264×8
304×5
As you work through this string, represent scholar strategies with arrays and equations. Emphasize the idea that a certain strategy can be represented using different models. (For instance, the same partial products strategy for 11×13 could be shown with an equation as (10×10)+(10×3)+(1×10)+(1×3)=143, or as an array that models breaking up and multiplying the same way.) Understanding this idea will set scholars up for success in the discourse, when they must recognize similarities between the standard algorithm and other methods of multiplication.
10×13
11×13
9×13
20×13
21×13
19×13
101×13
Work through the string below, representing scholar strategies on the array. Focus on partial quotients strategies, and why they work. This will set scholars up to use partial quotients on larger numbers during the Explore, and to think about this strategy deeply in preparation for the Discourse.
21÷3
30÷3
51÷3
81÷3
140÷14
154÷14
280÷14
294÷14
Work through the string below, representing scholar strategies on the array. Allow scholars to debate the best strategy for various problems: Are partial quotients or multiplication easier? What’s the best way to break the numbers down? How helpful is an array? Scholars should have mastered these strategies and models. Now they must think strategically about when to deploy each one.
28÷7
70÷7
98÷7
168÷7
170÷17
187÷17
340÷17
357÷17
The goal of this string is to use the relationship between multiplication and division to illuminate different interpretations of division.
In each problem in this string, Kara the kangaroo is jumping along a track. Scholars must determine the number of jumps needed to reach the target given the length of the kangaroo’s jump and the total distance to the target.
___×12=60
– Kara jumps by 12’s and the target is located at 60 on the track. How many jumps does she need to take to reach the target?
×6=60
– What if Kara jumps by 6’s? “How can we use our last picture to help us answer this?”
6× =60
– What if I know Kara took 6 jumps to get to 60 instead? “How does this change the picture?”
6÷ ___=6
– “What could this question mean in the context of our story?”
___×5=60
–If Kara jumps by 5’s, how many jumps does it take to get to 60? “Which picture can you use to help you answer this question?”
60÷ ___=5 – “What could this question represent in our story? How does the picture change?”
___×12=600 – If Kara jumps by 12’s, how many jumps does it take to get to 600?
12× ___=600 – What if Kara takes `1 jumps? “Which situation is easier for you to picture? Why?” 600÷ ______=24 –“What might this question mean in our story?”
600÷ ___=25 – “How can we use the previous question to help us answer this one?” 600÷ =75
The goal of this string is for scholars to understand that scaling the dividend and divisor by the same amount does not change the size of the quotient.
24÷4 – “How many groups of 4 are in 24? How can we draw this?”
6÷1 – “How many groups of 1 are in 6? How is our model for this question similar to or different than the last one?”
2÷13 – “How many groups of 13 are in 2? How is this model similar to or different than the last one?” 4÷13 – “Will the quotient be larger or smaller than the last question? How do you know?
3÷14 – “How is this model similar to or different than the last one?” 3÷24 – “Will this quotient be larger or smaller than the last one?
3÷34 – “Will this quotient be greater than 1or less than 1?” and “Which previous problem helps you the most with this one?”
6÷14 – “Which diagram can you use to help you answer this question?” 6÷13 – “Which diagram can you use to help you answer this question?” 6÷23
4÷25 – “What friendlier problem would you solve first to help you answer this question?”
Adapted from Contexts for Learning, Minilessons for Extending Addition and Subtraction, “Count Around the Room” provides students with an opportunity to familiarize themselves with the names and sequence of numbers while also encouraging scholars to notice patterns in sequences and make predictions on how a pattern might continue. During Count Around the Room scholars count or skipcount by a given amount, each scholar saying one number. After scholars have gone around the room, they then discuss the patterns they noticed in the resulting number sequence.
Count Around the Room Structure 

Launch (1 minute) 
Have the class sit in a circle. Tell students the start number and how they are going to count (by 1’s, 2’s, 5’s, 10’s, etc — in older grades this may also include fractions). 
Activity (3 minutes) 
Starting with the first person, each scholar says a number. Continue to go around the circle. Stop pointing as you go, holding scholars accountable to know when it is their turn. As scholars count, record their numbers vertically on the chart paper — recording vertically will help scholars notice patterns during the discourse. Stop at select points to ask purposeful questions and make predictions — this will help keep scholars engaged in thinking about counting. Ask scholars to consider what number comes next and how they know. 
Discourse (10 minutes) 
Pose the following questions for scholars to discuss.
Possible conjectures:

Exit Ticket (1 minute) 
Write down a few numbers and ask scholars to fill in the blank— include counting by 1s, 2s, 5s, and 10s. To vary the format of these questions:

“Closer To” helps students build their skills within rounding. When problemsolving, this skill can help scholars to estimate and determine the reasonability of their answer. This minilesson asks scholars to round a number to a given whole number or fraction using the number line model as a visual representation.
Closer To MiniLesson Structure 

Launch (1 minute) 
Introduce a class number line with two numbers filled in at the start and end point. (e.g. 100 on the left side of the line and 200 on the right side of the line) 
Activity (3 minutes) 
Introduce another number that falls between the first two. (e.g. 182) Ask scholars where it would go on the number line and which of the other two numbers it’s closer to. Scholars use whiteboards to plot their answers and discuss with partners. The whole class discusses which of the 2 numbers it’s closer to and how they know. Mark it on the class number line. Repeat this with more numbers that fall between the original two numbers, always asking scholars to demonstrate their reasoning. 
Discourse (10 minutes) 
Discuss patterns that occur and make conjectures about rounding, place value, or related mathematical ideas. 
Exit Ticket (1 minute) 
Provide scholars with an exit ticket to assess the goals of the minilesson. 
The purpose of this Minilesson is to reinforce the importance of looking carefully at the scale of the axes when finding distances on the coordinate plane. Show scholars all representations below. Ask them which description and coordinates match which points on the graph. Give scholars time to think independently and discuss with a partner before sharing out. Once all scholars are convinced of the representations that match, have them write the coordinates and a description of the remaining point and plot the point with the remaining coordinates on the graph.
Martine has used a coordinate plane to model a soccer field to show her teammates some plays she has planned for their next game. The points plotted above represent some of the players on Martine’s team. Determine which description matches which point, and plot the point that is missing.
The purpose of this Minilesson is to review how to read line plots or dot plots from Grade 5, and to introduce histograms as another way of representing similar information. Use this Minilesson to define the term histogram and to discuss key features that differentiate histograms from line plots or dot plots. In particular, histograms tell you the frequency of data points within a certain range, but they don’t tell you exactly what those data points are.
Scholars learned how to create and interpret line plots in Grade 5, but they may need a reminder. Clarify for scholars that these dot plots are the same as the line plots they saw in Grade 5; they just use different symbols. Use this time to ensure that scholars can accurately read the number of data points, the frequency of each value, and the value of each data point from the line plot before moving on.
Put up the representations and ask scholars which plots could represent the same data sets. Give them time to think independently and discuss with a partner before sharing, and press scholars to explain specific features of the data sets that are or are not the same in the different representations. Once scholars convince one another that the first dot plot matches the histogram, have scholars create their own histogram that matches the second dot plot.
These data sets correspond to the weights of dogs at different shelters.
Note that in this histogram, each range includes the leftend value but not the rightend value. Tell scholars that this is a decision that mathematicians make, and set the expectation that they clarify this when drawing histograms.
The purpose of this Minilesson is to have scholars practice reading and comparing histograms. In addition, this Minilesson is designed to get scholars thinking about what information histograms reveal and what is still left uncertain when data sets are displayed in histograms.
Put up the representations and ask scholars which plots could represent the same data set. Give them time to think independently and discuss with a partner before sharing, and press scholars to explain specific features of the data sets that are or are not the same in the different representations. Press scholars to explain whether the data sets must match, could match, or could not possibly match, and to support their reasoning. Once scholars convince each other that Histograms 1 and 3, but not Histogram 2, could represent the same data set (though we don’t know for sure) have them invent their own data set that will match both Histogram 1 and 3.
These data sets correspond to the average temperatures for each day in a month. Which displays could represent the temperatures for the same month?
The purpose of this Minilesson is to expose scholars to the limits of using mean and range to describe different data sets. This Minilesson provides a motivation and justification for exploring the new value you will define with scholars today – the mean absolute deviation (MAD). During this time, your focus should be on solidifying their understanding of mean and range by getting scholars to explain how it’s possible for data sets that look so different to have the same mean and range. We do not expect scholars to discover the MAD on their own, but we do want to ensure that they understand why the MAD is important and when it is useful.
Put up the representations and ask scholars which descriptions and displays could match. Give them time to think independently and discuss with a partner before sharing, and press scholars to explain specific features of the data sets that are or are not the same in the different representations. Once scholars convince one another that each dot plot matches the mean and
range given, ask them whether they think those measures are good summaries of these data sets, and what features make the data sets different.
The purpose of this lesson is to give scholars practice with estimating mean and MAD visually and interpreting data sets in context. Put up the dot plots and the descriptions and ask scholars which description matches each dot plot. Give scholars time to think independently and discuss with a partner before sharing out. Press them to explain how they can estimate the MAD without calculating, and then have them calculate it to prove their answer.
Once they have paired each dot plot with a situation, have them describe or sketch a data set that would match the remaining description. If time permits, have scholars create a data set with that exact MAD, but if not, have them describe how that data set would compare to the other two.
The goal of this Minilesson is for scholars to practice finding the median and using the mean and the median to describe a “typical” value of a data set.
Put up the representations and medians and ask scholars which ones match. Give scholars time to think independently then discuss with a partner before sharing out.
These dot plots represent the heights, in centimeters, of the the first 22 presidents and the next 22 presidents.
The purpose of this Minilesson is to have scholars practice interpreting histograms and finding median and interquartile ranges (IQR). Focus your discussion on what scholars can infer from the histograms, and what they still don’t know about these data sets.
Show scholars one of the histograms first and ask whether it is possible to calculate the median exactly from this representation, and if not, how scholars can use this representation to estimate the median. Once scholars have reasoned about how to use the frequencies to estimate the median, show all the representations and ask them which description matches which histogram. Give them time to think independently and discuss with a partner before sharing, and press scholars to explain how they can estimate the IQR for each histogram.
Tell scholars that the histograms below show the ages of people at a birthday party and at a park.
The purpose of this Minilesson is to have scholars practice comparing data sets that are represented in different ways and making inferences about these data sets. Put up the representations and ask scholars which ones could represent the same data set. They should quickly notice that the two histograms could represent the same data set, so press them to explain whether the box plots could also represent these data sets and to use specific features of the representations to justify their answers.
Each plot represents the number of math homework problems scholars completed over ten days.
The purpose of this routine is to give scholars practice with pinpointing what must match up between complicated situations and the simulations that could be used to analyze them.
Display all situations and simulations, and ask which simulation could represent each situation. Press scholars to use theoretical and experimental probabilities to clearly explain why the simulations match. For the situation that doesn’t match either simulation, have scholars design their own simulations and share out.
Situations  Simulations 



The purpose of this routine is for scholars to practice explaining how random events can be used to simulate complicated situations. Build on your conversations from Lesson 3 by getting scholars to think about whether they would have an easier time envisioning the possible outcomes and relative likelihood of each for the situations or the simulations, and about how envisioning all possible outcomes changes when the event is repeated. These ideas will be solidified during the Discourse.
Display all situations and simulations, and ask which simulation could represent each situation. For the situation that doesn’t match either simulation, have scholars design their own simulations and share out.
Situations  Simulations 



The purpose of this Minilesson is for scholars to practice visualizing sample spaces of compound events and interpreting tree diagrams to determine which ones match. Once scholars agree on which event and sample space match below, have them represent the sample space of the remaining event and describe an event that matches the remaining tree diagram.
Events  Sample Spaces 


Scholars should have calculators during this time.
The purpose of this Minilesson is to review how to calculate mean and mean absolute deviation (MAD). Open by asking scholars what they remember about mean and mean absolute deviation from Grade 6. At this point, they should say things like, “Mean is the average” and “MAD tells us something about how spread apart the points are.” Put up all five representations and ask scholars to match the numerical values to the corresponding dot plots.
Scholars learned how to calculate these values in Grade 6, but they will likely need a reminder. Push scholars to interpret these values informally (i.e., a larger MAD means more variation) before reviewing how to calculate the MAD of the first two data sets (dot plots A and B). Use these
calculations to have scholars evaluate their interpretations, and finish the Minilesson by having scholars calculate the mean and MAD of the third dot plot (dot plot C) on their own.
Dot Plots  Mean and MAD 

These data sets correspond to the length, in minutes, of songs on different CDs. 
Mean: 5.57 minutes and MAD: 0.44 minutes Mean: 2.41 minutes and MAD: 1.44 minutes 
The purpose of this Minilesson is to review the meaning of median and interquartile range (IQR), and how those values are represented in box plots. First, ask scholars what they remember about what the median and interquartile range tell you about a data set. Then show all the representations below and ask them which box plots match which person’s data. Finish the Minilesson by telling scholars that the third box plot represents Maria’s paper airplane and asking them to find the median and IQR from the box plot.
During this discussion, label the median and IQR directly on each box plot and leave this up for your class to reference during the Explore. They will return to analyzing and comparing box plots later on in this lesson.
Box Plots  Median and IQR 

Three scholars built paper airplanes and tested to see how far they would fly. 

The goal of this Minilesson is to introduce scholars to factored form and to have them articulate how and why the factors of quadratic functions are related to the xintercepts. Throughout this lesson, you must stay focused on interpreting factors and xintercepts in terms of multiplication. While some scholars might recognize that the zeros of the function are equivalent to p and q in the factored form y = (x – p)(x – q), it is much more important that scholars are able to use an understanding of the meaning of x–intercepts and the zero property of multiplication to prove their thinking. Because of the extensive precision errors scholars make when subtracting negative numbers, simply memorizing how to use the values of p and q to graph a quadratic function is inevitably going to lead to mistakes.
Launch the Minilesson by showing scholars the first equation y = (x + 4)(x + 5) and asking them what type of function they think this will be. Ask them to think about when they have seen similar expressions before, and remind them that they should use the area model to keep track of their work when expanding the expression to rewrite this function.
Once scholars have rewritten this function in standard form, ask them what they know about the graph of this function. Give them time to think independently then discuss with a partner before sharing. As they share out, press them to identify specific key features of this graph (the shape, yintercept, direction of the parabola, etc) and record their observations. Use this Launch to introduce the term factored form to describe the way that this equation is written as a product of two factors. Make sure that scholars understand that a “factor” in this context means the same thing as the “factors” they are used to finding for whole numbers.
Then put up the additional equations and graphs and ask scholars which equations and graphs represent the same functions. Scholars should have an opportunity to consider the representations individually and then in partners before discussing as a whole class. As scholars share out, ensure that they use precise academic language and prove their thinking.
The purpose of this Minilesson is to consider what the graph of a quadratic function that is a perfect square when factored looks like and why. Scholars should leave the Minilesson understanding that this is a unique type of quadratic function that only touches the x–axis, but doesn’t cross it. Because both factors are the same, there is only one value that makes the output zero. Therefore this function has just one x–intercept, which is also the vertex.
Put up all of the representations. The goal is for students to determine which representations are connected (i.e., which equations match which graphs). Scholars should have an opportunity to consider the representations individually and then in partners before discussing as a whole class. To review what scholars learned in Lesson 3, you may begin by showing just the factored form of the first equation f(x) = (x – 1)(x – 1) and asking scholars what predictions they can make about the graph based on that equation before revealing the other representations.
The purpose of this Minilesson to reinforce scholars’ understanding of the relationship between a graph of a quadratic function and the algebraic representation of the same function in vertex form.
Put up all of the representations. The goal is for students to determine which representations are connected (i.e., which equations match which graphs). Scholars should have an opportunity to consider the representations individually and then in partners before discussing as a whole class.
Scholars should walk away from this Minilesson recognizing that not all quadratic functions are factorable. Graphically, scholars should recognize that a quadratic function is not factorable if the function does not cross the 𝑥–axis and therefore does not have any (real) zeros. Algebraically, scholars should understand that if there are no terms that add together to get the 𝑏 term of the standard equation and simultaneously multiply together to get the 𝑐 term of the standard equation the function is not factorable. Through this Minilesson scholars should recognize that one of the benefits of vertex form is that, like standard form, it can be used to algebraically represent any quadratic function.
Put up all of the representations. The goal is for students to determine which representations are connected (i.e., which equations match which graphs). Scholars should have an opportunity to consider the representations individually and then in partners before discussing as a whole class.
Put up all of the representations. The goal is for students to determine which representations are connected (i.e., which equations match which graphs). Scholars should have an opportunity to consider the representations individually and then in partners before discussing as a whole class.
This version of Connecting Representations is different than what scholars are used to. Instead of having approximately the same number of graphs and equations, this time they are given one graph with no scale and asked to determine which equations could match. The purpose of this Minilesson is for scholars to practice using different forms of quadratic functions to identify key features of a graph as well as to build reasoning skills.
The purpose of this Minilesson is to strengthen scholars’ understanding that any equation can be solved by graphing each side and finding where lines intersect. Scholars should use what they learned in the previous lesson to choose an efficient algebraic strategy to prove their thinking.
Put up all of the representations. The goal is for students to determine which representations are connected (i.e., which equations match which graphs). Scholars should have an opportunity to consider the representations individually and then in partners before discussing as a whole class.
The purpose of this Minilesson is to introduce scholars to the word transformation to describe
how a function has changed from its original form. Scholars should be able to use graphs and
tables to identify the how the function y = x^{2 } was transformed. Scholars will recognize that going from x^{2 }to x^{2 }+ 4 shifts the function up and going from x^{2 } to (x^{ }+ 4)^{2 } shifts the function to the left.
Put up all of the representations. The goal is for students to determine which representations are
connected (i.e., which equations match which graphs). Scholars should have an opportunity to
consider the representations individually and then in partners before discussing as a whole class.
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