# Unpacking and Teaching Algebraic Thinking and Operations

So often teachers are asked to teach math standards—whether they be from the Common Core or other rigorous standards—and aren’t given enough help or the resources to do it well. Algebraic thinking?  For real?  I’ve talked to teachers who roll their eyes and tell me that they don’t really even GET what that means.

### Algebraic Thinking: Help for teachers

If you sometimes struggle to know exactly what the standards mean or how to break them down for your students, I believe this new line of math resources is exactly what you need!  It includes the following components to help teach fourth-grade algebraic thinking and operations.

*Clearly worded standard page (CCSS Aligned) to compare to whatever standards you use.
*Teaching tips and suggestions
*Assessment options (2 forms) to use as pre- and post-tests or as test and retest
*12 task cards to use as a math center or with a small instructional group
*4 “challenge” cards addressing the same standard but pushing for deeper thinking and application
*Recording sheets for both sets of task cards
*Error analysis/critiquing reasoning reproducible
*Class recording sheet to monitor who is in need of intervention, who is on track, and who needs enrichment.

### What does “unpack” even mean?

We are supposed to “unpack” the standards and figure out how to teach them…how to assess them…and what to do with students who don’t “get it”.  It’s a lot–especially when we, as elementary teachers, are usually teaching multiple subjects!

I decided to try to tackle this standard by standard and started with Algebraic Thinking and Operations resources because I think many textbooks fail teachers on this set of standards. What I wanted to do was create a resource geared toward helping to teach these rigorous math standards–and that takes into account all those factors that sometimes get in our way.   Here are the topics covered in this set!

### Student-Friendly Math Targets

Teachers need to know what the standards really mean—and be able to break them into student-friendly language. Most of us get so little professional development; I want my resources to help make it easier for teachers to understand the content they are expected to teach.  Understanding key elements about each standard AND having a way to share this information with students is so important.

### Low-Ink Assessments in Two Formats

Teachers need the ability to assess the standards…and sometimes more than once if we want to pre and post test OR test, intervene with students, and then test again to check for growth.   Having a “Form A” and a “Form B” makes that so easy. (Oh yeah…having the answers sure helps too, right?)

### Meaningful Math Centers–with Differentiated Cards for Algebraic Thinking

Teachers need meaningful, ready-to-go activities that can be used in math centers or for small group instruction. Sometimes we need low-ink versions of them!  We need them to be easy to prep! In addition, teachers need to be able to differentiate for our more capable students as well. Having extension activities built in saves the day! When I see students finishing early, I don’t want to stop working with other students to go find more work for them to do. I decided to make task cards to match each standard…with 12 cards that present the standard in different ways and then four MORE cards to enrich those who need it!  The cards could be used as math centers…but could be used as intervention or enrichment groups as needed.  In color and black and white!

Cards with the scalloped borders are written at one level–and the concave borders take things up a notch and ask students to work with the concept in a different way that is more challenging.  Perfect for enrichment or fast finishers.

### Higher Level Reasoning and Error Analysis Tasks

Teachers need students to be able to do error analysis and think, critique, and write deeply about math—not just fill in the blanks.  So many of the pages in textbooks ask students to fill in charts and answer boxes…and students spend more mental energy figuring out what to do and where to do the work instead of actually doing the math. I KNOW they don’t provide enough opportunities for students to think deeply and talk and write about math. Adding a page like this to each resource gives a rigorous problem, the chance for students to write and talk about math, and even an additional challenge makes this super flexible.  Use as a partner activity, a whole-class activity, or even an assessment.

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