Three-Part Math Lessons

07 February 2012
This year I've been part of a team that has been studying, co-planning, and implementing the three-part math lesson in our classrooms.  In fact, one of the SMART goals for my division this year was to implement a three part lesson at least once a week.  With so much on my plate already, I was relieved to realize that the three part math lesson was really no different than what we were already doing in class.  Essentially, the three part lesson follows a problem-solving approach.  The three parts are a short 10 - 15 minute hook (Getting Started), a longer problem-solving section (Working On It) during which the students work in pairs or small groups, and a summary (Consolidation and Practice) in which the students share their learning, then practice the learned skills independently.  To read a little bit more about this, click here.

Today we did a three part lesson on perimeter and area of rectangles.  This should be a concept they already know, but I thought we'd start slow before I throw triangles and parallelograms into the mix.
For the hook we quickly reviewed the definition of perimeter (we had just worked on perimeter yesterday, and through our discussion then, I found out many actually remembered the formula for area, too).  I then gave the students baggies with 20 multi-link cubes in each and asked them to create a rectangle with a perimeter of 20 units.  (The catch was, they would only be using 16 cubes to build a rectangle with  perimeter of 20).  I circulated around the room, seeing who caught on to this, then I had students share examples under the ELMO.  I had quite a few students who used all 20 cubes, yet were confident their perimeter was 20, until I asked them to count it out - and then it was like the lightbulb went on (LOVE that moment).

We then moved on to the second part of the lesson.  I had the learning goal and task posted on chart paper.  We read through the problem (paying attention to the important parts), then I divided the students into similar-ability pairings and gave each a piece of large chart paper and a marker.  Then then set to work with their partners.  During this time I circulate around the class, watching how the pairs set about to solve the problem.  I carry around a pad of sticky notes, and write questions for the partners when I see something I want them to share with the class.  For example, this time I wrote down "How did you find the area of your rectangle?" and the names of three different groups.  Each group had used a different strategy, and I wanted to be sure I called upon these groups to share their strategies with the class after.  When the time was up, I asked each group to give themselves a traffic light comprehension.  For this, students give themselves a green circle if they found the problem easy to solve, a yellow circle if they had some questions, but think they came to the correct solution, or a red circle if they had a lot of difficulty.  This gives me a quick reference so I can see what students I need to check with during the practice stage.

For the third part of the lesson, we do a bansho method of sharing.  In a bansho, solutions are posted by grouping together examples that used similar strategies to solve the problem.  For this lesson I had three groups.  The group on the left had used formulas to solve for perimeter and area.  The two in the middle used a formula for perimeter, but counted the squares for area.  The three on the right used a guess and check strategy to make the rectangles, then counted to check the the perimeter or area.

During a bansho, students are preselected by the teacher to share certain strategies they used.  I put my sticky note questions on the papers as I hang them in groups to remind myself who I want to call on to share. Not all students share, and it is important that students feel successful when they are sharing.

This shows the green circle for the "traffic light comprehension", as well as one of the sticky notes I had posted on the chart.

After the bansho, which goes quite quickly as only a few students share, we complete a summary of learning (student created) before they move on to a similar independent practice question.  They will hand in this work tomorrow so I can check for comprehension.

All in all, a fun and successful lesson.  Can't ask for more than that.

By the way, if you read my post on learning goals yesterday, I said I was going to try a sticky note "exit slip" on our daily learning goals.  Well, we did it today, and I'm really pleased with it.  I will definitely be doing more of this.  It was quick, easy, and most importantly, reinforced all our concepts at the end of the day.

Wow - this was a long post!!!  Sorry about that.  Well, if you made it all the way to the end, Happy Tuesday!!!  I've got to make some cupcakes for my daughter to bring to school for her 6th birthday tomorrow, and then I HAVE GOT TO get working on my report cards ... <sigh>


  1. Love the math lesson! I guess I am doing the three part math lesson and didn't realize it! I love the way the students share their work.

    Also, love love love the exit slip on learning objectives. Great idea!Adventures of a Third Grade Teacher

  2. If I could give you the teacher of the year award, I would!!!

  3. Okay I am very interested in learning more about Bansho, it is something I haven't heard of in the United States. Could you point me to some websites to learn more? I teach fourth grade.

  4. Thanks! And Tamara, that's the nicest thing I've heard in the longest time! Thank-you!
    @Julie - you can click on the word bansho in the post - I've linked it to a short article on it. Here is another link for a much more in depth explanation:
    Hope this helps!

  5. Jen...we MUST talk more. This is huge focus in my school and I have been doing lots of PD on bansho but haven't yet felt comfortable trying it in my class. Do you have a lesson plan that you wrote out for your bansho that I could see?

  6. The reflection post-it note as exit slips are perfect! This will be a great addition to our self-evaluation routine. Thanks so much for sharing the pics...I'm so very visual when it comes to new ideas! :-)

    Mrs. Tilmon Says…

  7. We have been doing the three part lesson in math for a few years now. Our board calls it "SUM" math but it is the same thing. The kids really like to problem solve together and share their thinking. Do you do gallery walks as well as the Bansho? My class just finished one this week were they had to find the surface area of different food boxes (we had already mastered area and perimeter so this was the natural next step). It's a great way to launch concepts. Thanks for sharing!

  8. I have done gallery walks - I really like them, but I don't have the wall space in the classroom to really do them justice. For the sharing in our three part lessons we can do a bansho, gallery walk, or math congress. Because the time is so limited, from what I've seen so far, bansho seems to be what our board is recommending.

  9. Thanks for the link. I will also google SUM math and see what I can find. iloveknitting thanks for idea of using food boxes for perimeter and area!

  10. I find your posts so inspiring! I just wished you lived close enough to meet up with! Thank you so much for your blog.

  11. Very cool! We are currently working on Area and Perimeter in Math too. Good work :)

  12. New Package of old concept in the 90's called Puddle Questions in Math.

  13. Love the exit slips! How often did you have your kids do these?

    Mallory @Mrs. Crouse's {6th Grade} All-Stars

  14. Awesome teaching! I love the cooperative learning in math and the exit slips!! Keep up the great work, and thanks for inspiring me.

  15. I am new to your blog and loving all your fantastic ideas! I am also a 5/6 teacher in a small school in Ontario, but at a french school (which means I have to translate everything you've done! lol). I am looking at your board of "Today we will learn about...". Do you change that every day? I love the idea, but it seems like it would be a lot of work!