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The Mathematics Lesson-Planning Handbook, Grades 6-8

The Mathematics Lesson-Planning Handbook, Grades 6-8
Your Blueprint for Building Cohesive Lessons

Additional resources:

January 2019 | 264 pages | Corwin

Your blueprint to planning Grades 6-8 math lessons that lead to achievement for all learners

When it comes to planning mathematics lessons, do you sometimes feel burdened? Have you ever scrambled for an activity to engage your students that aligns with your state standards? Do you ever look at a recommended mathematics lesson plan and think, “This will never work for my students”?

The Mathematics Lesson-Planning Handbook: Your Blueprint for Building Cohesive Lessons, Grades 6–8 walks you step by step through the process of planning focused, research-based mathematics lessons that enhance the coherence, rigor, and purpose of state standards and address the unique learning needs of your individual students. This resource deepens the daily lesson-planning process for middle school teachers and offers practical guidance for merging routines, resources, and effective teaching techniques into an individualized and manageable set of lesson plans.  

The effective planning process helps you   

  • Identify learning intentions and connect goals to success criteria 
  • Select resources and worthwhile tasks that make the best use of instructional materials
  • Structure lessons differently for traditional and block middle school schedules
  • Anticipate student misconceptions and evaluate understanding using a variety of formative assessment techniques
  • Facilitate questioning, encourage productive struggle, and close lessons with reflection techniques  

This author team of seasoned mathematics educators make lesson planning practical and doable with a useful lesson-planning template and real-life examples from Grades 6–8 classrooms. Chapter by chapter, the decision-making strategies empower teachers to plan mathematics lessons strategically, to teach with intention and confidence, and to build purposeful, rigorous, coherent lessons that lead to mathematics achievement for all learners. 


Book at a Glance
Praise Page
Publisher's Acknowledgements
Letter to 6-8 Teachers
Letter to Middle School Principals
Letter to Mathematics Coaches
Letter to Preservice College and University Instructors
How to Use This Book
Part I: You are the Architect of Your Classroom
Chapter 1: Surveying Your Site: Knowing Your Students
Why Is It So Important to Know Your Students?

What Do Access and Equity Really Mean?

What Is Prior Knowledge in Mathematics

What Do Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Students Need?

What Do Students Living in Poverty Need?

What Are Learning Needs?

What Are the Common Themes?

Chapter 2: Your 6-8 Blueprint: Planning Mathematics Lessons for Coherence, Rigor, and Purpose
What Is Coherence?

What Is Rigor?

What Is the Purpose of a Lesson?

How Can You Ensure That You Plan Lessons for Coherence, Rigor, and Purpose?

Lesson-Planning Template

Part II: Drafting Your 6-8 Blueprint
Chapter 3: Laying Your Foundation: It Starts with Big Ideas, Essential Questions, and Standards
What Are State Standards for Mathematics?

What Are Essential Questions?

What Are Process Standards?

Building Unit Coherence

Sixth Grade Snapshot: Big Ideas, Essential Questions, and Standards

Eighth Grade Snapshot: Big Ideas, Essential Questions, and Standards

Under Construction

Chapter 4: Reinforcing Your Plan: Learning Intentions and Success Criteria

What Are Learning Intentions?

What Are Mathematics Learning Intentions?

What Are Language and Social Learning Intentions?

How Do You Communicate Learning Intentions with Students?

What Are Success Criteria?

How Do Learning Intentions Connect to the Success Criteria?

When Should Learning Intentions and Success Criteria Be Shared With Students?

Building Unit Coherence

Sixth Grade Snapshot: Learning Intentions and Success Criteria

Seventh Grade Snapshot: Learning Intentions and Success Criteria Decision-Making Snapshot

Eighth Grade Snapshot: Learning Intentions and Success Criteria

Under Construction

Chapter 5: Deciding on Purpose: Why Are You Building This Lesson?
What Is the Role of a Conceptual Understanding Lesson?

What Is Procedural Fluency, and How Does It Build from a Conceptual Understanding Lesson?

How Do You Know if You Need a Conceptual Understanding or Procedural Fluency Lesson?

How Do You Create a Transfer Lesson?

Building Unit Coherence

Sixth Grade Snapshot: Lesson Purpose

Seventh Grade Snapshot: Lesson Purpose

Eighth Grade Snapshot: Lesson Purpose

Under Construction

Chapter 6: Choosing Tasks: The Heart of the Lesson
Why Are Tasks Important?

What Is a Worthwhile Task?

How Do You Adapt to Tasks?

What Are Some Sources for Worthwhile Tasks?

Building Unit Coherence

Sixth Grade Snapshot: Task Selection

Seventh Grade Snapshot: Task Selection

Eighth Grade Snapshot: Task Selecetion

Under Construction

Chapter 7: Choosing Materials: Representations, Manipulatives, and Other Resources.
What Is the Role of Representations in Mathematics Lessons?

What Is A Manipulative?

How Are Manipulatives Used?

What Are Other Resources?

Building Unit Coherence

Sixth Grade Snapshot: Material Selection

Seventh Grade Snapshot: Material Selection

Eighth Grade Snapshot: Material Selection

Under Construction

Chapter 8: Cementing the Cracks: Anticipating Student Thinking
What Are Misconceptions, and Where Do They Come From?

How Can You Plan to Minimize Misconceptions?

Building Unit Coherence

Sixth Grade Snapshot: Student Thinking

Seventh Grade Snapshot: Student Thinking

Eighth Grade Snapshot: Student Thinking

Under Construction

Chapter 9: Framing the Lesson: Formats
How Do Middle School Schedules Affect Planning and Instruction?

What are Some Different Lesson Formats?

Building Unit Coherence

Sixth Grade Snapshot: Lesson Format

Seventh Grade Snapshot: Lesson Format

Eighth Grade Snapshot: Lesson Format

Under Construction

Chapter 10: Evaluating Impact: Formative Assessment
What Is Formative Assessment?

What Are Specific Formative Assessment Techniques?

Building Unit Coherence

Sixth Grade Snapshot: Formative Assessment

Seventh Grade Snapshot: Formative Assessment

Eighth Grade Snapshot: Formative Assessment

Under Construction

Part III: Pulling All the Pieces Together
Chapter 11: Planning to Launch the Lesson
What Is a Lesson Launch?

How Can You Launch a Problem-Solving Lesson?

What Kinds of Lesson Launches Focus on Mathematics Concepts?

What Are Number Routine Lesson Launches?

What Di You Anticipate Students Will Do?

Sixth Grade Snapshot: Launch the Lesson

Seventh Grade Snapshot: Launch the Lesson

Eighth Grade Snapshot: Launch the Lesson

Under Construction

Chapter 12: Planning to Facilitate the Lesson
What Is Mathematical Communication?

How Do You Facilitate Meaningful Mathematical Discourse?

How Do You Plan for and Pose Purposeful Questions?

How Do You Facilitate Productive Struggle?

How Do You Make Sure You Engage Students in the Process Standards as You Facilitate the Lesson?

Building Unit Coherence

Sixth Grade Snapshot: Facilitate the Lesson

Seventh Grade Snapshot: Facilitate the Lesson

Eighth Grade Snapshot: Facilitate the Lesson

Under Construction

Chapter 13: Planning to Close the Lesson
Why Do You Need Closure in a Lesson?

What Are Some Different Closure Activities?

Building Unit Coherence

Sixth Grade Snapshot: Close the Lesson

Seventh Grade Snapshot: Close the Lesson

Eighth Grade Snapshot: Close the Lesson

Under Construction

Chapter 14: Surveying Your Results: Lesson Reflection
Why is It Important to Reflect Upon Lessons?

What Kind of Reflection Cycle Supports Teacher Growth?

Appendix A: Complete Lessons for Sixth, Seventh, and Eighth Grade
Appendix B: Lesson-Planning Template
Appendix C: Further Reading/ Resources
Appendix D: Glossary
About the Authors

Free resources

6 Tips to Prepare You for Teaching Mathematics in Middle School

6 Tips to Prepare You for Teaching Mathematics in Middle School

You want to teach mathematics to students in the middle grades—but are you ready? Early adolescents have very unique characteristics that you need to be aware of and can capitalize on to facilitate productive lessons. Here are 6 tips from Lois Williams, author of The Mathematics Lesson-Planning Handbook, Grades 6-8, for teaching mathematics in the middle grades that capitalize on middle school students’ characteristics.

Read Now

Constructing Learning Intentions and Success Criteria for Mathematics

Constructing Learning Intentions and Success Criteria for Mathematics

In this sample excerpt from The Mathematics Lesson-Planning Handbook, Grades 6-8, learn how to construct your own learning intentions and success criterias for your mathematics lesson plans. These intentions help students take ownership of their learning.


“This book brings together the best of Visible Learning and the teaching of mathematics. The chapters on learning intentions, success criteria, misconceptions, formative evaluation, and knowing thy impact are stunning. Rich in exemplars, grounded in research about practice, and with the right balance about the surface and deep learning in math, it’s a great go-to book for all who teach mathematics.”

John Hattie
Melbourne Graduate School of Education

“This handbook supports teachers in moving from pacing to planning instruction by providing the tools needed to ensure that mathematics lessons work for every student. More important, it will engage teachers in the critical process of continual improvement. It is a must-have for teachers, leaders, and mathematics educators alike!”

Matt Larson
National Council of Teachers of Mathematics

“Often teachers entering the classroom have had little opportunity for extensive lesson planning in their preparation programs. Throughout the book, definitions and explanations are clear so that readers share a common understanding of the language. As a teacher reads, the vignettes encourage the reader to reflect on similar situations in their own classrooms. The well-written questions included in the text will help guide teachers to personal insights that ultimately lead to increased student learning.”

Connie S. Schrock
Emporia State University

“We all know that good instruction is well-planned instruction. We also know that effective lesson planning is a complicated decision-making process. This incredibly practical book—filled with delightful vignettes and clarifying examples—provides powerful ideas and structures for simplifying the complexities of planning great 6–8 mathematics lessons. This book is a wonderful resource for teachers, coaches, administrators, and teacher

Steve Leinwand
American Institutes for Research

“Finally! The Mathematics Lesson-Planning Handbook provides that necessary blueprint for serious analysis of the planning process. Planning to teach mathematics is serious business, and this book goes way beyond thinking about the mathematics standard/objective for the next day’s lesson, or jotting notes for a planning book. The handbook will truly engage teachers and communities of learning in a carefully choreographed grade-level
designated thread of mathematics tasks, which will serve as anchors for developing understanding and use of each aspect of the planning process. This book is a treasure, and will be read, reread, and referenced daily!”

Francis (Skip) Fennell
McDaniel College

“The Mathematics Lesson-Planning Handbook is a comprehensive and practical guide for coaches and teachers of mathematics in Grades 6–8. It provides the background that teachers need before they even begin to write a lesson plan! It then incorporates the research on what teachers need to think about as they begin to lay out a plan for instruction that will meet the needs of all 6–8 students and moves on to effective facilitation. This book is a must for every 6–8 teacher, coach, or school’s professional library!”

Linda M. Gojak
National Council of Teachers of Mathematics

“One of the hallmarks of accomplished 6–8 teachers of mathematics is the guidance they provide to help students own how to learn. In The Mathematics Lesson-Planning Handbook, Grades 6–8: Your Blueprint for Building Cohesive Lessons, authors Williams, Kobett, and Harbin Miles provide a clear, engaging, and masterful roadmap for helping each and every teacher own the lessons they design and use each and every day.
The authors reveal the purposes, the success criteria, and the nature of the mathematical tasks and materials to be chosen. They describe in detail the student engagement necessary to design daily mathematics lessons that will significantly impact student learning. Reading, listening to, and using their wisdom and advice will result in an empowering impact on each and every teacher and teacher leader of middle school mathematics.”

Timothy Kanold

“Planning is so much more than identifying materials, making copies, or filling out a form. Many of us were not trained to identify purpose, think about our students, look for quality instructional tasks, consider representations, or anticipate what our students will do. Finally, this handbook is here! We have our blueprint. This tool is a must-have for anyone new to teaching mathematics or anyone else who supports those who teach mathematics.”

John SanGiovanni
Howard County Public School System

“At a time when open educational resources are flooding our classrooms, The Mathematics Lesson-Planning Handbook helps bring focus and intentionality as to why we should choose one task over another. It thoughtfully lays out the smaller nuances that are most commonly overlooked and it helps bring clarity to the art of building coherence.”

Graham Fletcher
Atlanta, GA

“Planning is one of the most important instructional activities that teachers undertake. But how many teachers know how to plan lessons that are purposeful, coherent, and rigorous that also take into account the rich perspectives of a diverse classroom of students? This teacher resource makes explicit what it takes to plan lessons that truly support student learning while also speaking to principals, coaches, and preservice educators who support teacher learning. I will certainly be using this valuable resource in my own work with teachers.”

Linda Ruiz Davenport
Office of Instructional Research and Development, Boston Public Schools
Key features


  • Vignettes and concrete examples in every chapter
  • Sample lessons for each grade level in grades 6-8
  • Guidance for planning at the unit and lesson level
  • Stop and reflect sections
  • Prompts and room for writing to build your own lesson plans
  • Companion website contains downloadable templates, tasks, and sample lessons

Sample Materials & Chapters

At a Glance


How to Use This Book

Table of Contents

Chapter 3

Preview this book

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