The Standards for Mathematical Practice  are often integrated into the teaching of other standards in the curriculum and given little attention as standalone entities. These really underpin the core of what it means to be a mathematician. The content standards take the content necessary for being fluent and understanding topics and place them in the forefront, but the MP Standards truly spotlight the ideals of the mathematician. I feel we spend so much time on the content standards and just tell ourselves the MP Standards “go along” with everything else. This is a tragedy in my eyes, because most of the MP Standards are NOT ideas naturally learned. These are practices that must be honed over time and attended to with care and precision.

In my first year of teaching, I started a practice on Mondays where, instead of the usual warm-up, we would partake in a 3-Minute Math activity. The name stems off from Meyer’s 3-Act Math initiative that has become widely popular in the math teacher community. I chose Mondays because it was the beginning of the week and it gave a chance to “ease into” the week’s content by priming their minds for mathematical thinking beforehand.

The premise is this:

  • Students are presented with a problem. This may be on the projector or given to each group if in small group.
  • The problem is purposely extremely low-entry access level, possessing as little “hardcore” math as possible.
  • The focus is on the MP Standards of critical-thinking, problem-solving and reasoning abstractly and outside the box. Many of the questions are what colloquially may be called brain teasers, but are relevant math questions.
  • The questions purposely try to avoid addressing content standards. There’s time for that in the rest of the curriculum. This is all about mathematical practices and thinking.
  • Students have 30 seconds to rephrase the question in their own words.
  • Students then have 2 minutes of solo time to think about the problem, try and tackle it, and come up with a strategy to solve it.
  • Students then have 30 seconds to reflect and rate their understanding and ability on the problem

We then spend several minutes talking about the problem, and students can “hash out” their final product on paper while we are doing this. At the end, we swap papers with a nearby partner and this peer gives a very short evaluation of the work done. We then pass the papers up for me to review and give back later.

The low-entry level means many of these questions spark very excited and interesting conversations, even with students that math is traditionally an issue with. Many students who have severe content deficits look at these problems with excitement and try their best.

My colleagues have criticized the 2-minute limit on solo time, and I understand; someone else using 3MM may try to give more time for students to reason on their own. But I like the 2-minutes of intense solo time because this concentrates it into a small timeframe and keeps the students’ attention and also promotes good test-taking fluency.

I may come back to this topic and discuss it more in the future, as it has been a really fun initiative for me in my teaching, but I’m going to leave the first 12 of them here for anyone to use, as well as the template I use. Feel free to let me know how they work for you if you decide to implement or try out 3MM.


3MM 1-4

3MM 5-8

3MM 9-12

(These are distributed for free noncommercial use. If you see these pop up on TeacherPayTeacher, please let me know so I can get it taken down. Thanks!)

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