On October 23 and 24, I had the wonderful opportunity to listen to and learn from Steve Leinwand at the Saskatchewan Understands Math conference in Saskatoon, SK. From Steve’s opening keynote speech to his last breakout session, he had me nodding in agreement on multiple occasions even when he was insulting us as teachers with the honest truth.


I attended one of Steve’s breakout sessions where he introduced his +/- 8 Slide Lesson guide concept with the notion of converting a “ho-hum” task or exercise into a rich and engaging one that supports learning. Steve took us through one of the lessons and I started to think about how I could incorporate this method of teaching into my mathematics classroom when I got back to school. I loved the idea of providing students with rich opportunities for discussion, problem solving, and reasoning, while embedded in real life contexts. Steve’s lessons allowed multiple entry points into the questions for all students regardless of their background knowledge and skills they have.

Steve provided some questions for us to think about when designing +/- 8 Slide lessons.

  1. What are you trying to accomplish in this lesson?
  2. What would students be able to do to convince us the lesson worked?
  3. What tasks, examples, problems, and activities will students be engaged in to maximize the chance they will successfully meet lesson goals and complete the exit ticket?
  4. What pre-requisite understandings are likely to be essential for the tasks, examples, etc. to work?


I asked the question, “What could this look like in my grade 3 math class?”  After some wonderful discussions with math enthusiasts from across the province, I decided to take a risk and use the 8 Slide Lesson in an upcoming lesson.  I started creating a lesson using Steve’s essential guiding questions and his examples from his session for a lesson dealing with currency and understanding the value of coin collections (currency lesson guide & exit ticket).  

I chose to try out the lesson with seven other educators across my school division observing my classroom (no better way to receive feedback on a lesson than with fellow educators in the classroom). 


Reflection of Lesson:

I thoroughly enjoyed this lesson and was amazed how such a simple lesson had such a powerful impact on student learning. What I found was:

  • Students were engaged from beginning to end;
  • Discussions were rich in language as a whole class, small group, and peer to peer;
  • Students could articulate the learning goal for the day;
  • Misconceptions were addressed and overturned;
  • Students reflected on their learning and filled in learning gaps to meet the lesson goal;
  • Students integrated previous experiences and understandings while they notice and wonder throughout the lesson; and
  • Students had a difficult time coming up with possible questions to situations (I know with exposure to these types of questions they will improve).

After such success in my first lesson using this lesson guide I was quick to make a second one and try it out three days later. Wow! I was blown away.  I am blessed and honored to be able to spend my time with wonderful young mathematicians on a daily basis.

​Mr. Williams “The Skeptic”  ​​