I can’t help writing this off-cycle blog post to celebrate the release of Illustrative Mathematics 6–8 Math last Friday, a proud achievement of the extraordinary team of teachers, mathematicians and educators at Illustrative Mathematics (IM), one that I didn’t dream of when I started IM almost 7 years ago with a vision of building a world where all learners know, use, and enjoy mathematics.

Conceived initially as a project at the University of Arizona to illustrate the standards with carefully vetted tasks, IM has grown into a not-for-profit company with 25 brilliant and creative employees and a registered user base some 40,000+ strong. Our partnership with Open Up Resources (OUR) to develop curriculum started a little over 2 years ago when we submitted a pilot grade 7 unit on proportional relationships to the K–12 OER Collaborative, as OUR was then known. In the fall of 2015, not understanding that it couldn’t be done, we agreed to write complete grades 6–8 curriculum ready for pilot in the 2016–17 school year.

One of the things I love about the curriculum is the careful attention to coherent sequencing of tasks, lesson plans, and units. The unit on dividing fractions is an example, appropriate to mention in the middle of this series of blog posts with Kristin Umland on the same topic. It moves carefully through the meanings of division, to the diagrams that help understand that meaning, to the formula that ultimately enables students to dispense with the diagrams. It illustrative perfectly our balanced approach to concepts and fluency. Kristin and I will be talking about that more in the next few blog posts.

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Dear Mathematical Community, I strongly believe we need to bring this Illustrative Curriculum into colleges and universities. We need to change the “canceling” mindset to a “dividing” mindset in our teachers so that they can facilitate these conceptually balanced lessons. I believe it is the only way to positively affect student learning (i.e. by first addressing how teachers think about mathematics). We need higher education ambassadors.

A little offended by this comment generalizing that secondary teachers don’t understand or think about math in a way that positively impacts student learning. Come talk to me and visit my class!

Wow, I just looked at a few of lessons. This is an amazing resource for teachers. Thank you

Thanks so much for developing this middle grades resource. I’m already getting questions from educators I’ve shared it with around “so, when will they release K-5 and high school resources”? So – what might be your plans for extending this work K-5 and HS?

We are working on high school now. An Algebra I, Geometry, Algebra II sequence will be ready for pilot in Fall 2018 and ready for adoption in Fall 2019. We are also seeking funding to produce a K–5 curriculum.

Hello again, Bill! So sorry to have to leave another question here, but again, I cannot log into the forums for some reason, and your comments on the Order of Operations post were turned off. I wrote out a presentation and assessments based on the order of operations, and went with the traditional PEMDAS, but in the sense that you perform each in that order. Is this correct? If a fifth grader is doing 6 ÷ 2 x 3 (4 + 3), would it be 63 (if doing the division first) or 7 (if doing the multiplication first)? This was confusing to me as I have always just followed the order as written. But a coworker was in disagreement about it, (she says left to right M/D then left to right A/S. If she’s correct, I’ll have to rewrite the entire unit…but I wanted to ask you first. Thanks again, Bill! Cheers!

I think the left-to-right rule is the more commonly accepted one, so the answer would be 63. But this example illustrates for me the absurdity of PEMDAS. It’s meant to be a convention that removes ambiguity and instead it starts fights! Just put in the parentheses to indicate what you mean. Kids shouldn’t be tortured with this stuff when there is math to learn. Rant over.