Sunny Lee’s Real-World Math

When I walk into a math classroom I am definitely out of my comfort zone.  I admit I struggled (a lot!) with Algebra when I was in high school.  If I would have had Sunny Lee as a teacher, however, I think I would have actually enjoyed math class.   She began the lesson by discussing why the students would need to practice weighted averages and the importance this skill had for other classes, such as Chemistry.  Making the task relevant to the students and beginning with the “why” is crucial to engage student interest.  Students were already sitting in collaborative groups as she passed out an activity with three real-world mixture problems (see picture below).  Having administered the CAASPP last spring, I immediately recognized this as exactly the type of activity students encounter on the math performance task.  In their groups, students began to discuss and work out the mixture problems. Each problem had to do with different trail mixes the fictitious “Lee-Lee Store” would be selling.  Sunny circulated and asked leading questions as students worked together to solve the Lee-Lee Store’s dilemmas.  Noticing that students needed to recheck some of their work at one point, she stopped to give a whole group mini-lesson and reminder so that students could go back and find their errors.  This intervention may not have been needed for all students, but the quick lesson helped to bring those who required a refresher up to speed.  This is a prime example of how teachers can quickly assess students and then differentiate based on student need.

Soon Sunny passed out plastic gloves for each student.  Their eyes lit up as they figured out what was coming…food!  This lesson was designed so that students would not only encounter a real-world issue on paper, but would also experience the lesson hands-on.  Genius!  Allowing students to experience the material in multiple ways is another perfect example of differentiated instruction.  A math-phobic student like me would have thrived in this environment.  Students were given scales next.  Then they were provided with M&Ms, banana chips, pretzels, and other goodies to weigh.  At the end of the lesson each student walked away with a little box of trail mix…and a new understanding of the importance of weighted averages.  The best part is that Sunny not only shared trail mix with me, but she also shared her clever teaching strategies. Win-win!  Thank you, Sunny, for all you do for Hart High students.

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Sunny’s name suits her as she is always smiling when she teaches! 🙂


Although this graphic  is intended for younger students, it clearly demonstrates what Sunny’s students were doing–explaining and critiquing their reasoning using objects.  Remember that the standards are the same kindergarten through 11th grade, but they increase in complexity.  Read on for some more tips for using “I” Statements with Math Practice 3.  “I” statements are a great way to help students develop positive habits of mind at any age since metacognition is key to building the stamina needed to tackle complex tasks.