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Grade 7 Pre-Algebra

December 5, 2019 | Gary Lawrence


Seventh Grade Mathematics


Mr. Lawrence ([email protected])
assisted by:
Mr. Choi ([email protected])
Ms. Postema ([email protected])
Ms. Wu ([email protected])

Course Description:

Seventh Grade Mathematics is a pre-algebra course designed to prepare students for further Algebra studies in eighth grade.  The studies will be guided by essential questions, such as:
–What is algebra?  What is pre-algebra?
–Is zero important?
–How does a culture’s number system affect its mathematical development?
–What are dimensions?  Why do we stop at 3?Topics of study will include:
An introduction to algebraic thinking through geometry
All operations with rational numbers
—-emphasizing negative numbers, fractions, decimals and percentages
Order of operations
Operational laws (commutative, associative, distributive laws)
Number sense
Exponents and roots
Introduction of linear and non-linear functions
Number lines and graphing
Data collection, data analysis & presentation, statistics
Cartesian plane and graphing
Set theory
Traditional and Metric measurement systems

This class meets six times a week for periods averaging 50-55 minutes.

Homework Expectations:

There will be daily homework. Assignments are geared to take approximately 30 to 45 minutes, understanding that students work at different speeds.

A class rule is that students may stop work after 45 minutes of solid effort. If a student cannot complete an assignment in that time, she/he should:
–Make sure that the writing in the graph pad reflects 45 minutes of effort. 
–If the student has not made much progress, then a couple of thoughtful sentences should be written in the graph pad: What have you tried? Where do you get stuck? What questions do you have?
–A parent signs the graph pad confirming that the student worked for 45 minutes.


Tests occur at the end of each unit of study. This generally happens every three to four weeks, so there are about three tests during each marking period.

When tests are graded and returned, students do a review sheet to analyze their work. Questions are posed to help students reflect on their learning: What types of problems did you miss? Were these calculation errors, or was the concept confusing? What additional support would be helpful?


A student’s grade will reflect understanding and mastery of the topics covered. During each marking period, students have many ways to demonstrate their understanding:

Class participation: both questions and answers are important
Homework quality

There will also be a math homework grade. This is an opportunity to recognize a student’s faithfulness in doing nightly homework. It is one way to reward the noteworthy effort many students put forth when they do homework to the best of their ability.


This course is guided by a series of “packets” drawn from a variety of textbook resources.  We have found this to be the most effective way to help students move from the K through 6 curriculum at Mustard Seed to the 8th grade algebra year.

One of the texts for this course will be Pre-Algebra published by Holt, Rinehart and Winston.  In addition, some units will be drawn from Real Math by Willoughby, Bereiter, Hilton and Rubinstein published by Open Court. We will also introduce some topics using early chapters in Algebra I by Paul A. Foerster published by Addison-Wesley. This is the text used for Mustard Seed School’s algebra course in Eighth Grade, and it treats some pre-algebra topics particularly well.

Building a “mathematics culture” …

A continuing opportunity for students and for Mustard Seed School

Dr. Hoyun Cho is a Professor in the Education Department at Capital University in Columbus, Ohio. Eight years ago, as a Ph.D. candidate in Mathematics Education at Columbia Teachers College, his thesis topic was the use of cartoons as a teaching tool in the middle school.
As part of his research, he served as an intern with Mr. Lawrence, and worked closely with pre-algebra and algebra students. Dr. Cho observed classes, helped students with their learning, and designed cartoon-based lessons. The hope was that students would be engaged with mathematics in new and interesting ways, and that their motivation and enjoyment would increase.

The work was very successful and supported Mustard Seed’s continuing efforts to help students find joy and meaning in mathematics studies. We persist in this work, focusing on creative problem solving, I Love Math Day events and eighth grade exhibitions.

Dr. Cho and Mr. Lawrence have run workshops and presented their findings at domestic and international mathematics conferences since 2012. They have been invited to present their work at the Nashville, TE conference of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) in October, 2019.

Gary Lawrence

Coleman Fung Chair for Mathematics; Teacher of Pre-Algebra and Algebra

After a 19-year career on Wall Street, Mr. Lawrence felt called to pursue his dream to teach math. He joined the Mustard Seed staff in 1993 as Director of Finance and math teacher for 7th and 8th grades. He retired from his role as Director of Finance & Operations in 2018, and he now focuses entirely on math instruction.

Mr. Lawrence is delighted to share his love of mathematics with students through daily class work, I Love Math problem sets and celebrations, and 8th grade math exhibitions. He frequently presents workshops at regional, national, and international conferences to help math teachers in other schools and places learn from Mustard Seed’s rich mathematical program. The goal of most of his workshops is to give teachers practical tools to help students grow in persistence and creativity, developing both strong skills and attitudes. Whenever possible, Mr. Lawrence invites students to join him and present their work during conference workshops. To date, 14 Mustard Seed students have been a part of these presentations, and Mr. Lawrence expects that more students will have this opportunity in the future!

Mustard Seed has played a large role in the Lawrence family. Mr. Lawrence’s wife, Lori, was an enthusiastic parent of three Mustard Seed students and served as a Board member. Mr. and Mrs. Lawrence are grateful for the impact Mustard Seed has had on their three daughters. Their foundational experiences at MSS have served them well in high school, college, and in their adult lives!

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