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Understanding Middle School Math

Cool Problems to Get Students Thinking and Connecting

By Arthur Hyde, Susan Friedlander, Cheryl Heck, Lynn Pittner
Foreword by Judith Zawojewski

This carefully selected collection of problems connects math to the real world, to students’ lives, and to prior knowledge. Extensively field tested and refined by classroom teachers, each problems scaffolds content and processes, providing multiple entry points into learning.


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A book of cool problems for middle school mathematics classrooms—does it get any better? Yes, it does. Art Hyde and his colleagues go far beyond providing a collection of problems. They address big ideas, make connections, nurture the use of varied representations, and provide vivid accounts of actual classroom implementation.

—Judith Zawojewski

Board of Directors, NCTM


Imagine handing students state-by-state data on the number of gallons of soft drinks sold per person in one year. Imagine using it to lead a vibrant problem-solving session in which students energetically pose and answer mathematical questions:

Why does it say sold instead of consumed?  

What IS a soft drink? Is it the same as soda?

Who would collect this kind of data? Why would they collect it?

How was gallons per person calculated?

What was the total amount of soda sold in our state?

How many 12 ounce cans is that? 20 ounce bottles? How many of each per person?


Understanding Middle School Math gathers 50 cool problems like this that lead to deep thinking. Problems such as the Renovation Problem, in which students uncover ideas about how perimeter, area, length, and cost affect a construction project. Or Chocolate Algebra, where they discover linear relationships among the pocket money available to buy two differently priced chocolate candies.


Arthur Hyde combines the latest research and decades of classroom experience to braid language, cognition, and math. His approach can help any student, including underprepared ones, with the rigors of math in middle school and beyond. He has created and adapted problems that strongly connect math to the real world, to students’ lives, and to prior knowledge. Problems that scaffold content and processes, and give students multiple entry points into learning. Every problem has been extensively field tested and refined by classroom teachers. And for each cool problem practicing middle school teachers describe how they used it to differentiate over a wide range of students and extend learning.


For fantastic problems your students won’t soon forget and teaching solutions that are exciting, substantial, and transformative, turn to Art Hyde. Read and use Understanding Middle School Math and pass your love of math on as you meet your classroom goals.

Discover more resources for developing mathematical thinking at


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