teaching resources

Positive, Negative, or Neither

So I’ve been sick and missed the last deadline for my #MTBoS post.  But it actually gave me more time to think about what I wanted to write about.  The post is supposed to be about a lesson plan.  Since I’m no longer in the classroom, I knew this was going to be a tough post to write.  However, the more and more I thought about it, I realized that it would probably be helpful to write about Assessing and Advancing questions in an actual lesson.


So if you read my last post, you have a general idea about what I’m talking about when I say “assessing and advancing questions.”  A quick search of google last week made me realize this was not as common a term (or ed lingo) as I originally thought.  I guess because my state immersed us in training about it, I thought it was a common thing I was missing out on by not knowing.  I actually discovered through that same search that “funneling and focusing questions” were a little more common and definitely similar.

So the lesson where I learned how to throughly develop assessing and advancing questions started with a task.  This is probably the easiest way to use the questioning.  This task is a 7th grade task (since that’s what I was teaching at the time) and most closely fits the 7.NS.1 standard.  The students are given this number line and asked the following questions:

task numberline


“Consider the following expressions. Use the number line above to determine whether each of the expressions has a value that is positive, negative, or equal to 0. Explain your reasoning.”

  • a + 1
  • b – b
  • a + a
  • a – b
  • b – a
  • -a
  • ab + 1

There is also an extension where you can ask about division (Which is greater a/b or b/a?), but to be honest my students didn’t make it very far in their thinking on the first few situations.  It was also helpful to give the same number line several times on the paper I gave them so they could show their work and thinking for every situation individually.  Tasks should always begin with several minutes of individual think time before you allow the students to talk to each other so everyone has had an opportunity to process what the question is asking and develop their own thoughts about how to solve the problem.  I think I gave 12 minutes for this one.

So in preparation of teaching, we considered possible solution paths and came up with assessing and advancing questions for each path.


Next, we looked at misconceptions and considered assessing and advancing questions.


And last, we considered what to ask if a student didn’t know how to start the problem or needed an extension because they finished early and correctly.  This is differentiation through questioning, by the way!


Having this all planned helped the lesson go much smoother, but obviously didn’t prepare me for everything.  There is always a curve ball.  But if you plan something, you have a starting point of where to go when the student throws that curve ball.  This is obviously just a starting point.  If you were to work in collaboration with other teachers, you could come up with so many more solution paths and misconceptions with different questions.

So, thoughts?  Was this helpful?  If anyone teaches this task, I would love to hear how it goes and any questions you thought of that were different than the ones we came up with.


2 thoughts on “Positive, Negative, or Neither

  1. By sharing out the question categories, you’ve brought them to the front of my mind. I’ve been recognizing when I use an assessment question vs. and advancement question. Now, I’m writing a post in which I connect a teaching practice to assessing and advancing questions. Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I like what you’ve done here, both with the initial task, and the thinking in the solution paths. I’ll share it with my teachers and let you know if any try it (I only have senior high school students this year). Thanks for sharing


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