**This past week, I submitted a speaker proposal for NCTM 2016 in San Fransisco**. The proposal is for a Grade 6-8 Burst (30 minutes) with the exact same title as this blog post:

*The Ultimate Task for Vertical Planning: Stacking Cups*. I figure if I don't get accepted, at least I can share my thoughts here and you all can help spread the word about my idea if you think it has potential. If it does get accepted, I look forward to giving an update a year from now at NCTM. Here's my session description:

Who says you can't use the same task each year? Come see why Stacking Cups might be the single best secondary math task to get teachers at your school, district, or state to see the importance and necessity of vertical planning. Use tasks that utilize connections from the previous year and extend the mathematics each year. Work smarter, not harder.

**Let's first back up a bit. I attended Alex Overwijk's session** at NCTM Boston a few weeks back. I had already read his awesome blog post "

Open Strategy Cup Stacking" and knew there are multiple teaching moments with Stacking Cups. I remember teaching Math 8 a few years ago and getting a lot of use out of Stacking Cups as you can see a couple times

here and

here. I was preparing for a training with math teachers from grades 6-12 and

*THAT's* when it hit me: I could have a room full of math teachers from grades six through twelve and they all could:

- be working on this task
- see the different skills and tools necessary for solving
- know the expectation of each grade level

**I've heard comments from teachers numerous times like,**

"Well, if they do File Cabinet in 6th grade, I can't do it in 7th grade with *my* students."

"If they've done Stacking Cups in Math 8, then *I* can't do it in Algebra."

"If the 5th grade teachers use Estimation 180 with students, then *I can't*."

**YES! YOU CAN!** It's called vertical planning.

**YES, YOU CAN!** Instead, let's ask different questions like, "How can we use the same task to extend the mathematics each year?" and "How can we make connections to prior learning from the previous grade level?"

**Let's work smarter, not harder.**
**I will spend the rest of this blog post highlighting each grade level and suggested uses** for Stacking Cups. It won't be complete or the final version as this is through the lens of one person. I'm confident, with your help and critique, we can make it even better.

**Math 6**
**Question**:

*How many cups do we need to stack (alternating) to reach someone's height*?

We talk about rate. We organize our information on a number line, in a table, using a tape diagram, etc. We explore the rates using various models.

**Math 7**
**Question 1**:

*How many cups do we need to stack (alternating) to reach someone's height*?

We continue the conversation started in Math 6 revolving around rates, using constant of proportionality. All of this can be represented in a table, as an equation, and in a coordinate plane.

**Question 2**:

*How many cups do we need to stack (consecutively) to reach someone's height*?

We now shift our thinking a bit where there is still a constant increase with each cup, but there is an initial amount (the cup handle). Students explore how to write an equation to represent this situation and solve it.

**Question 3**:

*What would be possible dimensions of a box that would contain the cups to stack to someone's height*?

*Which dimensions would be the most cost effective*?

Imagine students understanding surface area and volume and how they're related to each other, especially if we model with mathematics, by identifying variables such as:

- cardboard cost
- delivery truck capacity
- store storage sizes
- consumer trends with buying cups
- more

**Math 8**
**Question 1**:

*How many cups do we need to stack (consecutively) to reach someone's height*?

Similar to question 2 in Math 7. However, we extend the mathematical understanding as we explore constant rate of change (slope), input and output, linear, and how our situation can be represented in the form

*y = mx + b*.

**Question 2**:

*When will two stacks of different sized cups be equal in height and have the same number of cups in each stack*?

We introduce students to linear systems using

this task. Students can organize the information about each cup in a table. We can extend prior knowledge to represent the situation using graphs, equations, and functions.

*****By the end of Math 8, it might be helpful to mention (at least informally) to students the significance of discrete functions.

**Algebra**
We tighten up the math (both questions) previously learned in Math 8. How can we extend the mathematics. Add more challenging situations like the stacks start on different objects like desks, boxes, etc.

**Question 3**:

*How many cups would we need to stack in a triangular formation to someone's height*?

This questions really extends the mathematics for students, but we can still use the tools they've learned from previous grades. Maybe students start by organizing the data in a table. Maybe they graph the data and notice it isn't linear. Maybe we can use

desmos with

*sliders* or a

*line of regression* to explore quadratics.

**Beyond Algebra and Geometry**:

I'll admit this is where I'm a little rusty and would need you high school pros to jump in and contribute. I think with the triangle stacking, it can be taken from quadratic to a divergent series. I've also seen high school teachers come up with the following representations:

Al Overwijk also stacked cups in a

triangular pyramid which is awesome.

**Let's keep this vertical planning going. If you would like a couple charges, here you go:**
Go to your site and/or district and push for Stacking Cups to be a signature task at all sites and secondary grade levels. Help support your colleagues with vertical planning. **Report back**.

Look for other tasks out there like Robert Kaplinsky's *Hot Dogs* or Dan Meyer's *Penny Circle* or Mathalicious' *Wheel of Fortune* or Graham Fletcher's *Water Boy* that can be used with vertical planning. **Report back.**

Vertical,

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