What’s Inside: Math Unit Launches

September 08, 2021

When you are getting ready to teach a new math unit, what’s your process? How do you make sure you fully understand the big picture concepts your students will be working through? And how do you prepare to make confident choices—ahead of time and in the moment—about how to bring each lesson to life in your classroom?

If it’s your first time teaching a certain grade level or your first year working with a new curriculum, it might be hard to know where to start, or how to structure your prep time. And even if you are a veteran teacher, you may have questions about an upcoming unit and not be sure where to find the answers.

Enter Unit Launches.

Unit Launches are a comprehensive tool designed to help you do this preparation in a systematic way, with a combination of reading, videos and reflection prompts that allow you to dive deeply into the content you are about to teach.

Fishtank Math lesson plans are intentionally unscripted, because we think the best results come from giving you the autonomy to bring your unique knowledge of your students, your expertise in your subject area, and your personal style to each lesson.

Instead of scripting, we build our lessons around rich problems for teachers and students to work through together, with teacher supports in the form of guiding questions, tips, and notes. Unit Launches are another key element of support, offered to make your process of internalizing the unit content more structured and efficient.

Unit Launches are one of the many features unlocked with a Fishtank Plus subscription for 3rd–8th Grade Math courses. In the rest of this post, we’ll share how Unit Launches are organized and what you can expect to gain from each section.

Video showing how to navigate the Unit Launch feature of Fishtank


1. Standards Review

In the first section of a Unit Launch, you’ll have the opportunity to reflect on two or three key standards from the unit to gain a better understanding of what students will be expected to know and do.

In this section, you will follow a two-step process to unpack each key standard. First, you’ll read and analyze the language of the standard, like this one from 5th Grade, Unit 1.

Example Unit Launch: Analyzing the Standard Language of a 5th grade standard

Once you enter your thoughts in the reflection field, you can read what our curriculum directors have to say about the standard.

Filling in the standards review section of a Math Unit Launch.

Then you’ll solve problems from the post-unit assessment that are aligned to the standard you just explored.

Step 2 of the Unit Launch: Analyzing Aligned Assessment Problems

A short problem analysis video accompanies each of these problems, highlighting key connections between the problem and the standard.


2. Big Ideas

For each Unit Launch, we identify one or two Big Ideas which encompass many of the key concepts and skills of the unit.

You’ll investigate these Big Ideas, starting by drawing connections to the unit standards and identifying where the Big Ideas appear in the Lesson Map. Here’s how this looks in 6th Grade, Unit 6, where the two Big Ideas are Reasoning About and Solving Equations and Reasoning About and Solving Inequalities.

Video showing the Big Ideas section of the Unit Launch and showing where to enter your own answers

A video for each Big Idea will guide you through the development of the Big Idea concept using key Anchor Problems and Target Tasks selected from lessons. A printable companion document offers space to solve each problem and reflect on how your students will engage with it.

At the end of each Big Idea video, you’ll consider the implications for your upcoming instruction and make a personalized action plan based on what you learned.

Step 3 of the Unit Launch: Reflecting and Action Planning


3. Content Connections

In the final section of the unit launch, you’ll zoom out and look at the related content that students study before and after the unit.

You’ll dig into the progression of concepts, using Fishtank and other resources to help identify the foundational content that this unit builds off of and future standards that it’s building toward. Here is an example from 7th Grade, Unit 5, focusing on the Big Idea Solving Percent Applications.

Content Connections section of a Math Unit Launch

Once you submit your response, you can see ours, which includes context and related problems from other grade levels.

Filling in the prior and future connections section of the Unit Launch


Unit Launches are a powerful tool for deeply internalizing grade-level content. By systematically working through the standards, big ideas, and content connections of a unit, you can be prepared to create a strong instructional plan for each lesson, and support your students through any question or sticking point that might emerge in class.

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