Thoughtful Thursdays: What Makes it Unique?

Thoughtful Thursdays – What Makes it Unique?

Thoughtful Thursdays currently consist of two activities: “What Makes it Unique?” and “Conundrums.” Both of these activities are designed to help students stimulate and grow the problem solving parts of their brains, make connections, recognize patterns and explain their reasoning. They will be doing Math without algebra or arithmetic. Either of these activities takes place at the beginning of the period, are easy to set up and use, take only a few minutes, and are low-floor/high-ceiling activities.

What Makes it Unique?

A few years ago when this activity first entered the Brain Growth Academy it was called “What doesn’t belong?” but that title is divisive. It implies that things (and people) that are different don’t belong. As a teacher of an antiracist math program, one of the main missions is to help everyone believe that they do belong in a mathematics classroom, hence the name and directions were changed. 


What Makes it Unique? Click here for a PDF

Mathematical Practices

  • Make sense of problems and persevere in solving them 
  • Reason abstractly and quantitatively
  • Construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others
  • Look for and make use of structure

21st Century Skills

  • Critical thinking
  • Collaboration
  • Adaptability and Flexibility
  • Emotional Intelligence (EQ)
  • Judgement and Complex Decision Making


  1. Randomly pick a student to read the directions from one of the slides. After this has been done a few times, students will get the drill but don’t discount the value of the message. Consistently celebrating each student’s uniqueness helps everyone feel a part of the class community.
  2. Give students a silent 60 seconds to figure out everything unique about each shape. After students get used to the process, it may be beneficial to allow students to collaborate within their team.
  3. Randomly choose a student and ask them to pick a shape (top, bottom, left, right) and tell the class 2 things that make it unique. This is where the art of teaching comes in. If a student struggles, give them time. If the time stretches into an uncomfortable length, allow them to consult with their team with the promise that you will come back to them.
  4. Choose a student that is on a different team and repeat the process, but once an image has been picked it can’t be picked again. 
  5. After every image has been discussed, come back to any that needed to consult with their teams. In the early days even this might need prompting, but eventually the process will become incredibly smooth.
  6. THE ART OF TEACHING: Throughout the process, don’t forget to celebrate every answer. Once students buy into the process, the patterns and uniqueness that students will find and discover will be amazing.

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