Looking to the Fall, Part 2: Creating a Supportive Resource for K–5 Teachers

By Kristin Gray, Director K–5 Curriculum and Professional Learning
and Kevin Liner, IM K–5 Professional Learning Lead

In our previous post, we highlighted important considerations in planning to support students in the fall. While we need to first explore these ideas conceptually, we must also consider what this looks like in practice. In this post, we explore the unit adaptation materials we are creating under these considerations. We explore this structure through the IM K–5 Math beta curriculum materials being piloted this fall, but we believe this is a generalizable process and structure that could be applied to other materials.   

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Looking Ahead to 2020–21 in IM 6–8 Math and IM Algebra 1, Geometry, and Algebra 2

By David Petersen, Lead Curriculum Writer and
Kate Nowak, Director of K–12 Curriculum Strategy

This school year has been strange and stressful, and there is uncertainty about what next year will look like. Due to school closures in 2019–20, students will have missed important learning opportunities, and existing inequities may have become more pronounced. On top of that, it’s likely that many schools will not be back to normal in the fall. We may face shortened or fewer school days, more distance learning or hybrid face-to-face and distance learning, and ongoing school disruptions.

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Looking to the Fall, Part 1: Welcoming and Supporting K–5 Students

By Kristin Gray, Director K–5 Curriculum and Professional Learning
and Kevin Liner, IM K–5 Professional Learning Lead

It is overwhelming to think about how teaching and learning will look in the fall. The uncertainty of the impact of students missing so many days of school, and the educational inequities that have been magnified as a result of the COVID-19 virus, leave us all with so many unknowns. 

With so much uncertainty, we imagine there may be some knee-jerk reactions to unfinished learning this fall. There may be a temptation to frontload the school year with the prior grade-level content students may have missed or assess each student immediately on arrival back to school and then “fill in” the unfinished learning. As well-intentioned as these ideas may be, we can’t help but think about the impact they could have on students mentally, emotionally, and mathematically as they reenter school. 

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English Learners and Distance Learning: Enhancing Access

By Liz Ramirez

Which students are experiencing success in today’s “distance learning”? What barriers do other students face?

While virtual learning platforms have made it possible for some live instruction to continue during school closures, this type of learning environment presents additional challenges for students who are learning English. Many of the language supports and resources that students rely on in the classroom are no longer accessible, including subtle ones like teacher gestures, word walls, and turning to a partner for clarification. Now…?

How do we support English learners in a virtual learning environment?

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Thoughts on the Back-to-School Problem

By William McCallum

One of the consolations in these difficult times has been tweets and Youtube videos of parents discovering just what it takes to be a teacher. Maybe it takes a crisis like this to restore the respect that teachers deserve. There is no doubt that when schools reopen teachers will face a formidable back-to-school problem: entire classes of students returning with months of lost learning from the previous year. And there is no doubt in my mind that teachers are up to this challenge. They have always had to face this problem on a small scale; hopeful parents will be looking up to them to solve it for all. 

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IM Talking Math 6–8: Resources for Weekly Re-engagement

By IM 6–8 Math Team

This week, IM is launching a new resource to support students and teachers with distance learning. Each week we will publish an open-ended prompt or image that invites math conversation, and a series of 3–5 questions. The questions are designed so that all 6–8 students have an entry point for the first question, and all students will find something both familiar and challenging in each set. 


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IM Talking Math

By Kristin Gray

Most importantly, I hope everyone is taking care of themselves, their families, and others as much as they are able to during this time. With schools and districts pushing instruction online with a quick turnaround, everyone is experiencing unprecedented change.

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Planning for Learning in Spring of 2020

Some schools are sending home printed packets and establishing teacher office hours by phone. Some are conducting their regular class schedule, but online. And lots are doing something in between. We understand that it is very challenging to translate IM curricula to remote learning. It is structured around discourse between people in the same room, after all. The goal of this post is to help with a small piece of the puzzle of how to translate IM curricula for remote learning: prioritizing some topics and activities over others. 

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Aggregated Support for the IM Math Community in Spring 2020

We want to share our deepest gratitude for the work each of you has been doing to protect yourselves, your families, your students, and your school communities, as you face hard decisions about how to support students while also reducing our close contact with one another. Each of us faces unique situations and there are no easy solutions for any of the various components of supporting children that each of us are charged with.

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Links to Resources for Shifting Instruction Online

First and most importantly, take care of yourself, your family, and your students. That might not look like doing math, or it might. To the extent that it’s useful, we have curated this list of resources recommended by our community. We understand that contexts vary widely, and there is more here than any one person can make use of, but we’ve done our best to organize these resources so you can find what is most useful. If you know of additional resources that you have found helpful, please comment on this post. Continue reading “Links to Resources for Shifting Instruction Online”

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Links to Math Resources for Caregivers

Here is a collection of links the content team here at IM has used with our own students and kids to start mathematical conversations, play math games together, explore new topics, come up with projects, and have fun. There are also some cool links to other education stuff, like virtual museum tours and educational videos. We invite teachers who find themselves with fewer students than usual to explore these activities as well. If you know of additional resources that you have found helpful, please comment on this post.

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K–5 Curriculum Design Features that Support Equity and Inclusion

By Dionne Aminata

Before I joined the K–5 curriculum writing team at IM, I was a K–8 regional math content specialist for a public charter organization that largely consisted of Title I schools, or schools receiving federal funding to support a large concentration of students in poverty. Prior to that I had experienced the joys and challenges of serving communities like these as a teacher and math coach in South Central Los Angeles and Crown Heights Brooklyn. 

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The Art of Reflection

“In times of stress, the best thing we can do for each other is to listen with our ears and our hearts and to be assured that our questions are just as important as our answers.” —Mr. (Fred) Rogers

By Kaneka Turner

We are never more “on” than when we are teaching a lesson. All of our senses are heightened and all of our energy is focused on understanding students and being understood by the students we are teaching. Often times, it is not until the lesson is over that we have the mental space to look back over the student work samples and anecdotal notes, or replay scenes from the lesson in our minds to gain insight. I was reminded of this recently when I was invited to test out new problem-solving structures from IM K–5 Math’s Grade 4 Unit 8 in my colleague’s classroom.

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Ratio Tables are not Elementary

By William McCallum

In grade 3, as students start to learn about multiplication, they think about products like 6 x 7 in terms of equal groups. 6 x 7 is the number of things when you have 6 groups with 7 things in each group. They might start out calculating that number by drawing a picture of the 6 groups and counting how many things they are. They might use a 6 x 7 array to organize the count. They might then see that the total number is 7 + 7 + 7 + 7 + 7 + 7 and do the additions 7 + 7 = 14, 14 + 7 = 21, etc. From there they might learn to simply write down the multiples, doing the additions mentally:

7, 14, 21, 28, 35, 42

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Could you—or someone you know—be our newest IM Certified Facilitator? The Critical Role of IM Certified Facilitators.

“What I find distinguishes IM is that IM Certified Facilitators are uniquely supported by the IM authoring team to ensure the integrity of the curriculum remains intact.”

By Kiana Porter-Isom

I was always interested in mathematics as a student but I only began enjoying mathematics when I was in high school. Until then, I didn’t think it was something I could get excited about. Now, as an educator and as the Manager of IM Certified Facilitators at Illustrative Mathematics, I am seeing first-hand how teachers are enabling students to embrace and enjoy mathematics and be enthusiastic learners from their first interaction with mathematics. This is why I was drawn to IM—for their mission to create a world where learners know, use, and enjoy mathematics. 

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Using Diagrams to Build and Extend Student Understanding

By Jenna Laib and Kristin Gray

Take a moment to think about the value of each expression below. 

\frac{1}{4}\times \frac{1}{3}

\frac{1}{4}\times \frac{2}{3}

\frac{2}{4}\times \frac{2}{3}

\frac{3}{4}\times \frac{2}{3}

What do you notice? How would you explain the things you notice?

If you are like us, or the students in Ms. Stark’s grade 5 classroom, you may have noticed many things. Things such as each expression has the same denominator, or the way in which the values increased as the problems progressed. When students notice these things, we often ask, ‘Why is that happening?” but it can be challenging to explain why beyond the procedure one followed. 

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The 5 Practices: Looking at Differentiation Through a New Lens

By Catherine Castillo

Our district had seen a downhill trend in standardized test scores in mathematics. This forced us, as educators, to take an intentional look at our teaching practices.

The past few years have been an exciting time in math instruction. Research on brain plasticity and mindset have caused a shift in the idea of what it means to know and do mathematics. 

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Learning through Teaching

By William McCallum

I was in New Orleans a couple of weeks ago visiting a school using IM 6–8 Math and was inspired by the efforts the school was making to implement problem-based instruction. I saw teachers at different stages on a learning curve with the instructional routines in the curriculum and realized how important it was to have a learning curve, and not a learning cliff, for teachers to grow into this way of teaching. We have tried to achieve this in many ways in our curriculum.

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Building a Math Community with IM K–5 Math

“I’m not sure this is working. Only five of my students are participating and commenting each day. The rest sit there and look at me.”

By Tabitha Eutsler

This was my conversation with our math coordinator after my first few days of teaching IM K–5 MathTM with my third graders. Those five students were having great conversations. However, my other students just sat there wide-eyed, silent, and staring blankly at their papers. I felt lost. Was this the best for my students? Could we survive a whole year of math like this? I wanted my students to love math and have a deeper understanding of mathematical concepts. How would this get them there? 

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Which Vertex is the Center of a Triangle?

By William McCallum

I am sometimes asked what is the secret to the success of our curriculum, what is the special property that sets it apart from other curricula. That question is like the one in the title of this blog post, “Which vertex is the center of a triangle?” It doesn’t have an answer. None of the vertices is the center of a triangle; all three are equally necessary for it to exist. Similarly, all three vertices of the instructional triangle—students, teachers, and content—need equal attention in the work of teaching mathematics. And not only the vertices but the arrows between them, which “represent the dynamic process of interpretation and mutual adjustment that shapes student learning [and] instructional practice.”1 If there is something special about what we do in writing curriculum it is to pay equal attention to all parts of the instructional triangle. 

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Updates to Supports for Students with Disabilities and English Language Learners in IM 6–8 Math

At Illustrative Mathematics we are committed to creating a world where learners know, use, and enjoy mathematics. We believe that every student can learn grade-level mathematics with the right opportunities and support. Our approach is to remove unnecessary barriers and provide teachers with options for additional support so that every student can engage in rigorous mathematical content. We’ve been busy this year working on some exciting enhancements to the teacher tools and supports to empower teachers to deliver instruction that meets the specialized needs of English learners and students with disabilities.

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First Impressions: The First Units in IM K–5 Math

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

― Maya Angelou 

By Kristin Gray

When I think back to my 8th grade math class, I cannot recall the exact problems I struggled with or exact things the teacher said or did, but I can distinctly remember how I felt each day walking into that classroom: anxious. From the very first day of school, I struggled, and my feelings of failure and self-doubt only compounded as the year progressed. I just could not keep up. While many, many years have passed, and details have faded from my memory, I have never forgotten how badly I felt about myself as a learner of mathematics each day.  

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Realizing the promise of open resources, part II

By William McCallum

In my first post on the topic of realizing the promise of open educational resources, I described the IM Certified program. Our partners offer multiple versions, including a free online version and enhanced versions with different options for users. This is IM’s way of reaching teachers and students from a wide variety of districts who may be looking for those different options, while assuring that, as these versions evolve, they will stay true to the original design. However, by the terms of the CC BY license, anybody can use the curriculum with or without certification. This freedom further supports our mission to get these carefully crafted materials into the hands of as many students and teachers as possible.

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