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. 

There is no playbook for what to do when so many schools suddenly close—everyone is operating in unfamiliar territory, and we’re all doing our best. Curriculum materials, as always, are only a piece of the learning picture. Now more than ever, learning is only one of many concerns of educators, and arguably a lower priority than it normally is. All that stipulated, creating instructional materials and helping educators use them well is what we do best at IM. We hope you find this preliminary guidance useful, whenever you and your community are ready for it. We are working with our community to expand, improve, and refine our guidance over time.

If you are planning for online instruction, just a reminder that the entire IM 6–8 Math and IM 9–12 Math curricula are available for free as open educational resources. As always, the student materials can be accessed online without a login, and the teacher materials are free with registration.


  • Kendall Hunt offers a way to easily load IM 6–8 Math and IM 9–12 Math into Google Classroom (requires free teacher login). 
  • LearnZillion is offering all IM Certified units and lessons for free digitally on
  • McGraw-Hill Education is offering free access to its digital resources for any of its existing IM customers. Contact McGraw-Hill technical support at (800) 437-3715 for help setting up access for both teachers and students.

With IM K–5 Math currently in the limited alpha pilot phase, we are communicating directly with these schools, and working to organize components that will be most useful for these teachers’ needs.

We have heard from schools considering or planning for two strategies:

  1. Continue with new learning this school year.
  2. Use any work sent home for the rest of this school year to review things students have already learned, and think ahead to adjusting the 2020–21 school year for what was missed this year.

Either way, prioritizing some activities over others is likely to be part of your planning. That is, planning to accomplish less than you would have otherwise this spring, but planning wisely. In order to assist with that for users of IM curricula, our team is combing through every activity in the latter units of IM 6–8 Math and IM 9–12 Math and indicating which activities to prioritize.

Head to this sheet and look for the activities with a * in the “prioritize” column. This does not mean, “If kids only do these activities, everything is fine.” What it does mean is, “Given that you need to skip some stuff, this is a good activity to not skip.” We are selecting activities that represent crucial grade-level understanding or that encapsulate several important ideas. 

In the same sheet, you’ll also notice that we’ve marked each activity either:

  • benefits from discussion
  • could be done independently
  • worked example

This guidance is to assist planning for learning away from school. Based on our understanding of how people learn, we still think students should always have a chance to try any activity themselves before being shown what to do or how to think. Historically, we haven’t seen many examples of high-quality problem-based instruction delivered remotely, but we are eager to learn from our community and continue to be a thinking partner in this work.

Benefits from discussion” indicates that the activity really needs some opportunity for discussion for it to make sense to spend time on. For example, the daily warm-ups were written to be low-stakes invitations into the math topic for the day. Students could call a friend or talk with a family member to get the benefit of explaining their thinking and hearing how others would approach the problem. Or, an online tool (for example, padlet) could be used to capture students’ thinking. There’s often not one specific takeaway that’s crucial for all students to absorb, so the warm-ups may be more conducive to being done without a teacher present than some of the other activities in the curriculum, especially at this point in the year where students are likely familiar with the different instructional routines. If synchronous online instruction is used, students could be assigned to attempt the task before the online meeting with perhaps a short reading or video as a launch, and then be assigned to breakout groups during the meeting to share their work, followed by whole-group synthesis with the teacher. Here is a sample lesson plan that involves mostly asynchronous work along with a synchronous meeting that could take around 15 minutes.

Worked example” indicates activities where students could work relatively independently if a worked example were provided for students to analyze, either on paper or video, to support sense-making. Material from the activity launch, synthesis, anticipated misconceptions, or solution could be turned into a worked example for students to analyze after they work on the task statement. This may include both correct or incorrect solutions, to mimic what students would experience in class, as long as incorrect solutions are clearly marked. For example, once students have had a chance to think about Representing a Percentage Problem with an Equation and give it a try, they could read or watch a worked example showing a way to write and solve an equation like the ones in the activity. You could direct students to the worked example already presented in the student lesson summary without needing to create any additional artifacts.

And “could be done independently” indicates activities where there is a built-in mechanism to support more independent work on a task, such as row games, matching, scaffolded tables, or other guided instructions. These activities often support students in building procedural fluency. For example, in Row Game: Solving Equations Practice, the row game structure has some checking built in, since the two equations in each row have the same solution.

We are also working on a guide for how schools can plan to adjust next year’s instruction to account for the disruption and discontinuity from this spring. Stay tuned.

Next Steps

Are there ways we could make these resources work better for you? Do you have other requests of the team at IM? Please comment on this post or reach out on Twitter.