“Any time we go to the next unit I’m looking for what we can use, tweak, modify, build off of. Everyone is always checking the hub—it has saved us so much time in terms of planning this year.”
“It made my ability to support teachers better and stress level lower. Most resources have been created for me. Modified pacing, cool-down, power points, they’ve all been made for me. I feel very supported by this community.”
~educators and hub study participants
Thinking back to spring of 2020, almost every K–12 school building in the US closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. School systems spun up remote instruction and distance learning activities to reach the end of the 2019–2020 school year and were looking ahead to an uncertain 2020–2021. Educators looked to Illustrative Mathematics (IM) for help preparing for fall of 2020 because IM K–12 Math™ had been widely adopted in the United States. (To give a sense of the scale, in 2021, an estimated 25,000 teachers and 1.3 Million students in over 1,200 districts across the US used these materials.)
As one effort among many (including recreating all of our professional learning events for remote delivery!), we created The IM Community Hub in the summer of 2020. We want to thank the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for their critical financial support that made possible the existence of the hub and the development of many of the resources shared through it, the collaboration with Teacher 2 Teacher that helped us understand best practices for establishing online communities, and the Carnegie Corporation of New York for generous funding enabling us to study the usage and impact of the hub.
Among the many issues that schools faced in preparation for the fall of 2020, IM identified two key issues related to teaching and learning that were of great concern to schools in the 2020–2021 school year:
- How can teachers and coaches address students’ significant unfinished learning due to the abrupt closure of school buildings in spring 2020 due to COVID-19?
- How can teachers and coaches navigate the new instructional demands of teaching in distance-learning or hybrid instructional contexts?
In the summer of 2020, many expressed concern that strategies to address these problems may not take into account what we know about how students learn. For example, proposals to address unfinished learning by beginning the 2020 school year with assessment and remediation of missed content from prior grade levels raised concerns about students getting further behind by taking more time than is needed to review, which also impacts the coherence of their experience. To support students’ socio-emotional needs, teachers needed to begin the school year by rebuilding their trust in the community and themselves as doers of mathematics. Proposals to offer just-in-time remediation addressed these concerns, but would require new resources and strategies for assessing student understanding and incorporating prior-grade concepts into grade-level work.
Another concern was that proposals to switch to remote instruction might focus on procedural skill because procedural practice is more straightforward to implement using digital tools than interactive, conceptually-based instruction. On the other hand, providing problem-based instruction at scale using distance learning resources is a problem we had never faced before, requiring new resources and strategies. Users of IM K–12 Math were looking for solutions to this unprecedented situation that were consistent with the key principles of teaching and learning that are embodied in IM K–12 Math and its corresponding instructional model.
The IM Community Hub, 2020–2022
In the summer of 2020, IM launched a national, virtual IM Community Hub to support teachers and coaches using IM K–12 Math in the COVID-19 era. From the launch in 2020 through November 2021, 22,727 educators registered to use the hub. The hub provided a forum for educators to develop and share effective strategies and resources that emerged through the collaboration of teachers, coaches, administrators, IM experts, and others with expertise in mathematics teaching and learning. In the hub, individuals were able to discuss strategies to address significant problems related to teaching and learning mathematics and share and access resources to help solve the problems they faced.
We designed The IM Community Hub to serve three functions:
- Disseminate free resources created by IM to support teaching in the 2020–2021 school year, especially addressing adapting IM K–12 Math to address unfinished learning and remote instruction.
- Provide space for educators and partner organizations to discuss the challenges they were facing.
- Provide a place for teachers to share the resources they were creating to support instruction, and find resources shared by their peers.
IM also studied whether the hub worked as intended, explored the nature of participant contributions, and evaluated the impact on teaching and learning. Because IM sought to learn about and evaluate the hub while it was still in development, we led two research studies focused on the nature of discussions and resources in the hub, as well as impacts on teacher learning and practice.
Hub users indicated an interest in finding resources for use in the classroom, specifically resources and strategies aimed at addressing unfinished learning and adapting IM K–12 Math to a distance learning context. This suggests a high need for this type of support, especially during the height of the pandemic. By comparison, fewer users said they joined for the community and sharing aspects of the site, which was reflected in the usage of these features. Although accessing resources was a primary driver for many users, the interface on the site was also a common complaint from users. Users identified concerns around the search and navigation features of the site that made the site more difficult to use. (The full report is available upon request.)
The IM Resource Hub, 2022–
Based on the findings of the study, we have reimagined the hub as a site focused on enabling educators to find and access free resources created by IM to support their use of IM K–12 Math. If you are familiar with the old hub, and navigate to hub.illustrativemathematics.org now, you will notice that it looks quite different. So, what has become of the three functions that were the original purposes of the hub?
- The new IM Resource Hub is the place to find free resources to support instruction created by IM—the same ones that were available on the old hub, as well as any new ones to come.
- The functions of the discussion boards are migrating to IM’s social media spaces. To engage with the organization and the community, be sure to follow IM’s Facebook page, Twitter, and watch for and use our hashtag #LearnWithIM.
- The resources that were created and shared by teachers have been preserved, and are accessible through this link. We don’t expect to maintain its contents over time, and recommend that users create their own local copies and bookmarks for the resources they would like to retrieve later.
Earlier in 2022, we partnered with developers who worked behind the scenes to build the new hub, which will provide our users with an exceptional experience. In June 2022, the beta version of the IM Resource Hub was made available to our IM Community. The beta phase is intended for testing before the official launch of the new hub which will happen later this summer. During this beta phase, we will fine tune the IM Resource Hub’s navigation, content, and functionality, based on the feedback we receive from our IM Community.
It’s IM’s hope that the IM Resource Hub will be a trusted source for free K–12 teaching resources that are useful to the IM Community. We hope that the IM Resource Hub and other IM resources demonstrate our commitment to serve our community in the ways most valued by the community.
Check out the IM Resource Hub, and visit us in the social media realm!