Getting Ready for 2023–2024 Back to School: Building a Math Community

By the IM Team

As summer winds down, we understand that you are not rushing toward the finish line of your summer break. Hopefully, there have been many lazy days, trips or adventures, and time spent with family and friends. Maybe you’ve enjoyed quiet time alone and read books or learned a new skill. The reality is that the start of school is fast approaching. How will you cherish the fleeting moments that remain and prepare for the new school year?

Our hope for you is that the 2023-2024 school year will bring new opportunities for success and experiences that spark joy. Preparing for the upcoming school year begins with cultivating a math community in which all students experience a sense of belonging, make sense of problems and persevere in solving them, and experience a little math joy. To get you started, we are sharing a few of our favorite back-to-school posts to help you think about the learning environment you will create.

Our kickoff begins with a post about the power of problem-based instruction, and a few posts focused on building community.

Getting Started with IM

“Problem-based instruction means believing all students can solve problems on their own and giving them a chance to try.” —By William McCallum

What is Problem-based Instruction?

By William McCallum, CEO and Co-founder, Illustrative Mathematics

When I was a child, I used to get puzzle books out of the library. One of the puzzles was the twelve-coin problem, the most difficult of all coin weighing problems. My mother and I worked on it separately at the same time, and she solved it first. Some time later that evening she came into my room to find me in tears of frustration. Instead of helping me, she asked: “Do you want me to tell you the solution?” I said no and she left. I will never forget the joy when I finally figured it out. (Read more…)

Building Community K–5

“Ultimately, a strong, authentic math community is the result of much more than co-crafting norms during the first six lessons at the beginning of the first unit.” Meredith Dadigan Abel

Co-Creating and Authentic Math Community

By Meredith Dadigan Abel, IM Certified® Facilitator

It is magical to be in a classroom with a strong math community. In this classroom, the brilliance of all students prevails. Students and teachers share a unanimous belief that they’re all knowers and doers of math. While the experience is magical, this environment isn’t created with abracadabra and a snap of the fingers. This classroom structure is the result of thoughtful planning, intentional time and teamwork, and a goal-oriented mindset. (Read more…)

Building Community 6–12

“If we want students to have access to, and engage in, deep and meaningful mathematics, their opportunities to do mathematics should be connected.” Kristin Gray, Jenna Laib, and Sarah Caban

Building a Mathematical Classroom Community

By Kristin Gray, Jenna Laib, and Sarah Caban

The beginning of the school year offers teachers and students a fresh start full of exciting possibilities. From the first day of class, as we begin to learn about each of the students in front of us, we have the opportunity to set the stage for how learning math will look, sound, and feel throughout the year. We also begin to foster the attitudes and beliefs that are important in shaping a mathematical classroom community in which each and every student is positioned as a capable learner and doer of mathematics, truly believes their voice is valued and heard, and understands that we learn math by doing deep and meaningful mathematics together. Building this classroom community requires a purposeful process that takes time and careful attention. (Read more…)

Building Community

“Giving students an opportunity to share what they bring to the classroom builds their sense of belonging and self-efficacy.” —William McCallum

Creating Collaborative Math Classrooms

By William McCallum, CEO and Co-founder, Illustrative Mathematics

Collaboration is a core value at Illustrative Mathematics. Creating a high-quality instructional system — with curriculum and professional learning — is complex work. The demands of mathematical coherence and pedagogical appropriateness often pull in different directions; you can have a curriculum that is mathematically correct but not engaging for students, and you can have a curriculum that students enjoy but they are not learning grade-level mathematics. We think IM K–12 Math has achieved the perfect balance between coherence and engagement, and we got there by having mathematics experts and educators working together, reviewing and critiquing each other’s work, and coming to a consensus around tough questions. (Read more…)

Next Steps

As we strive together to create a world where all students know, use, and enjoy mathematics, we challenge you to start your reading here and explore other posts based on your topics of interest. Be on the lookout for more back-to-school blog posts throughout August and September.