Shifting Practices: Helping Everyone—from Students to Administration—Find their Voice in the Math Classroom

It was easy to say yes!

Last spring, I was approached by our Math Coordinator and asked about piloting a new math program. I knew my staff was ready for building-wide consistency and we were ready to try something new. I easily said yes! 

My teachers were offered training over the summer and access to the resources to begin teaching this fall.

After just a few weeks of instruction, my staff began to voice concerns. 

Continue reading “Shifting Practices: Helping Everyone—from Students to Administration—Find their Voice in the Math Classroom”

K–5 Curriculum Design Features that Support Equity and Inclusion

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. 

Continue reading “K–5 Curriculum Design Features that Support Equity and Inclusion”

Using Diagrams to Build and Extend Student Understanding

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. 

Continue reading “Using Diagrams to Build and Extend Student Understanding”

The 5 Practices: Looking at Differentiation Through a New Lens

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. 

Continue reading “The 5 Practices: Looking at Differentiation Through a New Lens”

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.”

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? 

Continue reading “Building a Math Community with IM K–5 Math”

Creating an Accessible Mathematical Community with IM K–5: the power of “yet” for students and adults

Does the perfect elementary math curriculum exist? Armed with a growth mindset and the Alpha IM K–5 curriculum, teachers in Ipswich Public Schools push their thinking to reach all mathematicians. 

I preach growth mindset daily. When my students say they can’t do something, they almost always add their own “…yet.” However, walking this walk as an elementary school teacher is another story. Creating, mastering, and modifying curricula to reach each and every student—in every content area—is a daunting expectation. We hold ourselves to near impossible standards. 

Continue reading “Creating an Accessible Mathematical Community with IM K–5: the power of “yet” for students and adults”

Using Instructional Routines to Inspire Deep Thinking

We want students to think about math deeply. Creatively. Analytically. Instead, what often happens is that students race towards quick solutions. So what can we do to support this other kind of thinking in class—the slow, deep kind?

One way is through instructional routines like “Which One Doesn’t Belong” and “Notice and Wonder.” These routines give structure to time and interactions. Within the structure, there are opportunities to have time to think deeply and a predictable way to share and deepen thinking with partners and the whole class. 

Continue reading “Using Instructional Routines to Inspire Deep Thinking”

Making Authentic Modeling Possible


The first thing you have to understand is that asking people to model with mathematics makes them mad. Not in all contexts, though! At a social gathering with a generally amiable and curious group of people, you might try floating a question like:

  • I wonder if graduates of more expensive universities tend to earn more in their careers?
  • Do you think the time it takes a pendulum to swing back and forth depends on how heavy it is?
  • What do you think is the most efficient way to get 2,000 calories a day?

Continue reading “Making Authentic Modeling Possible”

Which Vertex is the Center of a Triangle?

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. 

Continue reading “Which Vertex is the Center of a Triangle?”

Up ↑