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? 

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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. 

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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. 

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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?

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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. 

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Preparing for the School Year, Updated with Tips for Staying on Pace

Last year, we put together some reading to help people get started planning their year with IM 6–8. Now, we have another year’s worth of blog posts to choose from, plus a shiny, new high school curriculum! So once again, we’ve gathered some posts from IM’s blog with different purposes to help get your year off to a good start.

Before we dive into the links, if you are new to the IM curriculum, here are some tips to help you stay on pace

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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 

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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Making Peace with the Basics of Trigonometry

Six months ago, I hated trigonometry.

In fact, when my daughter missed a week of school, she announced on her first day back, “Someone has to teach me trig because I missed the whole thing.” Her father jumped in, “That’ll be me. Your mother hates trig.”

At least that used to be true. I have since made peace with my least favorite topic, in large part because of my experiences with the Illustrative Mathematics Geometry course. Let me tell you ways that the IM Geometry course has helped.

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