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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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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Storytelling in the IM K-5 Math Curriculum

Kristin Gray, Director of K–5 Curriculum & Professional Learning

Curriculum

An excellent mathematics program includes a curriculum that develops important mathematics along coherent learning progressions and develops connections among areas of mathematical study and between mathematics and the real world.

Principles to Action by National Council of Teachers of Mathematics


Developing coherent learning progressions and connections among areas of study requires crafting lessons to tell a mathematical story. Lessons must coherently build across units and grade levels and attend to many things: the mathematics, representations, activity structures, and learning trajectories, to name only a few. Each of these considerations impact how students access the mathematics and influence the belief that mathematics is a connected set of ideas that makes sense.

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Designing Coherent Learning Experiences K-12

Kristin Gray, Director of K–5 Curriculum & Professional Learning

One challenge in curriculum design is considering all we know and believe to be true about math teaching and learning and translating that into realistic and actionable pieces for teachers and students. Our recent post about the K–5 curriculum focused around our belief that each and every student should be seen as a unique person with unique knowledge and needs. And while that post centered on elementary materials, to truly design around this belief we must look past K–5 to consider each student’s unique K–12 mathematical journey. A journey that, for most students, looks very different as they move from elementary to middle to high school.

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IM K-5 Math: Designing for Each Student

By Noelle Conforti Preszler and Kristin Gray

In the following activity, think about the students in your classroom. How might each respond?

What do you notice? What do you wonder?

This activity is the drafted warm-up of the first lesson in Grade 3, Unit 1: Introducing Multiplication. While we believe the structure of this activity — “What do you notice? What do you wonder?” — implicitly supports equity, it is the word each in the question at the top that has become central to our design of the IM K-5 Math curriculum.

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