Math Outside the Textbook

Vera C. Teschow
  • choosing  ONE  unit  to plan entirely “from  scratch.”
  • Set the textbook  aside for this unit, and gather  together  a few alternate resources  (including the curriculum!). Your teacher-librarian or a board program  resource  consultant, or even  a colleague down  the hall  who’s  already been  experimenting can help  direct  you to a few good resources.
  • Consider which  curriculum expectations need  to be addressed  for this unit  and think  about  how  students  will get there (begin with  the end in mind); for ELLs and students  with  LDs,  develop  a list of necessary  vocabulary to pre-teach.
  • Develop a set of five  or six lesson plans  for the  unit,  including some  that can serve as formative assessment  checkpoints along  the  way.
  • Develop your lessons  in a three-part framework: Minds On  (a warm-up or thinking question), Action  (the  “big” problem for students  to work  on),  and Consolidate/Debrief (taking up the problem as a class, sharing  various students’  solutions, assigning a similar  problem so that students  can apply their  new  math  skills).
  • Tell your students  what  you’re  up to: It’s good for them  to see you as a life-long learner, and they will become  your biggest champions as you slog through  the failures  and successes  of your little experiment!
  • Take some  time  at the end of your unit to celebrate  the things  that went  well, and reflect  on why  some  things  may not have gone so well  (and  what  you might  do differently next time). Consider asking  your students  which  method of learning math  they prefer  and why; this can provide  clues for improving future  instruction.
  • Share your work  with  others,  and ask them  to share  their  work  with  you. Although we found  that a lot of our own  learning came  from  developing the lessons  and units  ourselves,  we were constantly aware  of the time  crunch  many teachers – including ourselves  – face,  and were  always  grateful  to get a great idea from  somewhere else that we could  easily  incorporate into our classrooms.


Young students facing projection with hands on heads

“Who are we videoconferencing with today, Mrs. Cassell?” These are the first words I hear as my students enter the room.

media filming teacher and students in classroom

Over the past 20 years, methods of teaching mathematics have shifted, from keeping students busy with the rote learning of disconnected facts and procedures to teaching for automaticity and flexibility and for a deep understanding of mathematical concepts.