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Considerations When Choosing a Math Curriculum

Choosing a math curriculum is possibly one of the most important things you can do for your learning community, and in a post-pandemic world, there are a few new considerations to add to the usual list.

Choosing a math curriculum is never easy, especially in larger districts or diverse communities. Is there ever really a one-size-fits-all curriculum for any district? When everyone pivoted into a remote learning setting, this decision only became more difficult – We’ve all had curriculums that are only available in print, from the teacher materials to the student textbooks.

The way we choose a math curriculum needs to be revisited in a post-pandemic world, so today we’re go over some new considerations to keep in mind during the process. After having implemented various platforms and curriculums, I have some experience to share in this area.

Emphasize Stakeholder Input Over Cost-Efficiency

So often, when districts make purchasing decisions without stakeholder input, those decisions are based more on the cost, versus how the curriculum meets the needs of the teachers and students. I highly recommend, if possible, forming a group of stakeholders to evaluate the different curriculums that are available for adoption, preselected by the district.

I can say from my own experience that when a math curriculum was purchased based on cost efficiency, it was lacking – it was not aligned with our state standards, nor did it have any rigor. Our district ended up developing their own lessons in addition to the curriculum.

If you have the option to be a part of a pilot, do it! Allow teachers to be involved in these decisions, researching and selecting the curriculum they feel would benefit their students most. Honestly, you have nothing to lose, as everyone will be learning a new curriculum, and your teachers could potentially have a head start in this process if the curriculum in which you piloted is selected.

Personalization data

One of my favorite sayings is, data doesn’t lie. Data takes the personal out of it and it typically tells a story. Anytime we get data back from a district benchmark assessment, we will have individual meetings with each teacher around their data. We set goals with them and focus on both what best practices they should keep or what they need to do differently. We also set team goals, and we are provided data that allows for individual teacher growth and team growth. We often hear from teachers, “my students are different and they need different things than the other classes.” This is true to a certain degree. I sometimes hear this from teachers who struggle to collaboratively plan as they tend to not maximize their time during planning. The teacher must be able to identify the needs of their students through data. Being prescriptive with their students is part of personalization data.

Consider Flexibility in Both, Print and Digital Materials

With blended learning becoming imperative, math curriculums must have an online option, as students and teachers need to be able to access the material anywhere. This digital access will also save on copies – many schools have a copy limit due to the amount of money that is spent on copy paper, ink, and copy machines.

While it’s key to have the curriculum available in both, print and digital format, consider too the availability of in-person and digital math tools. Online platforms are now able to offer features such as online rulers, erasers, white boards, calculators, manipulatives, etc. This is vital when making your selection, as these materials are a necessity for student success. The online whiteboard feature where students can show their work just as if they were using a real whiteboard or paper is amazing!

Ensure Professional Development Courses & Materials Are Offered

How many of you have ever experienced getting a box of textbooks and teacher guides in your classroom without any guidance on how to implement? I think I have had this happen more than once when I was a teacher. As we all know, these textbooks often end up in either the teacher’s closet or inside the students’ desks collecting dust.

When a district chooses a new curriculum without any support or training materials, it comes across to most learning communities as an attempt to check the box that the district is in compliance with adopting a new curriculum, per state mandate. Why waste the resources?

I have found the most successful purchases our district has made are the ones that provide meaningful PD that is offered often, not just at the beginning of the school year or once in the summer. The more we can train and provide access for support, the more confident educators will be to use it.

Check That the Curriculum’s Standards are Aligned With Your State

This is critical, especially in a math course. I have experienced curriculums that were not aligned with the state standards, then making the lessons useless.

As a teacher, you are trusting that your district will purchase a curriculum that is actually usable, with lessons aligning to state standards.

Ask What Resources are Available for All Learners

As districts can be quite large and have a variety of demographics, it is imperative to ensure a new math curriculum is accessible for all students. Otherwise teachers are forced to spend valuable time modifying the lessons.

When I was a teacher, I experienced curriculums that did not meet the needs of the students I was teaching and I spent exorbitant amounts of time modifying the lessons to meet the needs of my students, from adding in more rigorous activities to providing more scaffolds and previewing. This takes time away from teaching!

Ensure the Curriculum Has Rigor via Assessments, Questions, & Independent Practice

Choosing a math curriculum that aligns with state standards is a great start but it’s only half of the battle. Rigor should not be limited, no matter what types of schools makeup your district. All students deserve the best and to be challenged. Look for rigorous measures that challenges students and checks their understanding.

A math curriculum also needs to include within the lessons questions ranging from concrete to abstract. I think this is a challenge for many math curriculums as many just include concrete types of problems, that we like to call “naked problems”. The curriculum needs to embed real world word problems, multi-step, require a model, etc. Problem-based learning is a now an integral part of our students understanding of math.

Make Sure SEL is a Core Component in the Curriculum

The pandemic has pushed many districts and school leaders to reevaluate curriculums to support all students, both face-to-face and virtually.  More students are experiencing depression and anxiety, and struggling as they sit behind screens (phones, computers, tv) to deal with problems, make friends, socialize, etc.

After this last year and a half, they may not be as equipped to have face-to-face conversations or express themselves in a healthy way. With these issues on most educators’ minds today, it is no wonder SEL has become a key factor when choosing curriculum.

In Closing…

Again, choosing a curriculum is something that needs to be top priority. When a curriculum is purchased, it typically is under contract for about six years. Why waste six years on a curriculum that doesn’t support students or teachers? Hopefully with this list in hand, you’ll reconsider. If there is anything I have learned in my ten plus years in education is the need for these key components to be included. I also have found that teacher buy-in is key. When choosing to pilot or adopt a curriculum, allow teachers to be a part of this process, allowing them to research which curriculum they prefer to pilot or adopt. Even though it does not guarantee that what they prefer is chosen, it allows them to feel heard and respected as the professionals they are. Remember, these are the people who will be using these materials on a daily basis. The deserve to be included!

Kiddom seamlessly connects the most critical aspects of teaching and learning on one platform.

For the first time, educators can share and manage digital curriculum, differentiate instruction, and assess student work in one place. Learners can take assessments online, see student performance data with the click of a button, and teachers have the insight and tools they need to create individual learning paths.


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