Remote Adaptations for Grades 3–8 Math

Sarah Britton and Jami Therrien Wells

04/01/2020

 

We created our curriculum with the mindset of giving teachers what they need most to teach rigorous, high-quality lessons in a traditional classroom, and we’d like to uphold our commitment to this important task now that most classroom settings are virtual. So, we’ve been putting our heads together to determine the easiest way teachers can use and adapt our math curriculum to this new situation.

1. Be flexible and forgiving

We would like to emphasize the goal is to continue to build key grade-level understanding, not to teach the entire unit exactly as if you were in your classroom. You may not be able to ask all of the guiding questions you would have in class, or provide as much real-time feedback. This is okay. As Rebecca Barrett-Fox puts it in her recent blog post, “release yourself from high expectations right now, because that’s the best way to help your students learn.”

2. Prioritize key Anchor Problems

We realize that it may not be feasible to teach all aspects of a lesson via remote learning, or that pacing may need to be significantly modified. While this is okay, it is important to carefully choose which tasks to prioritize.

We have identified priority Anchor Problems for Grades 3–8 in this document. These Anchor Problems are those that are crucial in building key grade-level understanding and therefore should not be skipped in your pared down instruction. You can, of course, teach more Anchor Problems in your remote learning plan, but the key Anchor Problems are the recommended minimum to include.

3. Decide how to facilitate each priority Anchor Problem

Similar to the way Illustrative Mathematics has suggested adapting their curriculum for remote learning, each Anchor Problem can be designated as one of the following types of problems: 

  • worked example, 
  • benefits from discussion, or
  • could be done independently

We have also categorized priority Anchor Problems by facilitation type for units in Grades 3–8 in this document.

“Worked example” indicates problems where students could work relatively independently if they are able to see and hear how the teacher worked through a sample problem. In a "worked example" the teacher makes their thinking and reasoning visible to students. These types of problems are good opportunities to share video lessons, digital documents, or other resources as ways to guide students through learning the content.

How to Create a Short Asynchronous Video Lesson

Two possible ways of doing this include: a video of a worked example on paper, or a video of a worked example on a slide presentation. We created sample videos for each of these, which are below. We made these with the fewest bells and whistles necessary; as we mentioned above, you do not have the time or energy to focus on reinventing your practice, nor will you or your students be in a better place if you do.

This first video demonstrates a worked example on paper. For this, you will need a phone that can record video, paper, and a pencil (a printer is also helpful, but not necessary).

Here is a picture of how we set up our camera to record.

 

This second video demonstrates a worked example using a slide presentation. You will need a presentation app (we used Google Slides) and video recording software (we used Loom).

Here is the Google Slide deck used in the video above. You can use this slide deck as a template to create your own video. Just make a copy and substitute in the problems and key questions you'd like to ask. The final slide shares some instructions for turning your slide deck into a Loom video.

 

In general, the following might be helpful guidelines when creating your own asynchronous lessons:

  • Include a short greeting
    We think it is important to show your students that you care for them, and are there for them during this time. Seeing your face, even virtually, can help emphasize this.

  • Use the Guiding Questions as appropriate for remote learning
    You'll notice in the two sample videos our teachers adapted the guiding questions from the website as appropriate for an asynchronous lesson. They also often gave wait time for students to think about the answer before sharing the response themselves, which is helpful for the questions whose answers are necessary to proceed through the problem.

  • Close with a reflection question
    You might also ask a reflection question at the end of the worked example that asks students to engage with the main purpose of the Anchor Problem or summarize the new content learned. Reflection questions give students a tangible way to interact with the lesson's content, which is important for engagement and accountability.

“Benefits from discussion” indicates that the intent of the problem is best accomplished when there is some opportunity for discussion built in. This may be the most logistically tricky aspect of remote learning, but some ways to do this remotely include:

  • Holding class video conversations on Zoom, Google Hangout, or other video conferencing platforms. Students could be asked to attempt the task before the online meeting, and then be assigned to breakout groups during the meeting to share their work, followed by whole-group synthesis with the teacher.
  • Asking students to respond to each others’ thinking on online forums like Google Classroom, Padlet, etc.
  • Pairing students up to have phone or video conversations.
  • Giving parents guidance around how to discuss a task with their child, as well as guiding questions they can ask to foster the discussion. 

Finally, “could be done independently” indicates problems where students can complete the task largely on their own. These problems often support students in building procedural fluency or offer opportunities for students to practice or extend on prior understandings. These types of problems can be facilitated just as you would any independent work remotely.

4. Establish a routine for how students will submit independent work

Depending on the remote learning format you are using and the online resources your students have access to, students may submit their independent work (on Anchor Problems, Problem Sets, Target Tasks, or reflection questions) in any of the following ways:

  • Use Google Classroom, text, or email to collect student responses. You could give students the option to submit a typed response, an image of their work, or even a video of an oral explanation. Google Classroom is especially helpful since it has an embedded draw tool and camera app to allow students to capture answers for which typing isn’t appropriate (e.g., they need to draw a shape or construct a coordinate plane).
  • Ask students to keep a hard-copy journal of their written responses.
  • Hold individual phone conferences with students where they can share their written response with you.

For teachers who are using Khan Academy and other online activities to supplement their instruction, we have provided links in this document that best match daily lesson objectives.

5. Determine how you will provide feedback to students on their work

Assessing student work and providing feedback is essential for student growth. How you give feedback will vary depending on how students are submitting independent work. 

  • If students are submitting work via Google Classroom or another LMS platform, aim to provide students feedback on their work at least once or twice a week. This will help with engagement, and will allow you to track student understanding. 
  • Set up check-ins with individual students. If possible, try to check in with each student every week. In these conversations, you can clarify any misconceptions students may have.

 

Hopefully this gives you some ideas about how to adapt our math curriculum for remote learning. We will continue to update our Anchor Problem prioritization and facilitation guidance for the remaining units of each grade level. If you are looking for resources to teach other math units and need our support, don't hesitate to reach out with your questions! 

 

Sarah Britton is the elementary school Curriculum Director for Mathematics. Ms. Britton began her career in education through Teach For America Massachusetts, where she taught 7th and 8th grade mathematics. She then joined the staff at Teach For America as a manager of teacher leadership development, supporting and coaching their new math teachers of all grade levels. She has a Bachelor's degree in mathematics from Union College and a Master's degree in curriculum and teaching from Boston University. 

Jami Therrien Wells is the Managing Director for Math Curriculum. She began her career at Roxbury Preparatory Charter School, where she served for 10 years teaching 8th grade math and 5th grade special education. Prior to joining Fishtank, Ms. Therrien Wells also worked at the Achievement Network as the managing director of the math assessment team. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Mathematics from the University of Rochester, and a Master’s degree in teaching from Tufts University.