Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Top 10 Tips for a New Math Program
With most states beginning to implement the Common Core State Standards for math, many teachers are struggling to make sense of new objectives while at the same time adjusting to teaching an entirely new math curriculum.  

How well I remember those long nights preparing for the next day's lesson. Forget about planning ahead; it felt as if I could barely keep my head above water. Many times I've found myself at a loss as to how to get through those trying times. 

For those of you in those same shoes, you are in good company. Forty-six other states are going through the same birth pangs of implementing the new standards.  

May I offer a bit of advice and a lot of heart felt encouragement to help you get through the first critical weeks of your new math program?   Here are my top 10 tips:  

  • Give it time.  Mathematical proficiency doesn't happen overnight...for students or their teachers. There will be a learning curve with any new curriculum. Accept that right up front. It takes time to adjust to a new way of thinking.
  • Follow the program.  Lots of research went in to creating, developing, organizing, and publishing it. Trust the work that they have done. There will be time later for you to tweak it to better fit your needs.
  • Don't despair.  A little patience and a lot of diligence goes a long way. It will get easier as you go along.
  • Use your professional judgment.  You know when something is working or whether you need to step back and redirect. Follow your instincts.
  • Collaborate.  Don't go it alone. Ask for help, talk to others, seek advice. Share your grins and your groans.
  • Reflect.  Take a critical look at each lesson when its done. What worked? What didn't? How can you improve the lesson the next time you teach it? 
  • Don't be afraid to fail.  Sometimes we learn our best lessons from our biggest goofs. Learn from it, move on, and make tomorrow's lesson better.
  • Prepare well.  Give it your best shot. Your students deserve nothing less. Now is not the time to wing it. It takes time and effort to build new routines.
  • Read the teacher notes.  ALL of them...BEFORE the lesson. They will often get you out of a jam or prevent you from ever getting into one in the first place.
  • Keep your eye on the objective.  It's really not about you. Accept that things may be a little rocky at first and that you are learning along with your students. Allow yourself the time to learn. You will look back and realize that you have come a long way and your students are better for it!  And remember...learning is as much about the process as it is about the product.

Hang in there...and keep on teaching the math! :)


  1. Great tips. I found myself thinking these same things as we started our first year of Math in Focus last year. Yikes! Looking forward to year 2; I'm looking forward to seeing it get a little easier for everyone!

  2. Penny,
    Thanks for this post. Those are some great tips you shared, and I've linked then in my blog posting today. We just started Go Math this year, and your tips are helpful. On another note, I love your blog and design, and am a new follower! As an Alabama teacher, I can't wait to dig in to your AMSTI things. Sadly, we are not an AMSTI school, but I want to learn more about it.


  3. Thanks Amber! Year 2 will be much easier I'm sure. Hope you have less stress and more enjoyment with it. :)

    Thanks Farrah! Several of our schools have adopted Go Math as well. I work with Investigations in AMSTI. It has really opened my eyes to a much deeper understanding of math pedagogy. I look forward to hearing from you again. :)

  4. Great suggestions! I moved schools this year, so I have a new curriculum. My old school used Bridges in Mathematics (which I LOVED) and my new school uses Envisions. Envisions is a very different program and it's been a hard adjustment. I'm glad I'm not the only one struggling through a new program!
    Teaching With Style

  5. Many times I've found myself at a loss as to how to get through those trying times.
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  6. You are absolutely genius and helpful, I really appreciate your views on Math tips...Just came across your blog and found it very useful...Thanks Dr. Penny

  7. I loved this post..we started a new math program (Bridges) in our district a few years back and this would have been soooo helpful!

    Kathy O.
    Third Grade Doodles

  8. Here is a new site with many resources for teaching Common Core Math.

  9. I never have a problem with answers, I use

  10. Hi! I just found your blog :) LOVE the design! I'm your newest follower!


  11. Bravo! Nicely written. This piece is fabulous. Yes, creating a new math program does take a lot of time and efforts. Your suggestions and tips are great and very well said. Thanks for sharing. Please give us more great insights! Good luck with your new school year.

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