Data, data, data. 

November 2023

Data has improved my teaching, but it might not be the data you think!

Honestly, if I hear another administrator talk to me about data, I might just scream! Okay, so maybe I’m overreacting a little, but data is important to me. My ability to interpret and find patterns in data has allowed me to help a lot of people (not just my students) live better lives. Sometimes we math teachers are so inundated with our daily work that we don’t take the time to collect and analyze meaningful data for just that purpose. Since I re-entered the classroom almost a decade ago, I’ve tried to create a math program that helps all of my students learn more math. Collecting data has been a big part of that journey, but it might not be the data you think.

I have been lucky enough to be a part of CPM’s Teacher Research Corps (TRC) for many years, and every teacher research project I have done has improved my program. Every project has forced me to rethink data, both how to collect it and how to analyze it. One of my biggest sources of data these days isn’t test scores; it’s my students’ answers to surveys. I like to use Google Forms because they are easy to set up, they integrate with Google Classroom, and the data exports to Google Sheets, which allows me to rearrange and sort it. At the end of last year, I sent my students a survey, and I got so much great data back that I’m still unpacking it all. Here are some of the responses and some of the immediate actionable items.

Program review

The ranking graphic is a lot to make sense of! While the graphs indicate that my students thought that every part of our program helped them learn more math, there are definitely some standouts. The Desmos category really jumps: but it must be noted that this is not just students working on devices! Formative Fridays are an innovation that I’m particularly proud of, and this is the second year in a row that students have found our 3 Read Tests helpful in building their mathematical knowledge. My TRC research this year is about trying to find ways to make this system even more effective in less time. 

As much as we all love colorful graphs and Likert scales, some of the most valuable data came from open-ended questions.

What are two things we did in class that you think helped you learn more math?

“Two things we did in class that helped me more was having a teacher that I felt comfortable to be confused around; and also having a good flow in the class that I wasn’t afraid to be wrong or confused.“

“Here in Mr. Rector’s class, it was very different from how I got to learn math. We did things different, instead of Mr. Rector teaching us on the board how to do math, he had us do a problem ourselves on the board and solve it ourselves, if we were confused on the problem then he came to teach us how to do it of course. But from this learning style I learned about individual learning, that I can just get a problem and solve it.“

“When making the poster I learn more when I read what it means and write it down on the poster and helps me remember easier. When we do the team building and use the dominoes or other supplies and it’s really fun and helps my brain think of creative ways to do it better.“

I could go on and on, but I suspect by now that you see where this is going. To me, the comments really tell the story. I use them in two ways. First, to know what’s working. But I also use them to preload what’s coming for my new students. Sharing the words of last year’s students seems to speed up the transition to working in groups and adapting to our classroom.

Of course, it can’t all be stars. I asked my students for wishes as well.

What is one thing that we did in class that you think we could do better?

“Working better with our groups, even if we don’t know them.”

“One thing in class I think we could’ve done better was having students to participate. This was more early in school until we started to get along with each other and eventually there was more participation.”

“Getting everyone in the team to work together on the board.”

You can see the overwhelming theme here was, “We ended up really liking working in groups, but you need to find a way to get more people to participate sooner!” Message received. 

Lastly, I asked:

“If you could tell next year’s incoming students one thing that you think would help them be more successful in this class, what would it be?”

“Definitely communicate and bond with the classmates more. When the whole classroom is connected, this makes the working environment more sustainable and fun to engage.“

“Mr. Rector literally show them what I write. Breh you guys have to SPEAK UP. When you guys are working on a problem up on the board, and your team comes to a point where every one of you is stuck and unsure what to do next, literally look around the room at the other teams and identify whether or not they are able to help you guys out. Chances are, you already know someone in a group that “gets it” so just ask for help. I can’t tell you how many times I scanned the class and without an ounce of shame said, “wait how did you guys-?” Like literally just ask for help, its so beneficial for you in the long run bc not only will you probably understand the material better and be able to apply what you just learned, onto the tests on Friday, but it also teaches you that there is nothing to be afraid of when you are faced with asking for help. I think if everyone integrated this little piece of advice into their routines when in Mr. Rector’s class, you are guaranteed to become more successful in this class :)”

Once again, while these comments gave me a great insight as to how to make the program better, I have also used them to give this year’s students some advice from their peers. Of course, “one and done” is never done, so I’ll figure out a way to sneak some of these back in every so often.

The point of all of this isn’t to brag about how lucky I am to be able to work with amazing young people every year, but to encourage you to ask your students for feedback. The more you ask, the better your program gets. The better your program gets, the more fun your job is. The more fun your job is, the happier you are. Thus, DATA = Happiness. 

Matt Rector teaches Integrated Math 3 at Grant Union High School in Sacramento, California. Grant is 100% free lunch in an urban setting and two thirds of the population are English Learners. Note from author: if you have any questions about any of the activities listed here, check out my website, (No, I’m not a business and I’m not selling anything. I just want to help more kids learn more math and help more math teachers find more happiness in their classrooms.)

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Matt Rector

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Algebra Tiles Blue Icon

Algebra Tiles Session

  • Used throughout CPM middle and high school courses
  • Concrete, geometric representation of algebraic concepts.
  • Two-hour virtual session,
  •  Learn how students build their conceptual understanding of simplifying algebraic expressions
  • Solving equations using these tools.  
  • Determining perimeter,
  • Combining like terms,
  • Comparing expressions,
  • Solving equations
  • Use an area model to multiply polynomials,
  • Factor quadratics and other polynomials, and
  • Complete the square.
  • Support the transition from a concrete (manipulative) representation to an abstract model of mathematics..

Foundations for Implementation

This professional learning is designed for teachers as they begin their implementation of CPM. This series contains multiple components and is grounded in multiple active experiences delivered over the first year. This learning experience will encourage teachers to adjust their instructional practices, expand their content knowledge, and challenge their beliefs about teaching and learning. Teachers and leaders will gain first-hand experience with CPM with emphasis on what they will be teaching. Throughout this series educators will experience the mathematics, consider instructional practices, and learn about the classroom environment necessary for a successful implementation of CPM curriculum resources.

Page 2 of the Professional Learning Progression (PDF) describes all of the components of this learning event and the additional support available. Teachers new to a course, but have previously attended Foundations for Implementation, can choose to engage in the course Content Modules in the Professional Learning Portal rather than attending the entire series of learning events again.

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Building on Instructional Practice Series

The Building on Instructional Practice Series consists of three different events – Building on Discourse, Building on Assessment, Building on Equity – that are designed for teachers with a minimum of one year of experience teaching with CPM instructional materials and who have completed the Foundations for Implementation Series.

Building on Equity

In Building on Equity, participants will learn how to include equitable practices in their classroom and support traditionally underserved students in becoming leaders of their own learning. Essential questions include: How do I shift dependent learners into independent learners? How does my own math identity and cultural background impact my classroom? The focus of day one is equitable classroom culture. Participants will reflect on how their math identity and mindsets impact student learning. They will begin working on a plan for Chapter 1 that creates an equitable classroom culture. The focus of day two and three is implementing equitable tasks. Participants will develop their use of the 5 Practices for Orchestrating Meaningful Mathematical Discussions and curate strategies for supporting all students in becoming leaders of their own learning. Participants will use an equity lens to reflect on and revise their Chapter 1 lesson plans.

Building on Assessment

In Building on Assessment, participants will apply assessment research and develop methods to provide feedback to students and inform equitable assessment decisions. On day one, participants will align assessment practices with learning progressions and the principle of mastery over time as well as write assessment items. During day two, participants will develop rubrics, explore alternate types of assessment, and plan for implementation that supports student ownership. On the third day, participants will develop strategies to monitor progress and provide evidence of proficiency with identified mathematics content and practices. Participants will develop assessment action plans that will encourage continued collaboration within their learning community.

Building on Discourse

In Building on Discourse, participants will improve their ability to facilitate meaningful mathematical discourse. This learning experience will encourage participants to adjust their instructional practices in the areas of sharing math authority, developing independent learners, and the creation of equitable classroom environments. Participants will plan for student learning by using teaching practices such as posing purposeful questioning, supporting productive struggle, and facilitating meaningful mathematical discourse. In doing so, participants learn to support students collaboratively engaged with rich tasks with all elements of the Effective Mathematics Teaching Practices incorporated through intentional and reflective planning.