Inspiring Connections!

Dr. Krista Holstein, Cary NC,

This school year, teachers throughout the country are implementing CPM’s new curriculum Inspiring Connections. This curriculum was announced in the May Newsletter with a call for field test teachers. Now, groups of passionate educators are field testing the 7th-grade course, Inspiring Connections Course 2, and Beta testing the 6th-grade course, Inspiring Connections Course 1.

What is Inspiring Connections all about? Well, first of all, it is still a CPM curriculum! It is still based on CPM’s Three Pillars (Collaborative Learning, Problem-Based Learning, and Mixed-Spaced Practice) as well as CPM’s Guiding Principles. Study Team and Teaching Strategies are still embedded into the lessons. And, to ensure successful implementation of the curriculum, CPM’s high-quality, transformative professional learning support is still available.

However, a lot has changed in the world of math education since the Core Connections series was written. The Inspiring Connections curriculum incorporates ideas and research from the last 15 years, such as Liljedahl’s (2020) Building Thinking Classroom, instructional routines, mathematical language routines, new technologies, and culturally responsive pedagogy. These examples are described in more detail below.

  • Building Thinking Classrooms
    Some lessons are structured using elements of Liljedahl’s (2020) Building Thinking Classroom, such as students working in visibly random teams on vertical non-permanent surfaces (VNPSs), scaffolds and extensions in the Authors’ Vision to keep students engaged and thinking, and guidance for how to consolidate learning from the bottom up.
  • Instructional and Mathematical Language Routines
    Several instructional and mathematical language routines are suggested throughout Inspiring Connections. Instructional routines help teachers and students focus on mathematical thinking instead of classroom logistics (Kelemanik, et al., 2016). Instructional routines in Inspiring Connections include the 5 Practices for Orchestrating Productive Mathematics Discussions (Smith & Stein, 2011), Which One is Unique? (adapted from Danielson, 2016), and Number Talks (Humphreys & Parker, 2015). Mathematical language routines focus instruction on the elements of language necessary for argumentation, explanation, analyzing purpose and structure of text, etc. (Zwiers et al., 2017). Several mathematical language routines from Zwiers et al. have been included in Inspiring Connections, such as Stronger and Clearer Each Time, Co-Craft Questions, and Three Reads.
  • Multimedia Approach
    The Inspiring Connections courses are multimedia. Teachers and students access the eBook through a new curriculum delivery platform. The eBook contains all of the lesson components as well as additional information, such as the glossary. In addition, each student is issued their own copy of the Mathematician’s Notebook, a consumable student workbook accompanying the Inspiring Connections eBook. The method of delivery of the curriculum and the method by which the student learns the curriculum varies depending on the best way to deliver or understand the content. The combination of the paper-based Mathematician’s Notebook, the eBook, VNPSs, manipulatives, and technology-enhanced lessons reflect the fact that different media are ideal for different purposes.
  • Culturally Responsive Pedagogy
    Culturally responsive pedagogy is intentionally included throughout Inspiring Connections. According to Lynch (2012), culturally responsive pedagogy is “a student-centered approach to teaching in which the students’ unique cultural strengths are identified and nurtured to promote student achievement and a sense of well-being about the student’s cultural place in the world.” CPM Equity Principles state that students’ differences should be seen as assets rather than deficits. Therefore, Inspiring Connections includes opportunities for including students’ cultural and linguistic backgrounds in all aspects of learning.

Inspiring Connections is a research-based, innovative curriculum. It continues to celebrate the effective practices that CPM is known for while also incorporating the new research and ideas that are taking the math education community by storm. Stay tuned for more information about when this exciting new curriculum will be available for your classroom!

Works Cited

Danielson, Christopher. Which One Doesn’t Belong?: A Shapes Book, Volume 1. Stenhouse Publishers, 2016.

Humphreys, Cathy, and Ruth Parker. Making Number Talks Matter. Stenhouse Publishers, 2015.

Kelemanik, Grace, et al. Routines for Reasoning: Fostering the Mathematical Practices in All Students. Heinemann, 2016.

Liljedahl, P. (2020). Building thinking classrooms in mathematics, grades K-12: 14 teaching practices for enhancing learning. Corwin.

Lynch, M. (2012, February 13). What is culturally responsive pedagogy? HuffPost.

Zwiers, J., et al. Principles for the Design of Mathematics Curricula: Promoting Language and Content Development. Stanford University, UL/SCALE, 2017, Accessed July 21, 2021.

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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.