Inspiring new Curriculum for Struggling Learners

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Jamie Bernath, Ashwaubenon, WI

I feel blessed to be a part of the pilot for CPM’s new 8th grade support course, Inspirations & Ideas. I have been teaching middle school math for 19 years and have attended workshops and in-services on number talks, how to motivate the unmotivated, trauma sensitive approaches, growth mindset, and the importance of building relationships. But often times these things seem like an “extra” that we need to fit into our current curriculum. Inspirations & Ideas is the first curriculum I have seen that takes in all the best practices of teaching and makes them part of the curriculum. For instance, every day starts with a launch, such as a Number Talk, Which One Doesn’t Belong?, or another thought-provoking question. This gets my students talking and thinking. In particular, Number Talks help my students hear new methods for solving math mentally, which builds their math “tool box.” I have had students run to their Core Connections, Course 3 math teacher so excited to share with them their new strategy!

In the past when I have worked with intervention students, the programs were always built on the idea that “these students” need math taught through direct instruction and lots of routine practice. CPM has a totally different philosophy! My students are creating their own data through hands-on and highly-motivating activities. One of my favorite activities was a bean bag toss. They tossed a bean bag at a target placed at different distances, and measured how far away each bag landed from the target. Then they graphed the data to look for relationships. CPM also uses Desmos Activity Builder to make lessons engaging. In Stacking Pennies, students look for trend lines and learn about association with their own data. This class is full of conversations and hands-on authentic learning. What student wouldn’t be motivated to learn math in this environment?

In addition, CPM has built-in lessons and activities about growth mindset, personal narratives, and building relationships with students. This is so wonderful because it is what all teachers should be doing, and it is designed into the daily activities. At the end of each unit, students are given a high interest task to work on while the teacher takes the time to conference with each student one-on-one. During this time, I get to bond with my students, ask about their grades and talk about things they are excited about. Teaching is not only about the math but about building relationships.

All of my students are considered Tier 3 intervention students, and each has made huge gains in their learning and confidence of math. My students have had an average increase on their STAR scores of 117 points in only seven months! I had a parent tell my principal that her son loves his “extra” math class, which is so amazing to me. The eighth grade teachers that teach my students in their CC3 class report seeing a huge confidence increase with my students in their classes. I credit much of this to CPM’s Inspirations & Ideas curriculum. My students and I are so blessed to have been part of this pilot and will forever be changed because of it.

For more information about CPM’s support course, Inspirations & Ideas, visit

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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.