October 2023

Webster defines “missing the boat” as: “To fail to take advantage of an opportunity.”

Thehagueonline.com explains it further: “The idiom ‘missed the boat’ was once used in a very literal way and is believed to have originated from British English sea slang. As such, the saying referred to arriving too late to take a scheduled voyage by boat as this was the main form of transportation in former times.” Today, if you say that someone has “missed the boat,” you mean that they have failed to take advantage of a good opportunity, or that they are totally ignorant of a situation and have thus made an error in judgment.

In all my years of teaching, I feel like I was missing the boat, until now.

Each school year, I try out a new idea: implementing something I learned over the summer or experimenting mid-year. Several years ago, Rudy Botz and I created THE BOARD REPORT. This strategy created purposeful movement of students and invited mathematical conversations. Paired with Swapmeets, Huddles, and T.I.P.S., it was the best of the four strategies that we used. At the time, Rudy and I thought we were on the boat.

Next, after COVID, THE GOAL OF THE LESSON changed what I do in class forever. I feel it is the heart and soul of what problem-based learning should be. We started each class with a question: “What is the difference between intersections and intercepts?” We used the core problems to investigate and explore this question. At the end of the lesson, we answered the question with pictures and words that summarized our learning. During class, we used all of the strategies listed above to help students make sense of problems and persevere in solving them. At this point, I thought not only was I on the boat, I was starting to get my sea legs.

In November of 2021, I read Daniel Henderson’s CPM article WRITE IT UP (ON THE WALL). Henderson wrote: “For years I sensed that something about using VNPS might transform my classes, but failed to fully grasp it. I humbly suggest you also make VNPSs your default work setting.” I remember reading it but not taking action. I failed to fully grasp what it would look like in the classroom or how I would implement it. Looking back, I realize I was missing the boat. Until now.

Regardless of the course, there is no limit to problems that need to be solved up on the wall. It is remarkable what happens in class when students can see what other teams are thinking. Students come into the room telling me that they hope we are working on whiteboards that day. They are much more likely to take risks and make mistakes.


When we work vertically, our most typical workflow involves the 4-person, 4-marker challenge or 2up/2down. The 4-person, 4-marker challenge means that everyone on the team gets a different color marker. The challenge is to have each person contribute thinking towards a particular problem. Teams sit when they are finished and we debrief as a class: we look for multiple solving methods and celebrate teams who were able to incorporate each color (person). 2up/2down means that two students go to the whiteboard and two students remain seated. The students standing work the problem as a pair and the students sitting work it individually. They can use the rest of the whiteboards for hints or tips to start the problem. When the standing students are finished, they “tag in” (WWE reference) the other two team members and switch spots. They sit down, and the others get up.

It is not perfect, and I am still learning as I go, but you can tell a difference in our mathematical conversations and confidence. It feels like a new wave of mathematics. Maybe it is because I am finally on the boat.

Picture of Brian Ryczkowski

Brian Ryczkowski

Titletown, USA

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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.