Peering Through the Student Lens

May 2024

Recently, along with many other CPM team members, I have had the chance to experience Inspiring Connections from a student lens. Naturally, this has led me to reflect on what I was like back when I was in middle school. I was smart and proud of it. I was intensely shy, and even when I did put myself out there, I felt out of place. I think I would have benefited a lot from being in a CPM classroom, which emphasizes helping students learn how to share ideas with each other. I am also quite certain that I would have been mad about it, at least in the beginning. What do you mean I have to talk to people my own age? I have to explain my thoughts in a way that’s intelligible to others? The indignity of it all! I know what I mean, why is that not enough? 

I don’t think I need to explain to teachers the value of communication skills. Teachers are intimately familiar with the fact that “knowing something” and “knowing how to explain it” are separate things; both are fundamental to the job. Teachers spend their entire careers refining their communication skills, connecting with a new group of students every year, identifying and bridging gaps in students’ understanding, and updating their pedagogy to reflect the latest research and their own experiences.

Despite this, classes rarely allotted time for teaching communications skills when I was a student. In fact, it was almost as though nobody wanted to admit that communication is a skillset, something you have to learn rather than being born with an innate understanding of all its nuances. Many a time, I was put in a group with my classmates and expected to already know how to have a productive discussion. Dear readers, I did not. When am I supposed to speak? What is “my place” to say? How do I disagree with someone without being rude? I eventually realized that many of my peers were just as lost as I was. This was comforting, but not helpful. 

My experiences in a CPM classroom now have been different. Conversations are focused. Discussions are meaningful. It feels like we have freedom to explore, but that we aren’t completely “on our own.” Now, my fellow students have all been adults, I will acknowledge that confounding variable. (Though, age alone has not been enough to save me from awkward silences in other situations.) That aside, I think I see how the class was designed to set us up for success. These are my notices and wonderings of what we have done and why it may have been helpful.

  • Team roles give structure to group dynamics. Questions about who is responsible for what are answered before the conversation even begins. Who keeps track of materials? The Organizer. Who should be making sure that everyone is involved in the discussion? The Coordinator. Perhaps this clear, impartial assignment of responsibilities alleviates worries about fairness or seeming “bossy” when trying to stay on task.
  • Activities are often structured to avoid imbalances. Rather than one student not contributing or doing the majority of the work, all students must work together. For example, when teams work at a VNPS, the team member with the marker writes their teammates’ ideas, not their own, and the marker is passed around every few minutes. 
  • Sentence frames model ways to share ideas. They provide clear, concise, appropriate phrasing so that team members can communicate effectively. 
  • Expectations for conduct are explicitly communicated. These expectations guide group activities in the classroom, where an adult can mediate or facilitate forward momentum when necessary. 
  • Visibly random teams create opportunities. Working with new teammates every day lets students connect with different classmates and hear different perspectives.
  • Individual thinking time reduces pressure. This time is valuable for students who need a moment to collect their thoughts or who like to rehearse what they want to say.

I think one of the reasons I liked math class as a child was that it so rarely took me out of my comfort zone. I liked that all the work was solitary, that I was expected to quietly take notes and only volunteer to speak to the class if I “knew the answer.” I most likely would not have been thrilled to find myself in a classroom designed to take me out of that comfort zone. However, I’m positive that I would have come around to it. CPM curricula don’t just push students out of their comfort zones; they provide tools and supports that actually help them build the skills they need to overcome challenges. In some ways, the course felt tailor-made for my childhood self’s developmental needs. It makes me happy to think about how today’s students must have grown during this school year, mathematically and beyond.

[Editor’s Note: Morgan is a copy editor in the Curriculum & Assessment department of CPM. She supports the writing teams responsible for both Inspiring Connections and Core Connections.] 

Picture of Morgan Normand

Morgan Normand

You are now leaving

Did you want to leave

I want to leave

No, I want to stay on

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.

Edit Content

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.