If you’re like most of the teachers I work with, your students have more unfinished learning needs than usual, and engaging them in lessons is harder.
You need a core math solution that will provide insights on what your students know (and don’t know), opportunities for student growth that include engaging instruction, breadth and depth of practice opportunities, and a variety of differentiated instruction resources.
Here are four must-haves for your next core math solution:
1. Provides data to identify and group students based on needs and resources to support each group
You won’t be able to help your students grow unless you know their exact needs, but you don’t need a crystal ball to do this. Look for a program with a digital math diagnostic that identifies students’ individual strengths and learning needs, automatically generates a personalized digital lesson path for each student and provides you with a report linked to grade-level lessons. These types of prerequisite reports identify students’ understanding of the prior knowledge needed for lessons, automatically group students based on their instructional needs, and provide you with resources for each group. The right program allows you to spend less time identifying students’ needs and finding resources to support them.
2. Gives your students the type of math instruction and practice they need
In a world where most of us have a calculator on our phones, math instruction and practice must go beyond computation. You want a core program that discusses multiple strategies for instruction to honor different approaches and meet students where they are.
Lesson problems should include context to allow all students to access learning. You can ask a student to multiply 28 x 16, but if they don’t know how to multiply, they can’t access the problem. If you ask, “How many chairs do you have if there are 28 rows of chairs and 16 chairs in each row?”, students can use visuals and contextual understanding to represent the problem. Your program should help your students develop into confident problem solvers by supporting sense making and perseverance and providing opportunities to see connections between different strategies to expand their thinking.
In addition, students need practice that supports conceptual understanding and allows them to develop into strong problem solvers—the focus on most state assessments—by building their critical-thinking skills. Make sure your core math solution offers practice that addresses fluency, conceptual understanding, and problem solving in every print and digital lesson. You’ll also want engaging games and activities that allow students to have fun while learning and be able to practice the question formats they will see on state assessments. Don’t settle for a program that requires you to search for the practice your students need.
3. Offers differentiation resources that go beyond center activities
Because every student is different, differentiating instruction is critical. You need resources that allow you to offer a variety of small group stations, including teacher-led activities, partner centers, and individual learning, to address students who need reteaching, help reinforcing ideas, and who are ready to extend their thinking.
Be sure the program you choose has differentiated resources that are fully aligned to the lesson or standards, directly connected to the content of each lesson, and can be used for ongoing or prerequisite review. Also, make sure center activities offered in on-, below-, and above-grade level formats appropriately challenge and support all students.
4. Provides the service and support you need when you need it
It’s unusual to have a dedicated team partner with you for as long as you use a program. Find out up front how many team members will support you and if the team will stay with you long after your first year using the program. If a company doesn’t offer educational consultants, professional learning specialists, account managers, and technical support specialists based here in the US, then you aren’t partnering with the right company.
Finding the Right Solution
At the end of the day, your students deserve a program that will help them prepare for their future and provide you with the resources you need to support, challenge, and inspire them while making your job easier.
Few core math solutions provide you with the type of instruction and practice your students need. They may not offer reliable data on student needs or the differentiated instruction resources you deserve, and you likely won’t have continued support after the first year.
As you evaluate different programs, use this checklist to ensure you find a program that has the resources and support you need to help all your students learn to their potential.