Fidelity and the Math Modules

EngageAs the Network Team Math coordinators and consultants have been facilitating discussions with math teachers around the region who are adopting or adapting the math modules from EngageNY, we’ve heard this comment, over and over again, “I love what my kids are doing with the module content! They are understanding math at a deeper level and can talk about it with their peers, but, it’s taking me so long to teach a lesson! How am I going to get through it all?” The curriculum materials from EngageNY, the math modules, are cumbersome (hundreds of pages long), not teacher friendly (especially at the elementary level where answer keys to the homework and exit tickets are missing) and not student-friendly (once again, especially at the elementary level where print is small and space for writing answers is tight). But…I believe we need to work through all of the negatives, because the positive is so worth it!  It gives me goosebumps when I hear stories from teachers about how their students are doing math work they didn’t think they could do – and work the teachers didn’t think they were conceptually ready for at their age. Stories about students talking about math concepts, the “Why” of math, and not just the “How” (algorithms and procedures), gives me hope that after this first year of frustrating implementation, the road will be smoother.

A few weeks ago, in his News and Notes, Commission King wrote about integrating curricular materials into the classroom.  He clarified some key points about the modules that were confusing to administrators and teachers using them. As I read the three paragraphs below (from the October 16th News and Notes), I realized that these clarifications will aid us in our discussions of the “Fidelity” involved in implementing the modules. I did a close read and highlighted some of the key points.

Guidance on Integrating Curricular Materials into the Classroom

The optional curricular materials on EngageNY are designed to be adopted or adapted. Educators will find both PDF and Word versions available for their use. Some lessons provide detailed instructions or recommendations but it is important to note that the lessons are not scripts and rather they should be viewed as vignettes so that the reader can imagine how the class could look.

Lessons are adaptable and allow for teacher preference and flexibility so that what is happening in the classroom can both meet students’ needs and be in service to the shifts and the standards. If you do choose to make significant changes to lessons, the Tristate/EQuIP rubric is available to help you evaluate the quality, rigor, and alignment of your adapted lessons.

Also, please note that the Math modules include a significant number of problem sets so that students have ample opportunity to practice and apply their knowledge. Educators can help students to achieve deep conceptual knowledge by asking them to complete selected problems that have been designed in a sequential, thoughtful order. It is not expected that all the problems in a problem set be administered, but rather educators can choose from the ample amount of problems provided. Educators may certainly adapt this curriculum using their own judgment regarding student needs and pace of the semester and/or year.

Here’s my interpretation:

  1. Teachers are professionals and should be expected and encouraged to use their professional judgement when using the math modules, particularly in regards to the needs of their students and the pacing of the course.
  2. Student needs, as well as the math shifts, should be taken into consideration when adapting the lessons.
  3. Though the lessons are scripted, they are not to be used as scripts but as a way to imagine what the lesson will look like in a classroom.
  4. Not every problem should be selected for use in the lesson.  Teachers need to know their students and their needs, and carefully select problems so students have enough practice to gain a deep conceptual knowledge of the content for that lesson.

Teachers across the region are working harder than ever to implement the Common Core and use appropriate curriculum materials in their classroom. Educational leaders need to provide support in the form of professional development and collaboration time so educators can share what they are learning about the math modules. Here, at OCM BOCES Network Team, we are providing support in the form of sessions digging deeper into the modules, and specific strategy sessions for improving student learning (see MyLearningPlan or the Network Team page on the OCM BOCES Instructional Support site). As we’ve traveled around the region we’ve been making this promise, “Next year will be easier!” Let’s all work together to make this happen.  After all, it’s about our students and their learning, not about us!


Keim_Joanne_SMALLJoanne Keim
OCM BOCES Network Team Coordinator
PBL 101 Trainer

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