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CoMath Update for March 27, 2020

Hey you! Yes, you! Let's help each other out and share our good ideas by replying to this email! (And not just to me, to everybody!) And if you have questions you want the community to help you answer, send them to


Questions of the Week

Thank you to those of you who participated in office hours this week. From those and other conversations, here are the questions that have been weighing on my mind this week.


Q1: How should schools prepare for teachers getting sick with COVID-19?

A1: Credit to Kim Smith of Mesa County for this question! She posed the question somewhat rhetorically, but it has me thinking about what schools may face if a teacher -- already just barely holding things together in a new online environment -- gets sick enough that they need a substitute to fill in. As much as I hope teachers don't get sick, this is a real possibility and some of those who get sick may be unable to handle their teaching duties for a week or more. So how should schools prepare? My initial thinking is this:


Do: Have administrators consider the possibility that teachers may get sick

Do: Think in advance about the logistics of taking over a teacher's class for multiple days (or weeks)

Don't: Make teachers prepare a bunch of sub plans in advance (what teachers are tasked with doing now is already overwhelming, don't make it worse)


CoMath, what is your thinking about this? How would you change or add to my advice?


Q2: How can we avoid online math classes turning into a bunch of drill-and-practice activities?

A2: Credit to Jim Hogan from Aurora who first brought this up to me. I must admit, it has to be very tempting right now to just give students a bunch of practice problems. Not all practice is bad, of course, but I'm talking about the stereotypical types of worksheets or activities that are just the repetitive practice of a procedure without connections to concepts or opportunities to strategize and problem solve.


I know some districts are taking the approach "review for now, don't jump into new content too quickly." If so, maybe try thinking about review not as repetitive practice, but as an opportunity to try to apply previously learned skills in new contexts. A lot of your success here is going to depend on your ability to choose appropriate tasks, which really isn't any different than what you would have faced in your classroom. Earlier today, I talked with Heather Palumbo and Jocelyn Hatfield, math specialists from Cherry Creek, and they've been working to recommend higher-quality tasks and activities for teachers to choose from for lessons early in the week, and then some options for students to choose their own activity or game as their math work at the end of the week.


CoMath, what kind of math activities are you planning? What's your usual balance of activities geared towards conceptual understanding versus procedural fluency, and how might that balance change teaching remotely?


Q3: Where are good sources of bilingual math materials?

A3: This question came from Robin Madison in Eagle County. Sometimes resources are translated for us, such as the PhET Interactive Simulations from CU Boulder. Many of those are available in dozens of languages. Other times districts work to translate materials for students. Jeffco's math specialists, for example, said their district is translating some materials into as many as 10 languages. But the DIY approach can be slow and very expensive, so I'm sure teachers are really looking for things already translated.


If you're already using a set of curricular materials, like a textbook or online math learning/practice website (you know, like IXL, Woot Math, Khan Academy, Aleks, etc.), you should see if they already offer translated materials. Unfortunately, some of the sites I listed on CDE's resource page (like Illustrative Mathematics or youcubed) don't seem to have tasks in anything other than English.


CoMath, where do you find math materials in Spanish? Or other languages?


Please keep sending those questions and join us in office hours!


NCTM and NCSM Opportunities

SO MANY organizations and companies are offering and promoting new opportunities to receive professional development online. If you work for one of those organizations, I thank you! In particular, I want to make sure everyone knows about two big offerings from our two largest professional organizations.


NCTM: Free Memberships and 100 Days of Professional Learning

NCTM is offering free trial memberships along with free webinars and other resources for teaching math online. NCTM is also kicking off 100 Days of Professional Learning with nightly webinars starting April 1. These webinars will use the presentations from many presenters who would have presented at the Centennial Meeting that would have started next week.


NCSM: Free Virtual Conference

NCSM is hosting a free virtual conference on Monday and Tuesday, March 30-31, starting each day at 9:00 am mountain time. See the NCSM website for registration and the speakers for each session. Presenters include Rachel Levy (who will soon lead a session for CCTM, too), Sunil Singh, Deborah Ball, Cathy Seeley, Peg Smith, Gail Burrill, Annie Fetter, Tim Kanold, Mike Flynn, Rachel Lambert, Karen Fuson, Jo Boaler, Steve Leinwand, Sara VanDerWerf, Jere Confrey, and Jen Wilson.


CDE SIS Office Hours

As a reminder, each of the content specialists in CDE's Office of Standards and Instructional Support is holding office hours from 10:00 to 11:00 am every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.


Mathematics: 584 409 471

Arts (Dance, Drama and Theatre Arts, Music, and Visual Arts): 632 340 026

Comprehensive Health and Physical Education: 717 204 714

Computer Science: 621 253 968

Reading, Writing, and Communicating: 599 062 148

Science: 904 076 347

Social Studies: 847 781 363


CDE’s Main COVID-19 Resource Page for Schools:

Learning at Home Resources: