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CoMath Update for June 5, 2020

As I've worked this week doing BOCES and district PD, and connected with some math leaders planning for next year, I wanted to make sure to share some of the resources that I'm seeing benefit people as they make tough decisions about transitioning to the 2020-2021 school year. But first, here are some principles that I suggest you keep in mind as you plan:

  • When school starts, students should feel like they deserve to be in the grade they're in. No student wants to start school next fall and be told they need to spend weeks or months working on content from the prior grade. Jumping in to grade-level content may be challenging for some, but it's where your goals need to be.
  • Don't fill holes by digging new holes. If you're simply trying to "fill gaps" by taking instructional time away from grade-level content, you're moving the gap, not filling it. You have to address your focus, pacing, efficiency, and teaching quality to actually make gaps disappear.
  • If you do have to fill (maybe "bridge" is a better term?) gaps, don't think you have to fill them all at once at the beginning of the year. Maybe students have a gap from unfinished learning in 6th grade that is going to affect them in January of 7th grade. Don't feel like you have to fill that gap in September. Wait until when you really need to fill it, and, if you're fortunate, by the time you get there you may find that gap isn't as big as you thought it would be.
  • Distinguish between a gap and a pile. My favorite thing I've read all day is Vinci Daro's comment to a blog post on the Achieve the Core website. Vinci makes the claim here that while we all fret over gaps, the real problem is what she describes as a "pile" that "consists of all the previous efforts to 'teach' the content--all the different ways/words/tricks/steps students have been asked to try/read/hear/follow that don't make sense to the student, year after year, teacher after teacher, textbook after textbook." Getting students on track isn't about filling some hole, it's about designing productive learning experiences that get them through "mountains of accumulated clutter."

Now, here are some resources that people are finding particularly useful as they plan for math instruction next year:

Coherence Map

It's essential to understand progressions of learning built into the standards. The Coherence Map from Student Achievement Partners is probably the best single source for figuring out how standards are sequenced, which is key for making sure you understand what topics are prerequisites to others. Don't accidentally create gaps next year while you're busy trying to bridge others.

Coherence Gap Spreadsheet


This is a tool I've been working on since March. It uses the connections from the Coherence Map, but attempts to answer the question, "How long might it take to teach each standard, and how long might it take to teach all the future standards this connects to?" It does this by referencing a ton of K-12 lesson-level data about standards alignment and instructional time. It doesn't do this perfectly, but it's potentially still useful. Since all of our scope and sequence planning needs to squeeze things into a limited number of days and hours of instruction, my hope is that this tool helps shed some light on what consequences might be lurking for learning that didn't get finished this year. Please read the README worksheet in the Excel workbook to understand how it works, and don't hesitate to contact me if you'd like help using the tool or interpreting your results.

TNTP Resources for Accelerating Learning

The New Teacher Project has been blogging about acceleration and unfinished learning, and their Learning Acceleration Guide has a lot of very helpful guidance about how to pace learning next year in math classes.

SAP Priority Instructional Content in ELA/Math

(Not yet released)

You may want to keep your eye on the Aligned Blog at, as they are working on publishing guidance for where to focus to help accelerate learning next year. I don't know when it will be out, but I imagine it will be soon.

CML Summer Working Groups

Members of the Colorado Math Leaders are working this summer to co-design some curriculum documents. If you want to help with the design, or benefit from this shared effort, I encourage you to head over to, create an account, and join the CML group. We have a CML meeting next Wednesday from 10-12 where I'm sure we'll spend most of the time sharing everyone's plans for next year.

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