Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Pacing with Eureka Math (#EngageNY)


As the TK-5 mathematics instructional coach in my district, I am often asked about pacing the Eureka Math lessons. In fact, today I even received an email from a math coach in a neighboring district asking the same thing. Here is his question and my response...

The question
Our teachers are one week in with implementing Eureka!!! Some are already very anxious around pacing of the lesson. Any advice around what to tell them when they are wanting to slow way down & take 2+ days to do one lesson? Teachers are worried about moving onto the next lesson without feeling like their students are really understanding the concepts. What something encouraging to tell them? Doing a new lesson every day is making teachers very nervous!

My response
Pacing is a common first-year concern. Here are some quick tidbits...
1. Don't do ALL the fluency activities listed in the lesson. Only choose one, perhaps two of them. Perhaps, consider doing NONE of the fluency activities for that day.

2. Do not turn the Application problem into a teachable moment. It is a time for the students to practice using their brain. It is a time for the teacher to collect formative data about the progress of her students. It should NOT turn into a 20 minute mini-lesson on how to solve the problem correctly.
3. Be efficient with the Concept Development. Aim for 20 minutes maximum. To be efficient, the teacher needs to have decided the night before exactly the sequence of example problems to do for the lesson. Don't do ALL the examples in class. 

4. Limit the time students do the "independent" practice (the Problem Sets) to ONLY 10 or 15 minutes! This means the Problem Set is a time-based event rather than a product-based event. Students are not expected to do ALL problems during the 10-15 minutes. 

5. The night before, the teacher should decide which problems in the Problem Set are "must do's", "could do's", and "extensions". While students are working on the Problem Set in class for 10-15 minutes, they should do the "Must Do" problems first. Then the "Could Do" problems. 

6. Save at least 5 or 10 minutes for the Student Debrief time. The teacher should pick one or two key debrief questions to ask the class. The teacher edition lists some questions the teacher might ask. Or the teacher can simply ask, "Would someone please explain their thinking for Question 4?"

All of the above can easily be fit into a 45 minute time period.

Now the question is "What do I do with my students who are struggling and need an extra day with this concept?"
The answer to this is often "Move to the next lesson anyway!"

Often in Eureka Math, the lessons move very incrementally from one lesson to the next. If a student doesn't understand Lesson 4, move on to Lesson 5 because it is likely the student will suddenly have the Ah-ha moment in that lesson rather than in Lesson 4. This is a very different mentality than what teachers are familiar with.

To help the struggling students even though the teacher has moved on to the next lesson, the teacher ought to consider how she can make the concept accessible to the students. Some ideas...
  1. hook up the student with a student partner
  2. allow the students to use manipulatives to solve the problems rather than drawing the pictures
  3. consider teaching the student a different method altogether (perhaps a method taught in a future module) even while the teacher also continues attempting to teach the student the original method
I'm sure their are other ideas (I'm thinking UDL in particular), but this is enough to get the conversation going!

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