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Illustrative Mathematics FAQ

K-12 Illustrative Mathematics (IM) Frequently Asked Questions

Math at Jeffco may look very different from how many of us were taught math concepts in the past. The instructional design of Imagine Learning Illustrative Mathematics supports K–12 learners through dynamic, engaging instructional experiences.

Read the frequently asked questions (FAQ) to learn more about the curriculum itself, how it was chosen and how it will prepare students with the skills they need to be successful in school and in the future.

Why did Jeffco adopt a new mathematics curriculum?

Jeffco chose a new math curriculum in 2022 because of inconsistent student achievement across the district. Educators were using different methods and materials for teaching math. Some of the materials teachers were using were old and didn't match the Colorado Academic Standards, which are important for making sure students learn what they should at each grade level.

Jeffco recognized the need to provide all educators with access to materials and professional learning opportunities that are based on research-based best practices. By doing so, the district aims to support continuous growth and improvement among both learners and educators.

The decision to adopt this curriculum aligns with our commitment to provide a world-class education that prepares all students for successful futures as local and global citizens, as outlined in the Jeffco Thrives 2025 plan.

Jeffco Thrives Major Initiatives for 2022-2024: 

Strategy: Consistent, rigorous academic expectations for all students

Initiative 3: Ensure every student is proficient in mathematics at 5th and 8th grades.

This initiative includes the following key components:

  • Implement high-quality instructional materials for mathematics with professional learning aligned to the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM), Colorado Academic Standards, and mathematical practices.
  • Establish a common culture of instructional excellence through effective monitoring and feedback of the instructional core.
  • Effectively use a multi-tiered system of support to ensure mastery of grade level standards for math.
  • Expand access to universal preK and ensure curricular and instructional alignment to K-5 and K-6.
  • Strategic use of high dosage tutoring at middle and high school level.

What are the benefits of Illustrative Mathematics for K-12 district curriculum?

Jeffco’s decision to adopt the Illustrative Mathematics curriculum as a K-12 districtwide curriculum for mathematics education was based on significant benefits aligned with the district's goals and aspirations for its students and educators. This decision is rooted in the following key factors:

  • Alignment with Colorado Academic Standards: Ensures students receive a comprehensive education that meets the state's rigorous grade-level content expectations.
  • Research-Based Best Practices: Founded on research-based best practices in mathematics education proven to be effective in promoting deeper conceptual understanding, fluency, and critical thinking skills for students.
  • Coherence and Consistency: Students build a strong foundation and develop a deep understanding of mathematical concepts, fostering a smoother transition from one grade to the next.
  • Real-World Application: Enables students to see the relevance of what they are learning in their daily lives and future careers. Students have opportunities to make connections to real-world contexts throughout the materials.
  • Rigorous Problem-Based Learning: Students spend most of their time in class working on carefully crafted and sequenced problems. Teachers help students understand the problems, ask questions to push their thinking, and orchestrate synthesis discussions to be sure that the mathematical takeaways are clear. While the instruction may look different from what you experienced in your own math education, current research shows students need to be able to think flexibly in order to use mathematical skills in their lives (and also on the types of tests they will encounter throughout their schooling).
  • Professional Learning Support: Teachers receive comprehensive professional learning support to equip them with tools and resources to effectively implement the curriculum in their classrooms, fostering continuous professional growth.
  • Design Principles to Support and Engage All Students: This curriculum provides opportunities for all students, regardless of their backgrounds or abilities, to access high-quality mathematics education.
  • Design Principles for Promoting Mathematical Language Use and Development: Students receive multiple opportunities to talk about their mathematical thinking, negotiate meaning with others, and collaboratively solve problems with targeted guidance from the teacher.
  • Engaging and Interactive Materials: The curriculum incorporates a variety of engaging and interactive materials, including visual aids, real-world examples, and technology-enhanced resources catering to diverse learning styles, making mathematics more accessible and enjoyable for students. For grade K-5, centers are provided as an extra resource for teachers to provide skills development with procedural fluency.
  • Ongoing Opportunities to Assess Student Learning: This curriculum contains many opportunities and tools for both formative and summative assessment to ensure quality, rigorous and frequent feedback.

How do we make sure all students are appropriately challenged in their learning?

K-12 Illustrative Mathematics (IM) is a tier one curriculum. There are a variety of supports provided within the Tier One classroom, including Access for Students with Disabilities and Access for English Learners.

In grades K-5, math centers are another way for students to learn at their own pace and allow for movement between stages based on their needs. For students ready for more, K-5 IM math has exploration problems in every problem set.

In grades 6-12, resources include "Are You Ready for More Problems?" in lessons. Outside resources will be used for student differentiation for tiers two and three.

How do teachers make sure students practice enough and do homework to master important skills for career and college success?

In a mathematics learning community, students learn by doing. Each unit starts with a pre-assessment to see what they know. Lessons activate prior knowledge and introduce new concepts for productive engagement. As units progress, students are shown different elements of math.

Where do students practice skills related to fact fluency?

As students learn more, they connect ideas and methods, strengthening their understanding and problem-solving skills. Practice problems and centers help them practice and become better at solving problems.

Practice and homework in the IM Math curriculum are based on research. This statement on practice and homework has more information on that research and practice and homework in the materials.

In addition, Illustrative Math has additional practice problem sets throughout K-12, adding more problems to the original IM curriculum that can be used as classroom practice or homework.

How was the new mathematics curriculum selected?

Jeffco’s new math curriculum was chosen through a transparent and fair Request for Proposal (RFP) process. These procedures made sure the curriculum matched the district's education goals and Colorado's high standards. Different curriculum providers and publishers were given a chance to submit their ideas.

How did the RFP process work and was the decision-making transparent?

Jeffco asked curriculum providers to submit proposals. The district looked at how well their criteria matched Colorado Academic Standards, best practices and overall quality to best serve our students.

Teachers, school leaders and experts reviewed the ideas to choose the curriculum that best fit students’ needs. The process was transparent and regular updates were communicated to educators, parents and community members so everyone was aware of the progress. When the final decision was made, it was shared with the community reinforcing the district’s commitment to inclusivity and collaboration.

Who was involved in the curriculum selection?

Teachers from different schools and grade levels in Jeffco played a big role in choosing the curriculum. They reviewed materials and gave important feedback. This helped find resources that matched what they needed for their students.

It was important for the district to involve all community perspectives. Parents, guardians, staff, and community members were part of the selection committee as well. This included 45 central leaders and 150 teachers, coaches, and principals from schools, plus four community members.

Their thoughts and ideas were important in making this curriculum decision. Teachers from different schools and grade levels in Jeffco played a big role in choosing the curriculum as they reviewed materials and provided important feedback.

How is the district monitoring the implementation of the Illustrative Mathematics program and gathering feedback from teachers and students?

Jeffco has taken a proactive approach to monitor the execution of the Illustrative Mathematics program and gather feedback from teachers and students by entering into a partnership with CU Denver for an Illustrative Mathematics Implementation Study. This study aimed to collect valuable insights and feedback from teachers and educational leaders based on their experience with the curriculum. The findings from the 2022-23 Implementation Study are available for review. Additionally, the Jeffco Research and Assessment Design team administered a survey to gather feedback about student perceptions of mathematics and other topics  Results from the survey are available in the Panorama Education Dashboard.

To facilitate the feedback collection process, teachers and leaders have been actively engaged in professional learning sessions. These sessions not only provide them with the necessary training and resources but also offer a platform to share their experiences and suggestions for improvement. The district acknowledges the significance of teachers and leaders' perspectives in refining the implementation process.

To further support schools in their implementation efforts, each educational institution has been assigned a Teacher on Special Assignment (TOSA). These TOSAs serve as dedicated resources, assisting schools with the effective execution of the program and closely monitoring its impact on student learning.

Continuous communication and information exchange have been a top priority for Jeffco. School leaders in cohort 1 and cohort 2 receive weekly updates to keep them well-informed about the progress of the program. This two-way communication channel enables school leaders to provide timely feedback and seek clarification from the Jeffco mathematics department as needed. This partnership fosters a dynamic and responsive learning environment, continuously refining services and resources to support strong educational outcomes for all students.

How is Illustrative Mathematics working for students with an Individualized Education Program (IEP)?

At the end of the 2022-23 school year, Jeffco conducted an internal study of academic outcomes across all students in IM courses. Through the study, Jeffco found that students with an IEP are statistically more likely to outperform their predicted CMAS or PSAT score. While students were outperforming their predictions, performance gaps persist. The district will continue monitoring outcomes for students using IM resources.

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