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Tool: Adapting mathematics curriculum

When teachers draw on published curricula to create their written plans, they often think about how best to teach each lesson. Less often do teachers evaluate the mathematics of each lesson in a published curriculum. However, mathematical analyses are important if teachers are going to make the most of the limited time they have to meet today's ambitious standards in elementary mathematics.

This chart will help you focus on the mathematics in any given lesson. It may be productive for a mentor-beginner pair to try out this tool together, but hopefully these questions will become an automatic part of your planning process:

Lesson Title:

What will children do in this lesson?


What mathematical knowledge or skill is the focus of this lesson?


How does it relate to state/district standards?


What is the most important mathematical idea for your students in this lesson?


How can you adapt the lesson to make the most important idea more prominent?


How else might the mathematics in this lesson be addressed?


Questions for discussion

  • Is this lesson worth doing? Published curricula are designed to meet the standards of many states. Not all lessons will be appropriate for your classroom.
  • How does this lesson differ from the other ones that address this mathematical idea? Remember that your goal is to teach ideas not pages. You may need to move away from the published curricula in order to meet this goal.
  • What help will your children need from you to grasp this big mathematical idea? Oftentimes children can complete an activity but miss the main idea it was designed to teach.
  • Do you understand the mathematics in the lesson? Many elementary teachers have unpleasant memories of their own mathematics learning. To meet the needs of your children, you may need to re-educate yourself. This website from the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics can help.

In an associated tool, we have an example of teachers discussing the mathematics of a lesson in a published curriculum.