Monday, April 29, 2019

Emergent Curricula

As you may know, I was a cohort teacher for a 4-year NSF grant with the Algebra Project in 2009-2013. We had 2 years of curriculum developed ahead of time (not a textbook, per say) and 2 years of fly by the seat of your pants, here are some texts and full-length curricula to pull from, and hopefully we did enough during the 2-week summer workshop to prepare you - good luck!

Luckily, we weren't alone, and along with our university professor partners we would meet on weekends, co-teach some classes, and figure out how to structure material to meet the needs of our students.

This tweet by Anna Blinstein inspired this post.

Two areas of our class structure garnered follow-up questions from Anna. Just-in-time handouts and portfolios.

Just-in-time Handouts

All handouts were numbered, 3-hole punched, and expected to be kept in a 3-ring binder. I had the luxury of teaching in a sewing classroom with ample closet space for all students to keep their materials. Extra copies of all handouts were kept in folders in crates for absentees and lost papers.

In year 4, our Algebra Project cohort took discrete math and statistics as a double block. Here is a handout list, homework list, and journal list for my discrete/stats, algebra, and tutorial lab classes.

Here is a document containing the Spring Statistics Handouts. Notice that handout 12 split the class into 3 groups and differentiated the instructions of the performance task. We developed this task because our seniors didn't have a firm concept of percentage, and Bayesian statistics is lost without that.

You'll notice things like signature boxes asking students to commit to completing homework, because we were having homework completion issues (who doesn't?) and personalized messages to students and classes that you won't find in a traditional textbook.

Portfolio Tasks

Portfolio tasks asked students to find a mistake and correct it. I aimed to do this monthly, but in reality did 3-4 per semester. Here are some examples. Along with student portfolio submissions was a notebook and journal check - here are examples of the monthly-check format.


As a math coach I know that what works for one teacher in one context may have the opposite effects for a different teacher in the same or a different context. However, there are some universal points about classroom structure that are good for instruction.
  1. Have students define the major takeaways from lessons and activities.
  2. Have students recall previous major takeaways to apply to new lessons and activities.
  3. Have students refine major takeaways as new lessons and activities deepen their understanding.

kop _crush