Time is one of our most precious resources but as a new Eureka Math® teacher, I didn’t use it wisely. I took the time to complete every task in every lesson with my students. I also found myself reteaching entire lessons because I wanted all my students to reach proficiency on everything in the lesson before moving on. This practice became a habit. Before I knew it, I was an entire module behind my pacing schedule. My decisions interrupted the Eureka Math story and put students at risk of moving to the next grade level without some essential foundational skills. It was clear that I had to shift my mindset about pacing. I’d like to share what I learned.
Trust that proficiency builds over time.
Think back to a time when you started something new, such as riding a bicycle, learning to swim, or playing chess. Were you proficient on your first try? How long did it take? You probably had to practice, and you likely got better over time. Whether in sports, games, or even adding fractions, it takes time to achieve proficiency. Fortunately, Eureka Math is designed with that truth in mind: It arranges for students to build proficiency across lessons. That means that even if your students haven’t reached proficiency at the end of a lesson, you can keep going and maintain pacing. Proficiency will come.
Let’s look at Grade 6 Module 1 as an example. The first topic in that module has eight lessons that address two focus standards.
Topic A: Representing and Reasoning About Ratios
Lessons 1–2: Ratios
Lessons 3–4: Equivalent Ratios
Lessons 5–6: Solving Problems by Finding Equivalent Ratios
Lesson 7: Associated Ratios and the Value of a Ratio
Lesson 8: Equivalent Ratios Defined Through the Value of a Ratio
Understand the concept of a ratio and use ratio language to describe a ratio relationship between two quantities. For example, “The ratio of wings to beaks in the bird house at the zoo was 2 : 1 because for every 2 wings there was 1 beak.” “For every vote candidate A received, candidate C received nearly three votes.”
Use ratio and rate reasoning to solve real-world and mathematical problems, e.g., by reasoning about tables of equivalent ratios, tape diagrams, double number line diagrams, or equations.
Notice that proficiency with these standards isn’t expected after the first lesson. Also notice that the foundational knowledge about ratios is directly addressed in more than one lesson, as are the topics of equivalent ratios and solving problems by finding equivalent ratios. Your students should become partially proficient with the standards as you work through the topic. Most students reach proficiency by the end of the topic. Some continue their path to proficiency as they engage with the rest of the module, working on topics such as collections of equivalent ratios, unit rates, and percent.
Don’t reteach. Just sprinkle in support.
When you view proficiency as something that builds over time, you’ll feel more comfortable moving ahead and maintaining your pacing schedule without reteaching lessons. But what about students who haven’t finished their learning from previous years? How can you help them without reteaching and getting behind?
It turns out that the best way to maintain pacing is also the best way to close gaps. Instead of stopping to reteach prior content, which can maintain or even widen gaps by delaying access to new content, allow students to work on the new content and sprinkle in the support they need. Limit yourself to providing only the support students need to access the new material. Because you will focus on the objectives for the current lesson rather than reteaching everything students may have missed, your pacing will be better. And keeping students on track will prevent future gaps in the knowledge they’re trying to acquire now.
You can take many different approaches to sprinkling in support. You might start your lesson with a fluency activity that activates knowledge students will need in the new lesson. Or you can create and insert a minilesson that emphasizes a concept or skill used in the upcoming lesson. You might even insert a problem at the beginning of students’ work that calls on the essential knowledge for the lesson. What these approaches to sprinkling in support have in common is that they don’t replace a full day or more of your teaching time.
Learn the story of the grade, module, and topic.
My trust that students can keep up the pace of the Eureka Math curriculum comes from understanding the math story and studying the teaching sequence. At the beginning of the year, sit down and look through each module in the grade level. Notice what students will learn and in what order. Understand that the major work of the grade begins in the earlier modules so that students have more time to develop proficiency with that content throughout the year. Consider how students can use their Module 1 learning in later modules, and take note of the opportunities students will have to deepen their knowledge from partially proficient to highly proficient.
Similarly, when you begin a module, look at the list of topics and the lessons in each topic, and consider how students can use their Topic A learning in later topics. Think about what students will learn and when you can expect them to move from partially proficient to proficient to highly proficient across the lessons. Think about how you can revisit learning to give students opportunities to achieve greater proficiency.
The time you spend learning the story of Eureka Math pays off in better pacing. Knowing what’s coming next allows you to move forward, on pace, with confidence that your students will make the learning gains you expect throughout the year.
As teachers, we all want our students to succeed with math. To make that happen, we must shift our mindset to teaching for proficiency over time. We can then maintain pacing and ensure that our students engage fully with the content of their grade level.
Topics: Implementation Support