3 Steps To A Successful Math Year

The beginning of the year is completely and utterly overwhelming. You have to rebuild your classroom, prepare for a new crew of kids, wrap your mind around beginning of the year professional development and prepare materials for those first few exhausting days.

Oh, and did I mention curriculum?


Luckily, there are some steps you can take now to set yourself up for math success this school year. In the past there have been years I have gone in with the frame of mind that I am was prepping the first math unit. I thought about the pre and post assessment and what it might look like to differentiate throughout that unit- and these were not "bad" or "wrong" thoughts. I was on the right track. But what happens when that first unit ends and all of your students haven't mastered the standards? What do you do when you are looking at your tier 2 and tier 3 students before, during and after that first unit? I wasn't thinking big enough and I certainly wasn't setting myself up for year long success!

As a math interventionist, I don't necessarily have a set math curriculum or program that I follow. My students have a variety of levels and needs and so I needed a new system. These are the steps that I follow to set myself up for a calm, focused school year. I have included templates that you can use so that you can set yourself up for success as well!

1) Think Long-Term 
The first step to planning needs to be a year long plan. You need to know where you are going in terms of the big picture in order to assess if your students are on the right path. For me, there are two ways to make this work. Work either in months or in quarters. When writing this long term plan you may choose to write the standards across the year or, if you have a program that you follow, you may choose to write the names of the units across the year.

In the case that you do follow a program and you are writing the names of units, look inside of the unit and find the skills or standards addressed and list those in your long term plan as well. HERE is a link to my personal year long plan filled in for kindergarten, first and second grade. My tier 1 is based off of the Engage NY math modules. As an interventionist, it was important for me to back map and look at what tier 2 and tier 3 might look like across the year as well. It is so important to know that there will be students who do NOT follow your plan. The long term plan is still incredibly helpful because, for those outliers, it gives you a map to plot where they might be and the logical steps you could take to move the student closer to grade level expectations.

2) Break It Down
Whether you chose to break your year into months or quarters, it's time to dive into each of those pieces and to think about the intermediate steps needed to meet the goals in that particular month or quarter. At this point, I like to plan in one or two week periods of time. This can become a bit tricky because some skills or standards are better suited to be long term goals while other skills could be a focus for a shorter period of time and then moved to independent practice. When I look at the first quarter of first grade for students in tier 3, students need to be able to

  • Count to 100 by 1s and 10s This is an ongoing skill. I think of this as a fluency focus and would probably play counting games as a lesson opener for the first few weeks of school to reinforce mastery. 
  • Represent addition and subtraction with objects and drawings This is a LOADED skill! For quarter 1 I broke this skill down into understanding what addition means in terms of both putting together and adding to, the meaning of subtraction (take away only for quarter 1) and then mixing the two together to be sure students understand the meaning of each operation and aren't just memorizing "what they are doing" in a given week. 
  • Add and subtract within 5 fluently- I didn't even list this as a focus this quarter once I broke the weeks down. I would absolutely do a pre and post assessment for this skill, however, for quarter 1 I am more focused on the students' understanding of addition and subtraction, the development of their spatial understanding of amounts and the relationship of 1 more and 1 less. If students are successful with those skills they will certainly improve in their fact fluency to 5. 
  • Count forward from a given number- This is another ongoing goal. This fluency focus would be appropriate once students are able to count to 20 without prompting. 
  • Write numbers to 20- Writing numbers to 10 would be an immediate focus if they fell down in this area on a pre assessement. Numbers to 20? I listed this as a later fluency skill. Even so, I would likely put emphasis on other skills first knowing that in quarter 2 when students are composing and decomposing teen numbers that this skill will continue to develop. 
  • Spatial relationships of numbers 1-10- Fluency, fluency, fluency. This includes dot patterns, Rekenrek work, ten frames and general subitizing activities. 
  • 1 more/1 less numbers 1-20- While these are number sense skills, I do think they warrant some direct instruction. Students often understand one more and one less in a conversational sense but I chose to spend a week on each of these skills to explicitly link the understanding to a student's understanding of addition and subtraction. 
"Breaking it Down" over the course of the first quarter might look like the following:

Take note that the "Week Focus" moves week by week but that the fluency focus may be less linear. Some of the skill may (and will) overlap. I listed general starting spots but this focus is much more flexible!

3) Zoom in Close
The last step in the process would be to take each week and break it down in terms of what your lessons might look like on a daily basis. I would NOT do this ahead of the school year. You know that your weekly plan might need to be flexible and your daily lessons, even more so. I generally plan a few weeks at a time taking into account specific student needs, formative assessment data and taking into account the general "things that pop up" that might disturb math on any given day like an assembly or a birthday party.... these things happen :)

If you have used any of my 5 Day Focus resources, this is what you find towards the front of the document on the "Overview" page. When I plan the weekly overview I am not going in and writing the details of each day. I am writing down the big ideas for the day along with any centers or assessment materials I might need.

Your Turn! 
I have put together planning templates for your year, months or quarters and weeks. I am not promising this work is easy. And I am certainly not implying that this work will go quickly. But, I promise, if you dedicate 2-3 hours now to complete step 1 and step 2, you will thank yourself later because your weekly and daily planning will fly. If you are shorter on time, an hour spent on step 1 and maybe the first quarter or the first few months of step 2 will still set you up for success. You are building your road map and will save yourself frustrating and unnecessary detours later. Click HERE to grab your free planning templates. 

And last but not least... 
I have a $10 TPT gift card to give out so you can kick your back to school off in the right direction! There are a number of ways you can enter in the Rafflecopter below. I will chose a winner on Monday night so that you are able to get your shop on in the sale Tuesday. 
Many of my favorite math bloggers are linking up to bring you additional back to school tips, tricks, freebies and even a few more chances to win TPT gift cards. 

Research Based Strategies 

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  1. I love your long-term planning & organization! I teach 4th grade & we'll be starting with Mathematical Mindsets, then place value

  2. I'm teaching numbers to 10 in kindergarten! :)

  3. I want to be a math interventionist when I grow up. :) Thank you for sharing the planning templates. I, for one, will use them!

  4. Sorting and numbers to 10 in kindergarten!