Finding Multiple Entry Points into a Math Unit

by Char Shryock

A teacher reached out to me a few weeks ago looking for a resource to help her identify where in the math progression a particular standard fell.  She was trying to identify an entry point into her larger unit for a group of students in her class.  That got me thinking about how the Coherence Map tool could be used, not just to map out a standard within a progression, but also to find many ways into a standard.

Let’s look at the Coherence Map a little more closely.  Start with your current grade, and select a strand to focus on.   Drill down to the standard that will be the focus of your lesson.  Now, the fun! If you have a group of students who will not be able to begin working with the standard, maybe they have gaps in their learning or they may need additional learning time on the standards that build to the current lesson, follow the map backwards.  What standards at grade level are directly connected to your current focus? Look for arrows with solid lines.  What formative assessment might you use to see if students have mastery of those standards?  What if they don’t?  Keep working your way back, maybe even into a prior grade level if necessary to find the starting point for instruction.  Now, think of your lesson planning as a road map that has many starting points, but one final destination.  Follow the Coherence Map strands forward again  to the standard, build in activities through your lessons that will help students build mastery along the way.   Another way to use the Coherence Map is to find entry points into an integrated unit by finding related standards across the math strands.  Many of the standards within the Coherence Map have suggested lesson activities or mini-assessments attached to them.  How might you weave strands together within a unit using the suggested activities as starting points?  

What I like about the Coherence Map is the learning pathway that it lays out. As a teacher being asked to “differentiate” a lesson, it is difficult, especially in math, to identify those prerequisite skills or math knowledge that a student may be missing that might prevent them from being successful in a lesson or unit.  The Coherence Map takes the guesswork out of creating a formative assessment tool to help find what students can do by identifying very clearly what standards are connected within and across grades.  The example activities and mini-assessments can then be used to form the base of small group or center work.