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Teachers often ask me how to modify their curriculum to meet the needs of their students. Teachers are often concerned that the curriculum moves too quickly for many of their students to keep up. Students often become confused, log out of lessons, fail to log in to classroom lessons, or make-up solutions to problems that make no sense. I have one suggestion to try in this case: map out your number choices like numbers on a timeline. Teachers can think about the numbers on the timeline in two ways: 1) where should students be at the beginning, middle, and end of the unit or 2) what are easy or previous grade-level numbers, “just right” at grade-level numbers, advanced or end-of-grade-level numbers.


The first leap on the number line contains numbers teachers can use during the beginning of a unit or the first full week of a math unit. The numbers in the first leap may be a review from previous years. The use of less complex numbers can help engage students, lessen their fears, and remove misconceptions they may have developed over the years about their ability to be a good mathematician or different mathematical concepts.

The second leap on the number line can contain numbers for students performing at or beginning to perform at grade-level standards. The second leap supports the students who have developed more confidence and the required basic-grade-level skills. The numbers used during the second leap on the number line can move students towards the end of the grade level or end-of-the-unit goals. Students can explore numbers that allow them to develop a deep sense of comfort, familiarity, and flexibility with grade-level standards for week two of a unit.

The third leap on the number line contains numbers that may exceed grade-level standards or provide the third week of growth during a math unit. Students who perform above grade-level standards can experiment with more challenging numbers in combination with varied representations. Students can experiment with trying new models, equations, or expressions. The strategies discovered with numbers in the third leap on the number line can serve as a model or anchor for classmates who will soon be ready to take on these more challenging numbers.

When we have a destination in mind and a road map to reach it, we can teach more confidently with better results. To give all students the same curriculum, strategies, and numbers is an approach that can leave even the most dedicated teachers feeling overwhelmed and unsuccessful without fully understanding why they are getting the results they are getting. The number roadmap we proactively create can highlight challenges and provide alternate routes that will get more of us to our destination with fewer frustrations and dead ends along the way.

So… take a moment to create your timeline of the numbers you will use for this unit. Which numbers will allow students to develop confidence, which numbers will provide the skills need to be successful this year, which numbers will push them to take on new challenges?