As I have mentioned in other blog posts, I truly love the Eureka math program and appreciate the ways in which it challenges me as a math teacher to push my students. With that said, the program as written does not bring a particularly Universally-Designed approach to the material. If I teach it as written, it is largely teacher-led with few options for representation, action and expression, or engagement. The goal of this post is to describe some of the thought process that goes into bringing a more Universally-Designed format to the incredible content offered by Eureka.
Does it teach the standard?
The driving question that opens any discussion about Eureka is whether a given lesson or sequence of lessons is aligned to the standard at grade-level. It has been my experience that Eureka lessons tend to fall into the following categories:
- The lesson teaches the material at grade-level with rich and challenging problems, but with a teacher-heavy format.
- The lesson teaches the material above grade level.
- The lesson teaches the material at grade level, but in a way that is fragmented or disjointed and does not lead to a solid understanding of the material.
Each of those categories requires a different approach to redefining the work using the Guidelines for Universal Design for Learning.
The lesson teaches the material at grade-level with rich and challenging problems, but with a teacher-heavy format.
Most Eureka lessons fall into this category. This is good news in that it means we have a wide range of material to choose from to teach the Common Core State Standards. This is bad news in that it requires a lot of work and creativity to revise these lessons. For example, we have taken some lessons and rewritten them as Centers or Stations (see Dr. Novak’s blog post about the first week of school). This format allows us to have students engage with the rich problems, but avoids a lock-step approach to the class. It also encourages students to engage in reciprocal teaching, where they learn from their peers.
We don’t use Centers or Stations for many lessons. Instead, in most cases, we choose one or two key problems to use as model work for a full-class lesson and then we move on to giving students options for flexible grouping with targeted support as they work through the remainder of the material in the lesson (see this blog post for more information about this process).
The lesson teaches the material above grade level.
We have run into whole sequences of lessons like this in some places in the 7th grade Eureka curriculum. In general, we have used the material that was significantly above grade level as extension work for our students in the Standard classes and/or as core material for students in the Extended classes on the same topic. In some cases, we have opted to make select material an extension option for all students, if the material was just so complex and so far beyond what we understand the standard to be.
The lesson teaches the material at grade level, but in a way that is fragmented or disjointed and does not lead to a solid understanding of the material.
In general, we have approached problems like this at a macro level by providing students with two kinds of over-arching guides–templates and notes. We have designed templates for key types of problems in each module, such as for percent problems, geometry problems with angles and 3D measurement, algebra word problems, and ratios and proportional thinking. The templates provide an organizational structure to support students in having an entry point to complex problems without dumbing down the material.
We also provide notes for key topics in the Module. The notes provide a sense of continuity as the lessons take students in different directions in the material, while, again, still allowing them to engage with challenging problems. Providing the notes also leads us as teachers to guide students to think about their learning as using resources rather than learning facts, since students already have all the facts they need and the focus shifts to using that information.