Math Implementation Support

Because materials implementation depends heavily on the content area, CalCurriculum provides content-specific implementation resources. Below are math solutions and resources to consider when evaluating your current math program. English language arts and science supports are coming soon.

CalCurriculum’s implementation process identifies three key areas of support in implementing a strong math program: 

Materials: The instructional materials that have been adopted and how well those materials match students’ and teachers’ needs.

Planning: The professional development that has been provided to help teachers make the most of their materials and the expectations and communications about those materials.

Delivery: The day-to-day teaching and learning in classrooms and the necessary support needed from school leadership and coaches.

In considering which area of support to prioritize first, we recommend investigating materials first, then moving to planning, and then delivery. There are often relatively easy and economical ways to improve materials and planning that can have a big impact on student outcomes. Supports provided during the delivery stage are critical to successful implementation but are typically more resource-intensive.


Emerging research shows how high quality math instructional materials provide teachers, students, school leadership, and other stakeholders with a measurable structure for delivering a quality education. Instructional materials help identify the learning goals, outcomes, and core competencies that students must demonstrate in math before moving to the next grade level or course and provide teachers with support to reach all learners. “When high-quality instructional resources, practice-based opportunities to learn, and collegial learning that enables development of shared knowledge…are made available to teachers, they are able to improve their knowledge, build habits and dispositions that support improvement, and improve student learning.”1

Evaluating your instructional materials’ alignment to the math standards and instructional shifts is a low lift, high impact initial step towards improving your mathematics program. We encourage you to first look at the following tools and resources to understand your materials better. Based on your findings, we propose some solutions below.

  1. EdReports – reviews, tools and resources
  2. Instructional Materials ET
  3. EquiP rubrics

Providing access to the California math standards is a fundamental requirement of your instructional materials, so how can you ensure that the materials are high quality and aligned to the full intent of those standards? Many publishers claim alignment, but upon closer evaluation their materials lack the necessary tools to help teachers provide quality instruction that will improve student outcomes. If your math materials aren’t fully aligned, there are a few ways to omit or substitute them.


  1. Omit the math units, lessons, and/or assessments that aren’t aligned. Many programs have more material than can be taught in a school year. If you discover lessons or assessments that aren’t aligned, simply omit those and focus deeper/spend more time on those that are aligned.
  2. Substitute misaligned content with new content that is better aligned. If you discover that you have material that isn’t aligned or gaps in the material, eliminate the “off-standard” work and replace with units/lessons that are vetted and better aligned. Open Educational Resources (OER) can be a high quality, cost efficient solution for this issue as long as you evaluate for standards alignment.
  3. Procure a new set of math materials. There are times when you discover that the investment of resources (time, money, effort) is not worth it to bring the current materials into proper alignment. If this is the case, you may want to consider procuring a new set of materials. There are many high quality, well-aligned options out there, including those that are free and open.

The math materials in use should focus deeply on the major work of the grade. Not all content is given equal weight in the standards. This is so that students can gain a deep understanding of the mathematics and build strong foundations for further learning. According to the Publisher’s Criteria for K-8, students must spend a large majority of their time working on standards that take more time to master and/or are integral to learning other mathematics in the grade level or future grade levels/courses.


  1. Investigate the Major Work of the Grade documents for K-8.  Use this document to help your staff understand which clusters and standards should have more emphasis than others, which would then inform your pacing conversations.
  2. Supplement materials with new content to increase the time spent on standards. Consider adding material that is specifically targeted to increase the amount of lessons/content in the major work of the grade but that keeps the coherence of the materials as your focus.
  3. Use an instructional materials guidance document developed by Student Achievement Partners. Student Achievement Partners has developed guidance for specific sets of materials (enVision and Go Math) in an effort to provide districts with a clear path to implement materials that may not be aligned to standards and shifts. You can use these to revise or remove lessons that do not focus on major work of the grade.

The balance of students’ conceptual understanding, their knowledge of procedures and fluency, and the application of both in solving real-world problems should be evident in any math program. In addition, the math practices represent a set of proficiencies and processes that are directly related to the “doing” of mathematics and indicate the various competencies teachers should seek to develop in their students. Materials should attend to the practice standards, be integrated with the content standards, and provide time devoted to each aspect of rigor independently and together in order to help students meet the expectations of the California Standards. What should you do if you discover that your materials don’t provide enough opportunities for students to practice their fluency or engage in the Mathematical Practices (SMPs)?


  1. Supplement with other resources to ensure the balance of Rigor. Consider adding material that balances the aspects of rigor, carefully ensuring that they are not always taught separately, nor always taught together.
  2. Find appropriate math tasks and problems. It may be enough to add additional tasks and problems to provide students with opportunities to practice and apply concepts and skills or to attend to the SMPs. Keep in mind when adding: it is important to have a full understanding of the strengths in your math program so that balance and focus is not interrupted by the addition of new content.  

1 Catherine C. Lewis, Rebecca R. Perry, Shelley Friedkin and Jillian R. Roth, Improving Teaching Does Improve Teachers, Journal of Teacher Education 2012


Planning how to introduce and implement adopted math instructional materials is as important as deciding which materials to adopt. After materials are chosen and purchased by a local education agency, implementation is where 90 percent of materials can fail. Part of a successful math curriculum implementation includes setting expectations for implementation, providing a clear and cohesive professional learning plan, and incorporating a systematic structure for teacher planning and collaboration. In essence, successful curriculum implementation focuses on supporting the teacher within their own context as they learn and implement the curriculum.

Setting and supporting clear expectations when a math curriculum is adopted provides the foundation for implementation, instructional schedules, and professional learning. When the curriculum was adopted, what message was provided to principals, teachers, and parents regarding curriculum implementation? What messages were sent regarding instructional time dedicated to the math curriculum? The right sized expectations, when communicated well, provide a strong foundation for  introducing a new math curriculum.


  1. Develop a comprehensive math curriculum implementation plan. Create a plan that communicates a timeline for rollout and implementation of materials, expectations for stakeholders, opportunities for feedback, and support that will be provided. Student Achievement Partners provides templates for a communications plan and timeline.
  2. Assemble a design team. Invite school leaders, district leaders, and educators to come together to determine how to best integrate the math curriculum within the instructional day and set expectations for instructional time.
  3. Communicate frequently. Employ a communication system to provide ongoing messages of support, ways to provide feedback, and tips for the implementation of the math curriculum.  

“Integrating professional learning and curriculum into a holistic approach for improving teaching and learning is an important element of meeting the goal of educating all students and giving teachers the support they need to become expert practitioners.” A coordinated professional learning plan developed prior to and during implementation of the math curriculum is essential. The professional learning plan should include opportunities for teachers to learn the curriculum within their own context. It should also include opportunities for principals to understand the curriculum and how best to support teachers with their implementation.


  1. Create or evaluate your professional learning plan that includes the instructional materials. In your professional learning plan consider coherence to the new math curriculum, year-long collaboration opportunities for teachers, and onsite math coaching. Establish how you will supplement the professional development provided by the curriculum publishers.
  2. Create or evaluate school site leadership professional learning opportunities. Principals need to understand the math materials too. Plan for how school leadership will engage with the materials, including any on-site coaching on strategies to support teachers.
  3. Establish a math data learning cycle focused on student outcomes and explicitly linking what is taught with how it’s taught, using observation and student data to inform the work.

Before the new materials are actually used in the classroom, teachers need time to work together to plan and prepare for implementation of the new math curriculum. The math planning and preparation is done collaboratively to build a common understanding and supports each person in reaching a high level of implementation. How collaborative planning time is structured and supported is an important component of learning to effectively deliver the new math curriculum.


  1. Provide planning and teacher collaboration time. Review staff meeting structures for opportunities to provide teachers with ample planning and collaboration focused on math curriculum implementation.
  2. Give time for grade level meetings or PLCs. This provides regular time for teachers to plan and collaborate on the new curriculum implementation with their grade level colleagues. Meetings or PLCs should include reviewing classroom embedded math data and student work to reflect and refine math instructional practices.  
  3. Utilize math instructional coaches. When instructional coaches support math lesson design and planning, they can get at the root of where a teacher most needs support. Work with coaches and teachers to ensure they have math planning time together.


Instructional delivery is the practice of teaching – translating standards-based math curriculum into student learning. “Among elements such as a well-articulated curriculum and a safe and orderly environment, the one factor that surfaced as the single most influential component of an effective school is the individual teachers within that school.”1 Strong math instructional delivery requires three key elements: educator knowledge of math content, standards, and curriculum; sound math instructional design; and an intentional learning environment.  

Educators knowledge of math content, standards, and curriculum depends on their pre-service training and ongoing professional development opportunities. Educators need a thorough understanding of math content and concepts as well as the standards and instructional shifts. Do they know what an aligned lesson looks like and can they identify gaps and excess material?


  1. Train teachers on Math CCSS and instructional shifts. Consider using  a micro-certification program where teachers continue to develop their content knowledge.
  2. Give time for Grade Level Meetings and PLCs. Year-long PLCs help educators continuously deepen their understanding of grade level math concepts (rates, fractions, place value, etc).
  3. Utilize vetted rubrics to develop teachers’ knowledge of math content in materials. Organizations such as Achieve (EQuIP Rubric), Student Achievement Partners (IMET), and EdReports have developed in-depth rubrics to evaluate materials. 

The way in which a math lesson is designed, and how a teacher interprets and then delivers that lesson, can also impact alignment to the math standards and concepts. How well educators understand the curriculum translates to how well they can implement it. This design and implementation in turn impacts students’ mastery of math concepts and standards.


  1. Move beyond the math curriculum training offered by publishers. By using onsite coaching over an extended period, teachers can develop a deep understanding of the instructional materials and how to apply them to their context.
  2. Develop educator capacity to identify standards-aligned assessments. Teachers who understand the use of  formative assessment increase their ability to adjust instruction to ensure all students have access to grade level material.
  3. Create lessons that provide access and opportunities for English learners to engage with grade level mathematics. One third of the nation’s English Language Learners are in California. Spend professional development time with teachers evaluating lessons for the four key design principles for English Learners in Math lesson design.

The learning environment includes both the way in which school leaders establish culture and climate across the school and how educators create a supportive classroom environment for math learning. Having a shared definition of what a quality math learning environment looks like, establishing strategies for vulnerable populations, and creating a positive narrative around math learning grounded in a growth mindset are all critical to a successful math learning environment.  


  1. Take time as a content team to develop your mission statement for what high quality math learning looks like in your school. A high quality math learning environment is language rich, rigorous, and responsive to students’ cultures and assets.
  2. Identify specific math strategies that establish a positive environment. After reviewing your math data on vulnerable populations, create a more supportive learning environment for those groups that is grounded in research.
  3. Develop educators’ understanding of the critical importance of cultivating positivity and growth mindset in their students during math lessons. When educators know how to build students’ growth mindset, they set them on a path to lifelong math learning.

1Marzano, Robert J. The Art and Science of Teaching: A Comprehensive Framework for Effective Instruction, 2007. Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Refining Math Materials Implementation

Instructional materials implementation is the complex process of translating standards into student learning. Implementation doesn’t stop at the selection of high quality instructional materials, but includes the communications and expectations for how they will be used and the support and professional learning that are wrapped around them.

Refining Implementation: A Guide to Implementing Instructional Materials in the Field provides specific, actionable tools to support your implementation. We know that each district has unique needs and our guidance focuses on developing high quality implementation supports based on district goals, needs, and priorities. By using our guide, you will:

  • Develop a collaborative, data driven plan
  • Learn about the main areas of implementation support
  • Align your work with continuous improvement strategies

In alignment with the Statewide System of Support and the California School Dashboard, our guide can be a Tier 1 strategy to ensure the materials you’ve adopted are accessible to teachers and students. Interested in more support? Email us at to request a workshop and check back in the spring for upcoming open workshops in northern and southern California.

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