NCTM Denver 2013: Remillard et al's Using Curriculum Materials to Design and Enact Instruction

Research Presession - Wednesday, April 17, 1:00 pm

Janine T. Remillard - University of Pennsylvania
Ok-Kyeong Kim - Western Michigan University
Luke Reinke - University of Pennsylvania
Napthalin A. Atanga - Western Michigan University
Joshua Taton - University of Pennsylvania
Dustin O. Smith - Western Michigan University
Hendrik Van Steenbrugge - Gent University
Shari Lewis - Aquinas College

This group, composed mostly of scholars from the University of Pennsylvania and Western Michigan University, reported on the findings of their ICUBiT project. The project, "Improving Curriculum Use for Better Teaching," has the goal of better understanding how teachers interact with their curriculum materials to design instruction. Using Brown's (2009) concept of pedagogical design capacity, the study looked at teachers using five different elementary curricula and assessed teachers' knowledge of the mathematics embedded in curriculum materials. The five curriculum were Everyday Math, Investigations, Math in Focus, Math Trailblazers, and Scott-Foreman.

Using interview data, curriculum logs, video recordings, field notes, pre-observation check-ins, and two teacher content knowledge assessments, the group looked for teacher actions and understandings related to transitions from the written to intended and intended to enacted curriculum (Stein, Remillard, & Smith, 2007). This was also related to fidelity of curriculum implementation and in-the-moment decision making.

Ok-Kyeong Kim discussing fidelity

Effort was put into understanding how each curriculum presented curriculum materials and how that affected what teachers read. Many used visual markers, putting answers in a different text color, and tips in special boxes. This led into a discussion of teachers' ability to identify the mathematical point of a lesson and then steer children in that direction. Using the framework of Sleep (2012), the group coded how mathematical points were defined, linked to, explained, decomposed, etc. You can get a small sense for the coding in this picture:

Part of a coding scheme for mathematical points

The group listed some of the factors that influence fidelity of implementation, like the student, policy, mathematical goals, content, situation, teacher experience, resources, and whether teaching was seen to be driven by curriculum or teacher knowledge. For this work they focused on influences related to the student, the mathematical goals, the curriculum, and teacher knowledge. A question in the Q&A asked about the influence of standards, and Remillard admitted that was an area that needed to be investigated.

Near the end of the presentation the team displayed some interesting "lesson maps" that help show the work of teachers and where they do curriculum design work. The graphs show the use of tasks across time in a lesson, the origin of the task, and ties to the mathematical point of the lesson.

A lesson map highlighting design decisions

In closing, Remillard cited a need for digital and "fluid" support for curriculum use. Static help in teachers' guides are limited in their ability to guide instruction, and "It seems sometimes that putting text in its own box is an invitation to not read it."


Brown, M. W. (2009). The teacher-tool relationship. In J. T. Remillard, B. A. Herbel-Eisenmann, & G. M. Lloyd (Eds.), Mathematics teachers at work (pp. 17–36). New York, NY: Routledge.

Sleep, L. (2012). The work of steering instruction toward the mathematical point: A decomposition of teaching practice. American Educational Research Journal, 49(5), 935–970. doi:10.3102/0002831212448095

Stein, M. K., Remillard, J. T., & Smith, M. S. (2007). How curriculum influences student learning. In F. K. Lester (Ed.), Second handbook of research on mathematics teaching and learning (pp. 319–369). Charlotte, NC: Information Age.