Blended Mathematics Professional Development

Instructional Strategies: 
Using Precise Math Language
Visual Representations

I have been using the PowerUp WHAT WORKS website ( to find free and easy-to-use math resources for my blended math PD.

Let me set the context. I am a lead trainer for the Michigan Integrated Mathematics Initiative (MI2). Part of my work involves establishing a state-wide network of trained facilitators. They, in turn, deliver a course for middle school math and special education teachers, Enhancing Mathematics Instruction for Students with Learning Difficulties, developed at Education Development Center, Inc. in Massachusetts, with funding from the National Science Foundation. The goal of the course is to help teachers provide accessible instruction in mathematics and to enhance collaboration between math and special educators. The course, facilitated by one math and one special education expert, is attended by teams of math and special education teachers who share the same students.

At this point, we have over 70 facilitators and they have been implementing the course in their districts. Now, in addition to the course, the facilitators will be providing sustained, follow-up support to the participating teachers within Professional Learning Communities (PLCs). Here, the teachers will collaborate on planning accessible instructional units. A colleague and I will be leading the training session to prepare the facilitators for leading the PLCs.

As we were preparing for our training, we found exactly the type of evidence-based information we needed that within the Math Instructional Strategy Guides (ISG) on PowerUp. We especially focused on two ISGs, Using Precise Language in Mathematics and Visual Representation. We highlighted a key strategy in the Visual Representations ISG by incorporating resources for virtual manipulatives.

Here is what we selected:

Then we designed a blended math PD model for the facilitators to use in their districts. In this model, Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) are the collaborative context where teachers would plan units using resources from PowerUp What Works. At a later PLC, the teachers would discuss the effectiveness of the strategies they had used and revise their instructional approaches, if needed. This cycle will continue for each unit throughout the school year. In addition, between sessions, teachers would be using resources from PowerUp in their classroom instruction.

Here is a description of what a PLC planning and reflection cycle might look like in a school or district:

  • Pre-Launch online reading assignment:
    • Review PD Support Materials Using Precise Language, with particular attention to page 4:Differentiate the Strategy: Using Precise Math Language
  • First Session: Launch and Orientation to Power Up and to the PLC planning cycle:
    • Introduction to Power Up What Works - 20 minutes
    • Exploration of webiste – 1 hour 30 minutes
    • Collaborative planning for Overview of Unit – 1 hour Identification of critical vocabulary and visual representations
      • Plan to incorporate appropriate virtual manipulative into the lesson.
      • Identify the vocabulary that will be highlighted in the lesson.
      • Identify tools and plan for their implementation
    • Homework Assignment:
      • Implement plans in classroom instruction before the next PLC meeting.

Second Session: Reflection

 (F2F or On-line (using Google Hang-Outs)

  • Reflection on unit and the use of technology with PLC group.
  • Revision of instructional plan for remainder of unit to support students.

Third Session: Planning for a New Unit

  • Cycle begins again with planning for next unit (see Session 1 for ideas)
  • New unit vocabulary and technology tools identified

What's New on PowerUp?

PowerUp WHAT WORKS resources for students with disabilities are now available in OpenEd Resource Library. Customizable lesson plans, materials, videos, and more available in the world's largest online collection of standards-aligned resources.