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Virtual Math Instruction

  • by Kelly Harmon & Randi Anderson
  • April 6, 2020, 11:56 a.m.

Written by Ashley Taplin


This past month has brought about dramatic changes in our schools and our home life. But, as we continue to distance ourselves physically, it has been incredible to see educators grow even closer in united fronts to deliver enriching education to students. Below are some ideas for deepening strategies in math that can be accessed both digitally and by print copy.


Open Middle

Open Middle is one of my favorite resources for increasing engagement and deepening learning as the questions “generally require a higher Depth of Knowledge than most problems that assess procedural and conceptual understanding.” Each problem includes the following:

  • a “closed beginning” meaning that they all start with the same initial problem.
  • a “closed end” meaning that they all end with the same answer.
  • an “open middle” meaning that there are multiple ways to approach and ultimately solve the problem.


(Source: https://www.openmiddle.com/)


The site features free grade level problems K-12 on various topics and are easy to screenshot and share with students on paper or on a digital platform such as Google Classroom. I also love to further the learning by asking students what strategies they used to solve the problem and invite students to discuss similarities/differences as a class. Below are a couple problems from Geometry and Algebra I, and if you would like to see a digital task card version I created click here.





Desmos Classroom Activities

Another favorite resource of mine are Desmos Classroom Activities found at teacher.desmos.com. The team at Desmos has been incredibly helpful in this time of uncertainty and has provided new resources and PD to help teachers navigate this digital world. Each Desmos activity enables students to take ownership in their learning by exploring topics with interactive graphs and visuals. The activities include ways for students to explain their reasoning and justify their answers with open ended questions and prompts. An enriching task that they have for several different concepts is “Two Truths and a Lie.” Based on the popular game, students pick the one mathematical statement that is false among the other two. This error analysis increases the complexity of thinking and allows students to make new connections. The Desmos activity then asks students to use their knowledge and create their own three statements for other students to try out on the screen. I love this way of providing social interaction between students, especially in our isolated world right now. In addition, I have been using Desmos’ “Screens for Checking In” to continue to help build relationships and deepen the social emotional needs of students and teachers. See some examples below and find more by clicking here.



Jo Boaler's Resources

Finally, I recently had the opportunity to hear Dr. Jo Boaler speak about enriching our math curriculum with more open ended, real world applications. She presented a new resource from her work with Youcubed called Data Science found here:


https://www.youcubed.org/resource/data-literacy/. These tasks and ideas offer students the opportunity to think critically about the world around them and relate it to math. In her work, she finds that when “math [is] open, creative and visual…such activities not only offer deep engagement, new understandings, and visual brain activity, but they show students that mathematics can be an open and beautiful subject, rather than a fixed, closed and impenetrable subject” (https://www.youcubed.org/resource/data-literacy/). I love this reminder of what math is and how we can make it come alive for our students!






Kelly Harmon and Randi Anderson

About The Authors

Kelly Harmon & Associates began in 2001 with a mission of instructional coaching and providing rich literacy resources for educators and parents. Our work incorporates research-based best practices for teaching and learning.

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