Check-In Questions and  Differentiated PracticeWith MTB4, teachers are encouraged to be intentional, to listen to their students, and to make choices. MTB4 includes more resources than a teacher can use in a school year. This allows teachers to make instructional decisions that will meet the needs of all students and provide practice that helps advance all learners. MTB4 has added practice so that teachers do not have to invent their own, but that does not mean that every problem needs to be completed, discussed, reviewed, or graded. Instead, there is additional practice if students need it, targeted practice, and differentiation options. While we see merit in the standardization of math goals, not all students and classrooms are the same, and curriculum is not a script. Rather, teachers are empowered to use these tools to make decisions and create opportunities for all their students.


Studies have shown that assessment is most valid closest to instruction. MTB4’s new assessment structure tells teachers what kinds of characteristics they should be looking for in students’ work. It is designed to give teachers better information about where they are going, what students know, and how to make instructional decisions to meet students’ needs. MTB4 provides numerous assessment opportunities, both formal and informal, throughout the lessons so that the feedback provided can effectively guide instruction and improve learning. Teachers are strongly encouraged to use the information the assessment provides to make intelligent pacing decisions and to choose how to spend instructional and practice time. MTB4 does not include pre-assessments because this dedicates too much time to assessment. Instead, MTB4’s formative assessment system helps teachers clearly identify students’ abilities and target students’ needs.


The following are some tips to help teachers make pacing decisions:


  • Listen and respond to students. Lessons are opportunities to deepen understanding and engage in problem solving. Do not be afraid to move on if students have not mastered a concept by the end of a lesson; MTB4 is structured so that students’ concepts will continue to develop through other lessons and experiences. Similarly, if students have mastered a concept and are ready to keep moving, do not hesitate to do so.


  • Remember that the goal is for each student to reveal what he or she understands and does not understand — not to finish all the problems.


  • Generally, follow the lesson as written. MTB4 lessons are designed to reveal what students know, find ways to help students encounter the thinking of others, and deepen their connections and conceptual understanding.


  • Choose practice that makes sense. Students do not have to do all the practice—just what will move their thinking forward. If a student is confident and meeting expectations, assign a few more challenging problems.


  • Teachers do not need to use all the questions provided for launch. Most MTB4 lessons provide multiple questions or examples to begin the lesson. This is so teachers do not need to think of additional examples on their feet if the class needs more experiences or support. However, if the class is ready to engage with the rest of the lesson after one or two questions, the remaining launch prompts can be skipped.


  • Do not wait for everyone to finish every practice problem. Give students a set amount of time and use the practice to help them engage independently with the content. This is a great chance for you to learn something from them.


  • Use extra practice problems to meet the varied needs of students. Practice can be sent home, or assigned for work with another student, for example.


  • If a lesson contains review material, consider eliminating it. Only do the lessons that will help your students move forward. Remember, there is material for students who transfer in, for those who have not previously worked with Math Trailblazers, and for those who need additional experiences to engage in a topic.


  • Rethink grading. Use homework as a chance to learn something about your students. Consider checking it in rather than grading it. Ask students to compare their responses to a few problems or share the answers with them so they can check their own work.


  • Use homework review time efficiently. Look for one or two homework questions to discuss. Do not discuss them all. Rather, select questions that talk across problems (i.e., ask students what was common or different amongst problems to elicit discussion of concepts) and create opportunities to highlight student misconceptions and thinking. See Going Over Homework for more specific tips and ideas.


  • Try starting with a Workshop self-assessment. Have students complete a Workshop Self-Check question at the start of the unit instead of waiting until the Workshop lesson. Use this information to make instructional decisions.


  • Revisit a problem rather than assigning more problems. These revisits are more powerful than more and more practice.


  • Use the Daily Practice and Problems (DPPs) and the Home Practice. This is a chance to deepen students’ understandings of concepts and maintain skills. Again, ask students to compare their responses and discuss only what it needed.