How can my instructional approaches create opportunities to uncover the curriculum and build conceptual understanding?

"As teachers from multiple grades levels plan and consistently implement common routines, students will experience a more coherent and better-articulated mathematical experience. In addition, the use of common models such as number lines and Venn diagrams within the routines will improve students' ability to accurately and strategically use these models. (Barnett, Combs, McCoy, High-Yield Routines Grades K-8, 2013, p 3)


  • connect curricular competencies with content to understand the big ideas
  • build conceptual understanding by exploring, problem-solving, reflecting, connecting, communicating, applying, collaborating
  • purposeful teaching with the big ideas in mind
  • play with mathematical ideas
  • gain an understanding of the big ideas through inquiry
  • see ourselves (teachers & students) as mathematicians


Connect curricular competencies with content to understand the big idea

Support Documents on Mathematical Reasoning


Build conceptual understanding by exploring, problem-solving, reflecting, connecting, communicating, applying, collaborating

Student-Centered Mathematics

John Van de Walle's work is foundational for all Mathematics teachers. The student-centered, problem-based approach will help students develop real understanding and confidence in mathematics.

There are others in this series including K -2, and Grades 6 -8.

Lesson Model:

Van de Walle Before, During, After lesson model. Check out this video on three part lessons inspired by John Van de Walle's work.

Blackline Masters

Purposeful teaching with the big ideas in mind

Problems and Rich Tasks:

Dan Finkel, author of Math For Love shares many great ideas. Scroll down on his website and click a particular grade level. Check out the spring issue of Vector for Dan's article on rich tasks, Nine Points on Rich Tasks.

Marian Small's Open Questions Series

Marian Small's Website

Good Questions: Great Ways to Differentiate Mathematics is available for both Elementary and Secondary and in both English and French

Peter Sullivan and Pat Lilburn: Good Questions for Math Teaching

Les MATHS par l'image by Marian Small

Rich Tasks DF Vector Spring 2018.pdf

Reggio Inspired Practice:

Effective Questions:

Revised Curriculum: Questions to prompt

Ontario Capacity Series:

Asking Effective Questions

Galileo Education Network:

Assessment through Curricular Competencies_Math.pdf

Thinking Classrooms

Peter Liljedahl's website has numerous resources and ideas.


Problem Solving Tasks

A variety of web resources for problems and rich tasks.

Rich Tasks and Problems.docx

Gain an understanding of the big ideas through inquiry

Inquiry Based Instruction:

Marian Small has several resources supporting Inquiry in Mathematics published in both French and English (WNCP for BC Curriculum). These books can be ordered through Rubicon Publishing.

Marian Small's website

Galileo Educational Network:

Andrew Blair is the curator of Inquiry Maths. His UK site includes ideas for both Secondary and Elementary teachers.

Natural Curiosity: Building Children's Understanding of the World Through Environment Inquiry

Innovating the Secondary Math Classroom - OAME 2018 Panel

How are Ontario educators rethinking their secondary math classrooms?

Innovating the Secondary Math Classroom, OAME 2018 Panel

Dispositions of Mathematicians

Tracey Zager's website

Stenhouse has also provided a study guide and a companion website for this resource.

Using Children's Literature

Authored by Marilyn Burns and her colleagues, these resources provide lessons that engage children in mathematical problem solving and reasoning connected to children's literature, both fiction and non-fiction. Marilyn Burns has also written a blogpost on this topic.

Comox Valley School District #71 has many lesson ideas connected to children's literature. Once on their home page, click the tab "Lessons and Ideas" and your grade preference.

Read a Story, Explore the Math is a resource written by Sandra Ball and Carole Fullerton that links math instruction to children's literature for Primary teachers.

Kelly Darke curates Math Book Magic, a fantastic website that highlights children's literature books which are connected to mathematics.

Young Mathematicians website