Using Standards to Create Math Curriculum

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  • 0:03 The Road Map
  • 0:44 The Big Four
  • 1:36 Standards
  • 3:02 Number Sense Category…
  • 5:26 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Matthew Bergstresser

Matthew has a Master of Arts degree in Physics Education

Before a teacher sets foot in the classroom, standards and curriculum must be set. In this lesson, we will discuss how to analyze the standards set for a grade level and plan a curriculum around them.

The Road Map

If you have ever taken a road trip, you know there's significant planning involved. The following questions might be asked in planning the trip. What is the purpose of the trip? Where is the destination? How will you get there? What will be the signs the trip was successful? Taking students through a math course is similar to a road trip. In fact, we can ask similar questions in the design of the curriculum, as the curriculum can act as our road map on the educational journey.

Today, we're going to look at the components of a curriculum, and then we'll plan a math curriculum - specifically, by using the mathematics standards for 5th grade in Indiana.

The Big Four

Curriculum is broken down into units or modules, and each unit or module is broken down into lessons. For each lesson, there are four components that have to be addressed:

  • Goals - what you are trying to achieve with the curriculum that's measurable. A goal should be numerical in value and clear.

  • Methods - how you plan on teaching the lessons.

  • Materials - what materials are required for each of the lessons needs to be decided and gathered ahead of time.

  • Assessments - how are you going to gauge whether learning has occurred. Assessments can be formative, which means they are informal and may or may not count as a grade for the student, like questions asked in class or observations. Summative assessments are the higher-stakes assessments such as unit or module tests.


Standards are what content has to be taught. They are not the curriculum but what needs to be addressed in the curriculum. In Indiana, there are eight Process Standards, which include topics like making sense of problems, reasoning abstractly, constructing viable arguments, and using appropriate tools. Indiana also has six categories of Mathematics Standards, and these are:

  • Number sense
  • Computation
  • Algebraic thinking
  • Geometry
  • Measurement
  • Data analysis and statistics

Within these six categories, there are 33 specific math standards. So while the Process Standards are focused on more big picture concepts, if you successfully teach all of the Mathematics Standards, you will address the Process Standards automatically.

The first thing to consider when planning curriculum around the standards set by the state is to realize you have a finite amount of time to get through everything. You need to cover 33 standards within one year, and that is roughly nine months long. You can plan the time to cover everything by combining similar standards based on the difficulty of the material. Some standards may take a few days to cover completely, while others may take a month. The decision on how long to spend on each standard or sets of standards is made based on your experiences or other teachers' experiences. Of course you can adjust timelines during the year as warranted. Let's take a closer look.

Number Sense Category of Standards

Standard 1 of the Number Sense category involves using a number line to compare and make ordered lists of fractions, mixed numbers, and decimal values. Standard 2 involves the interpretation of fractions. These two standards are closely related, so it makes sense to combine them into one lesson, and it can probably be completed in only three days' time. Let's go through the four components we discussed earlier to prepare a three-day lesson involving these standards:


Goals should be numerical and clear because they are used by the teacher to assess their instruction quality. An example of a goal for this combination of standards is:

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