Revisiting the Introductory Challenge

Nest Steps

The truth is that “putting it all together” in any field of activity can be a life’s work. We are always learning more, especially more about the things we enjoy doing. Of course, what we enjoy most differs from person to person. But teaching, you may find, offers extraordinary satisfactions. This is especially true if you end up helping someone enjoy something entirely new: even something unlikely (perhaps math).

Talk about a “life’s work”!

Sure, it’s probably unreasonable to hope that everyone who works with this module will want to take on teaching math (or reinforcing math lessons) as a life’s work. Putting it all together, though, will go a lot better if you can keep the goal in mind: helping someone enjoy something entirely new.

Where can you start? It’s up to you.


  • You have some idea now of your current math knowledge (based on the Old Guy’s “no-math test”).
  • You have started to think about the notion that math might not mostly be about facts, but instead is mostly about ideas.
  • You have at least a beginner’s knowledge of what such ideas are.
  • You have learned some things about how to teach math ideas.
  • And you have some of the resources that will help you learn what’s needed to support math learning and teaching.

Inevitably, you must go into this work with incomplete confidence and incomplete knowledge. All of us do! And this module may be asking you both to change how you think about math and to change the way you think about helping student learn math. Just remember, though: you don’t have to change all at once. You shouldn’t expect to! Slow and steady change is much better.

So we suggest starting small.  Choose a student or two, with particular challenges with learning math, and outline a plan to address just one of their issues. Work with your teacher, mentor, or instructional team to develop the plan. The plan needs to be specific to the students, and it will need to reflect their IEP goals. Keep in mind that the IEP is very general, but that plans for reinforcing math learning are more specific.

A Planning Template

Here’s one template for such a plan.

Student’s name _______________________________________________

IEP goal ____________________________________________________

General math learning issue_____________________________________



Specific lesson (delivered by the teacher) __________________________



Steps for reinforcing the lesson ___________________________________





(Repeat for other lessons)

Final Thoughts

At the heart of the plan are the “steps for reinforcing the lesson.” You’ll need to discuss this part with your teacher, mentor, or instructional team. Typical plans of this sort involve:

  • objectives
  • methods for linking new learning to prior knowledge
  • materials and procedures (perhaps a script to read, or questions to ask; also any equipment, objects, worksheets, pictures, or videos to be used)
  • a strategy for assessing the students’ learning

Such plans are simple to formulate. But here’s the thing: your use of them will evolve over time as you see how they turn out each time you use them. And their usefulness will increase as a result. Expect some failures and some successes. The point is to pay careful attention and to get better and better.

It’s critical to remember that putting it together takes time, experience, effort, and the courage to change. The point is to help students learn math better and actually to enjoy learning math.