Key Trends in Math Education for Upcoming Adoptions


At Victory, we have a history of collaborating with clients to find key market differentiators. What key trends in math education should guide publishers gearing up for the 2020 math adoptions in Alabama, Tennessee, and Utah? More important, how can the work for these states set the stage for a huge year in 2021, when both California and Florida are adopting math instructional materials?

A good starting point is to revisit recent trends in math education. Some of these trends are gaining importance, while others will be left behind.

Key Trends in Math Education

Here’s our current list of key issues to resolve when customizing either a basal program or supporting ancillaries.

1: Shift Away From CCSS (Common Core State Standards)

Of the six states adopting math instructional materials in the next two years, four are likely to continue with the Common Core, but two states (Alabama and Florida) are shifting to new standards. While California will revisit its framework for math in 2020, it is not expected to be a dramatic shift.

It would make sense for learning companies to develop the Tennessee, Idaho, and Utah programs with an eye to picking up or revising new features for the California submission. Likewise, the Alabama program could be a good “staging area” for revisions needed for the Florida adoption.

2: Adoption States Allowing Purchase of Off-List Products

We recently blogged about off-list purchases, but let’s take a look at what it means for math products. Many supplemental companies primarily sell their products prior to an adoption year and also in the year immediately after adoption. The pre-adoption sales can help districts and states transition to new standards or pilot different ways of handling new pedagogical trends. In math, these trends could include EdTech approaches to developing automaticity, critical thinking, personalized learning, and adaptive content. The post-adoption sales can help states and districts remediate any shortcomings found after they have adopted new basal programs.

3: The Ongoing Saga of Print v. Digital

In many cases, digital development occurs in parallel with print development. But often a publisher has

  • a legacy digital product they need to align to a new print program, or
  • a digital acquisition that needs to be incorporated into an existing print program.

These scenarios can be a nightmare! One tried-and-true method is to first correlate the two products, and add references to the digital product in the print Teacher Edition and Student Edition. Another approach is to create a standalone print ancillary that is downloadable or can be printed inexpensively. It is also more cost effective to update this ancillary.

One old idea that may help solve the issue of updates is to use QR codes in the textbooks. Students simply point a cell phone camera at the QR code to access the correlated interactives. A big advantage of this approach: the QR codes can be redefined to link to new versions of the interactives, but the textbook does not need reprint corrections.

4: Collaboration Opportunities for Basal and Ancillary Publishers

Publishing acquisitions will no doubt continue, as larger publishers try to efficiently meet their needs. For smaller publishers, where acquisition may be a less viable option, mutually beneficial partnerships could be the answer. For example, a company that specializes in digital learning objects (DLOs) or technology-enhanced items (TEIs) can partner with a more traditional print-based curriculum company to bring a more complete solution to market. Now is the time to develop those partnerships!

5: Accessibility and Equity

As digital education materials have matured into widespread use, the need to make this material accessible for all students has grown in importance. Many publishers have built products to meet 508 compliance requirements. For some learning companies, such as TextHelp, this is the primary focus of their product. Partnerships with these companies can distribute the financial burden of developing compliant products. For more on this issue, see our earlier blog on equity, our blog on ESSA, and this excellent study from the Journal of Special Education Leadership.

6: Automaticity and Critical Thinking

While it may seem paradoxical to pair automaticity with critical thinking, research shows that higher-level thinking is hindered when the fundamentals have not become automatic (see our earlier blog on automaticity). The Common Core Mathematical Practices hint at this when clarifying how mathematical practices relate to the math content standards:

“The Standards for Mathematical Content are a balanced combination of procedure and understanding. Expectations that begin with the word “understand” are often especially good opportunities to connect the practices to the content. Students who lack understanding of a topic may rely on procedures too heavily.”

This relationship between higher-level thinking and fundamental content is a two-way street. If students lack automaticity in the procedures, they will not succeed at developing a deeper understanding. New math programs will need to develop a systematic and balanced approach to address both ends of the spectrum. Supplemental publishers, such as Learning Wrap-Ups, have programs that focus on building math automaticity. These programs work well as independent course work in the classroom.

7: Personalized Learning

Students (and teachers) have different learning styles, so a one-size-fits-all curriculum will not be optimized for most students. In EdTech, there are a variety of approaches to deliver variations of a lesson to students. These approaches generally use different media and different student groupings. For example, manipulatives (both virtual and hands-on) can address both kinesthetic and visual learners. Games and simulations can be effective for students who seek motivation via a competitive setting. Read more in our blogs on personalized learning and Tomorrow’s Classroom.

8: Competency-Based Learning

Another way to motivate students is to give them a measure of control over their learning. One much-cited example is the School of One (now called Teach to One). This approach uses diagnostic assessments to identify both mastery and learning deficits, and then students choose from a playlist of lessons crafted to remediate those deficits. They proceed to the next step in the curriculum only after demonstrating mastery. However, there is much debate about the efficacy of the Teach to One program. As with any other pedagogical innovation, publishers must proceed with caution.

Take Our Survey on Key Trends in Math Education

We will follow up with more blog posts on key trends in math education, but first we’d love to hear your thoughts. Please fill out this one-minute survey.

Key Trends in Math Education for Upcoming Adoptions

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