Big Ideas Learning Leadership Conference & Recap

Two weeks ago, Big Ideas Learning met with administrators in Michigan for the Big Ideas Math Symposium. Teachers and Administrators had the opportunity to meet and talk with authors Dr. Ron Larson and Dr. Laurie Boswell as well as meet and talk with Denise McDowell, Barb Webber and users of the Big Ideas Math program.

Recently, Cherie Maher, a math teacher from the Troy School District shared with us her wonderful story and picture:

“I enjoyed and appreciated everything I learned today at the Big Ideas Conference.  Thanks for your hard work to help us implement this new book.

“I wanted to share a funny story… Tonight, I showed my new Big Ideas T-shirt to my boys that are in 3rd grade and 10th grade.  Immediately, they both shouted out their answers to how many 1/2′s are in 1/4.  The 10th grader shouted out ‘2’ and the 3rd grader shouted out ‘that’s easy, 1/2!’  My 10th grader gave a condescending smile, and my 3rd grader gave a sheepish grin.  It was great to see their reactions when they found out that the younger brother was right!”

 “I have another son in 8th grade who was not around at the time, but later I asked him.  His response was ‘2, no 8!!!’ “


(Cherie Maher with her sons)

Thanks for the great story and even better picture, Cherie! Do you have a story about the Big Ideas Math program? Let us know in the comments below!

Print Textbook vs. E-Textbook in the Classroom – Which Works for You?

Print Textbooks vs. E-Textbooks

With the recent rise in technology and increased focus on the 21st century classroom, most kids today have access to smart phones, tablets and the knowledge of how to operate them. It comes with no surprise that many schools have decided to switch from print textbooks to electronic textbooks (e-textbooks) for their classroom.

I’d like to turn this blog into somewhat of a discussion; exploring both textbooks and e-textbooks and letting you, the reader, decide which you prefer to use.


In a nutshell, e-textbooks are digital copies of books that contain the same information and arrangement as hardcopy versions. E-textbooks often include an audio component or full audio versions, closed captioned videos for the hearing impaired, and the format of many electronic files are compatible with adaptive or support technology. Some are made for online use only while others can be downloaded and placed on tablets (Kindle, iPad, etc.) or computers.  E-textbooks can also be interactive with opportunities for increased student engagement embedded with the text itself. This allows students and educators to utilize point-of-use videos, lesson tutorials, interactive exercises and other resources.

Print Textbooks:

According to TeacherVision, “Textbooks provide organized units of work; it (textbook) gives you all the plans and lessons you need to cover in a topic.”  In addition, it goes onto describe that people who read textbooks tend to comprehend and learn more. Textbooks don’t require power, so concerns regarding battery life on tablets or computers are eliminated.  Since they don’t require any special equipment (batteries, chargers etc.) they are completely portable allowing for students to take them home and complete assignments without worrying about owning or damaging expensive electronic equipment. In addition, textbooks also provide a normal progression of information and lesson difficulty. Finally, all the concepts in a textbook build on each other allowing for prior knowledge to help aid in the learning process.

Each delivery method provides students and teachers with access to the course materials, but there are advantages to each method that are not seen in the other. Ultimately, the decision to use e-textbook vs. print textbook boils down to personal preference and teaching style. Knowing the advantages of each delivery method is essential to making an informed decision for your classroom. Do you prefer to have your students get their hands on physical textbooks every day or have students watch videos that are embedded in their e-textbooks.

The choice is yours, what do you prefer? Let us know!


Integrating Technology into a Math Teacher’s Classroom

The Common Core State Standards communicate many areas in which technology can be or should be used to enhance the learning environment for students. As states’ implementations of the Common Core progress, more schools are utilizing technology in their classrooms and integrating it more heavily into their curricula. Though technology plays a considerable role in most teachers’ daily lives, bringing it into classroom can be a challenge. What are ways that math teachers can implement and expand the use of technology in their classrooms?

Interactive Learning Tools
The Internet is full of interactive learning tools and activities that have been developed for specific math subjects. Big Ideas Math features a number of them in our Teacher Resources section that correlate directly to concepts in the Big Ideas Math series.

Graphical and Visual Representations
Tech-savvy teachers and novices alike can utilize programs like Microsoft Excel, PowerPoint, and Word to generate graphs and visual representations of concepts. There are free templates and instructional resources for creating these online. A quick Google search for Free Excel Templates for Teachers will provide many great options, or change the search query for subject-specific content. Presenting a graphical example of a ‘time value of money’ problem could make all the difference for a visual learner who has been struggling with the concept.

Connecting Classrooms
Teachers have the opportunity to connect their students with their peers all over the world thanks to technology. Two teachers who live across the country can arrange to have their classrooms connect via a video chat service like Skype to share a lesson. Teachers can develop word problems using relevant data such as the distance between the classrooms, population of each state/town/capital, and cost of living data. These adapted lessons will not only increase students’ engagement but also broaden their horizons as they interact with each other.

Additional Resources
In addition to the Teacher Resources provided by Big Ideas Math, the following websites also provide additional resources and suggestions for the 21st Century math classroom:
BrainPOP Math
Educational Technology and Mobile Learning
Innovate My School
Cobllaborize Classroom: Free Resources

Please share with us how you have successfully implemented technology into your math class!

Why the Common Core State Standards?

It only makes sense.  For years in the United States, each state created their own standards for mathematics. Some had as many as 100 standards to be taught every year with no consistency across the county.  Shouldn’t math be the same in Maryland, Michigan, Wisconsin, Colorado, Arizona, and in fact throughout the country?

During the last 50 years it is no secret that the United States has been falling further and further behind in international testing. Finally, the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices and the Council of Chief State School Officers along with others created a commission to examine the state of math and language arts education in this country with the intent of improving the education of today’s young people.

Their Mission Statement (

The Common Core State Standards provide a consistent, clear understanding of what students are expected to learn, so teachers and parents know what they need to do to help them. The standards are designed to be robust and relevant to the real world, reflecting the knowledge and skills that our young people need for success in college and careers. With American students fully prepared for the future, our communities will be best positioned to compete successfully in the global economy.

The result is a set of standards that not only addresses what students learn, but how they learn.  Instead of trying to learn everything, every year, the Common Core State Standards  provide unique content standards for each grade level.  Every year fewer standards will be covered, providing more time for understanding the math instead of just memorizing it.  Each subsequent year students will use those concepts that have been previously taught to learn new concepts.  Students are responsible for what they have been taught year to year.

Along with the content standards, the Common Core Standards for Mathematical Practice indicate that we want students to make sense of the mathematics they study.  Students should be able to reason and support the processes they develop.  They need to know which tools to use and when they are appropriate.  Mathematics is all about patterns and students need to be able to recognize the patterns to further their understanding.

As we are educating today’s students for jobs that do not yet exist, we need to address their ability to understand what they have learned so they can apply it to the challenges of tomorrow.  The Common Core State Standards and the Mathematical Practices provide that opportunity to our young people so that they can compete in the global society of tomorrow.

A Peek Inside Jenkins Middle School

Jenkins Middle School mural on Big Ideas Math blog

We have had three wonderful days in D11, Colorado Springs.  This is a picture of an awesome mural in Jenkins Middle School, where we are working.  Great teachers!  We are looking forward to being partners with D11 as they implement the new Common Core State Standards using the Big Ideas Math books!