Mathematics Coaching During COVID-19

As a former K-5 Math Coach and co-instructor for Lesley University and Metamorphosis Teaching Learning Communities’ annual Mathematics Content Coaching Institute, I have been thinking much about the uneasiness all my fellow math coaches (and instructional coaches) must be feeling during this social distancing time. You are a teacher leader and your role is vital to the success of mathematics instruction at your school. Yet you don’t have your own classroom, so are likely feeling that your talents can’t be put to good use until core classroom teachers have a chance to adjust to the new normal. I feel you. I started brainstorming ways you can support your school and teachers during this time, where your work feels like support and value added, not extra or a burden to teachers. I hope you find some of the ideas helpful.

Ways You Can Support Your School and Teachers:

  • Community Building
    • Host daily or weekly “office” hours where you commit to being available on Zoom, Google Meet, Google Hangout, whatever the video platform, so teachers, administrators, or parents can sign on for support.
    • Create a school staff Facebook page or Slack channel for you all to connect online. Post math or tech supports that your teachers would find helpful.
  • Synchronous Learning
    • Co-plan, co-teach, and debrief
      • If you follow the three part coaching cycle of co-planning, co-teaching, and debriefing, you could continue your model if you are teaching synchronously.
    • Model a routine
      • Offer your teacher a model session where you model a small routine, such as a number talk, a ‘Which One Doesn’t Belong,’ or any other engaging launch. Doing this will allow you to micro-model online teacher moves, such as how to annotate on a tech tool, or how to ensure equity of voice.
  • Asynchronous Learning
    • Co-plan with teachers
      • Your teachers are still preparing materials for students even though they aren’t “live” teaching. This could be a great place for you to offer support, while modeling important planning moves, such as anticipating student responses. You can support them by doing a video call with them or even simply through a shared Google doc.
    • Create a landing page via the district or school’s website for parents that your teachers could share.
      • Many parents are feeling overwhelmed by the number of resources out there, the idea of having to teach their child, and “undoing” what the teachers have done by showing their ways.  Help your school and/or district by creating a one-stop-shop resource page where resources are housed (my recommendation: for all subjects) so parents and caregivers only have to look in one place.
        • We at the Center for Mathematics Achievement created our own resource document. We highly recommend districts make their own parent landing page that might house this resource, so parents have one place to look.
    • Create one resource for teachers of all grade levels you service where they can look for remote learning activities to use.
      • I have found Fawn Nguyen’s work a great model for this. She is a 5-8 TOSA (Teacher on Special Assignment) for the Rio School District in California.
    • Work with administrators to determine a re-entry plan if schools resume and/or plan for addressing the regression upon the start of the school year.
      • No one is prepared for the clean up that will need to happen either at the end of this year or the beginning of next year in order to keep students on grade-level. Now is a great time to help relieve your administrators of one more thing to think about and for you to start thinking about how you, as a school, will address the missed standards.  
        • How will you re-enter school if your school does resume some time this school year?
        • Will you adjust your scope and sequence next year to extend the length of each unit to include 4-5 days of pre-teaching of previous year’s content standards to ensure students have access to current grade-level work? What will need to be dropped in order to make this work?
        • Will you adjust your scope and sequence next year so the first month is teaching content missed from the previous grade level? Again, what will need to be dropped in order to make this work?
        • Be as prepared as possible and start thinking about this now.

This is not an easy time for anyone. Coaches, know you play a vital role in the success of your school.  Use this time to determine how your talents can best shine. If all of the ideas above sounds overwhelming, then my next suggestion would be to read the book Agents of Change by Lucy West and Antonia Cameron and focus on developing you during this time.

This is not an easy time for anyone. Coaches, know you play a vital role in the success of your school.  Use this time to determine how your talents can best shine. If all of the ideas above sounds overwhelming, then my next suggestion would be to read the book Agents of Change by Lucy West and Antonia Cameron and focus on developing you during this time.

Our Mathematics Content Coaching Institute mentioned earlier uses Agents of Change as the main text and provides educators and their administrators time and a network to navigate the challenging waters of coaching.

The event, originally scheduled for July 6 – 8, 2020 (8:30 am – 4:30 pm ET daily), has been postponed to August 4 – 6, 2020. If the event is canceled due to COVID-19, no processing fees will be charged. We will notify all by June 5, 2020 of our intentions to host or not host the event, all dependent on the COVID-19 situation. If the event goes on as planned, registrations will be fully refundable until July 24, 2020 (with a $50 processing fee).

Any coaches out there — let us know how you’re faring via Twitter and if any of these suggestions have been helpful for you.


West, L. & Cameron, A. (2013). Agents of Change: How Content Coaching Transforms Teaching and Learning. Heinemann, Portsmouth: NH.


Routines and Their Importance

It wasn’t ever apparent to me how routinized my life is until this week.

I have a morning routine that I never blatantly established, but naturally just grew to own.  I wake up around the same time each day, usually to the licks and head butts from my adorable cat.  Before I get him situated, I always take care of myself first, in a selfish effort to help me “wake up” – brushing my teeth, showering, getting dressed, putting make-up on – and then I look at the clock and realize I’ve spent far too much time dilly dallying and now I’m running late.  My husband saves the day by feeding our cat and making my breakfast so I can run out the door and head to the school where I am working that day.

This has become my routine. During this COVID-19 isolation, it became clear to me how vital routines are to function.  The past two days have been so different. The alarm went off, but there was nowhere I really needed to be.  Knowing that I can’t go anywhere, I lounged around in bed, checking the swarm of social media notifications and news. Without a routine, staring at my phone has consumed the first hour of my past two days and hasn’t helped my mental state.  I didn’t need to get up and get dressed because I had nowhere to go; didn’t need to spend 20 minutes over-powdering my face with make-up. Suddenly, my sense of normalcy and regularity was gone. Time was a meaningless construct.  

Routines help us function. They give us structure in our lives so that we can focus our energy on other important things.  I never realized that the way my days are structured puts my mind at ease.  Today, I tried something different.  I woke up and pretended I had to be in a classroom on time.  I did my normal routine and immediately a sense of normalcy and calmness struck me.  As I reflected on my mental and physical response to my simple daily routines, I realized how vital instructional routines are for our children.

I certainly am not the first to think of this, but my experience during this pandemic has only further justified why routines are critical.  Specifically in teaching mathematics, using predictable and repeatable routines provides students structure. What routines do you implement in your classroom? How does class start? How do students interact with each other? How do you analyze a task as a class? How do you engage students to think and reason mathematically?

Many of us are away from our classrooms, and those “typical” routines now.  If you’re transitioning to online learning, we suggest you keep in place as many of the routines you had as possible.  Anything that still applies to an online space will support your students in a continued sense of normalcy. If your school is on an extended break – and you have the mental capacity to reflect – consider what routines you’ve used this year that you love, and which ones you might want to change when you get back to teaching.

If you really have time on your hands, a great next step would be to read Routines for Reasoning. This summer we’re hosting (dependent on current COVID-19 situation) the first ever Routines for Reasoning Institute: Redesigning Classroom Interactions to Foster Math Thinking with Amy Lucenta and Grace Kelemanik, authors of the book Routines for Reasoning.

Amy and Grace have developed specific instructional routines for mathematics that have transformed how students show their thinking.  Their “instructional routines are specific and repeatable designs for learning that support both the teacher and students in the classroom… enabling all students to engage more fully in learning opportunities while building crucial mathematical thinking habits (Kelemanik, Lucenta, & Creighton, 2016).”  

Reading the book during your social distancing time is one thing, but as we all know, developing quality teaching requires much more than reading about theory.  This Institute will provide educators the much needed time, space, and guidance to bring these routines into the classroom routinely, with follow-up opportunities to ensure implementation is successful.

The event, originally scheduled for June 30 – July 2, 2020 (8:30 am – 3:30 pm ET daily), has been postponed to August 10 – 12, 2020. Registrations are fully refundable until June 19, 2020 (with a $50 processing fee). If the event is canceled due to COVID-19, no processing fees will be charged. We will let everyone know our intentions to host, or not host, by June 12, 2020, dependent on the COVID-19 situation.

Let us know (in the comments or on Twitter) what new routines you’re building as we are engaging in distance learning. We’re interested in routines you’ve established for yourself or for your students in this ever changing world. We look forward to growing as a community and supporting each other.


Kelemanik, Grace, Amy Lucenta, and Susan Janssen Creighton. Routines for reasoning: Fostering the mathematical practices in all students. Heinemann, 2016.