No matter the content area, one of the greatest challenges in implementing curriculum with fidelity is securing the qualified personnel to teach it. This is even more evident when it comes to summer school programs. Since teaching summer school is optional, perhaps some middle school math summer school programs are limited in scope in order to attract more, but not necessarily math, teachers to fill the position.

As a middle school math interventionist, I offered to teach our district’s Grades 6-8 Math Summer Success program. I also wanted the students to experience a more robust, tailored curriculum so I created one. I just wrapped up teaching week three of the four week program and I continue to ask myself, “Did the curriculum I designed best meet the needs of students? Is this curriculum viable and sustainable?”

The question: did what I designed best meet the needs of students—is directly related to the purpose and goals of summer school math. I deviated from the Origo Grade 5 workbook supplied by the district and instead created a curriculum based on the input from our grades 6-8 teachers. They are the ones who recommend students to the summer success program, they know the students’ strengths and growth opportunities. And for those students whose parents enrolled them into the program as a refresher, I contacted their teachers to confirm this class was still a good fit even though they were not formally recommended for the program.

The curriculum combines differentiated grade level review based on the key concepts recommended by the grade level teachers, along with mixed, multi-grade group tasks and daily number talks. This is a combined EL Math and Summer Success class of rising seventh to ninth graders; daily attendance ranges between 22-25 students.

Am I meeting the needs of the students?

Week 1

Week 1.JPG

  • Daily number talks are extremely valuable in improving students’ number sense.
  • Every student benefited from reviewing GCF/LCM using the MARS individual and group tasks.
  • I overplanned and did not get to grade level practice two out of the four days that week.
  • Grade level practice using dice to review fractions and decimals were difficult to quickly monitor when checking student work.
  • Routine grade level practice problems were easy to monitor. Having worked solutions for the EL co-teacher and high school helpers were beneficial.

Week 2

Week 2

  • Number talks using percent number strings are fabulous.
  • MARS Fractions, Decimals, and Percents group task generated a lot of small group discussion. I inadvertently handed out the area model set before the fraction set which generated even more discussion!


  • Students weren’t invested in The US Congress: Is It Representative? task as I would have liked. The students didn’t connect with the task. Both the EL teacher and I are social studies buffs, and perhaps more time should have been spent activating prior knowledge and discussing current events.
  • Grade level review was worthwhile this week.

Week 3

Week 3

  • Students are really getting the hang of the percent number strings. They are moving much more quickly through the strings.
  • Tanton’s Counting Jelly Beans task was challenging. Students were not able to execute the strategy when shown the video. It required a whole class discussion of the solution.
  • The MARS A Sense of Scale task was fruitful. A few students were able to complete the initial task independently using a variety of methods. Students were then grouped and shared strategies on giant whiteboards and later successfully completed the follow up task individually.


  • Again, the grade level review is proving worthwhile.

Anticipating Week 4

Week 4

  • I’m anticipating the two Tanton tasks, Pinwheel and Mixed Colors, will continue to challenge students.
  • Finishing out the program with two math art activities will be a nice wrap up.
  • Continued grade level review will continue to benefit students.

Is this curriculum viable and sustainable?

It depends. This curriculum requires a certain skill set. The EL teacher with whom I share responsibilities for this class readily admits she is learning alongside the students. So the ultimate question is what is the purpose and goal of middle school summer school math? Perhaps my expectations are unrealistic given the way summer school currently operates.

I spoke to one of our building’s music teachers and he mentioned that our district middle school music teachers in both buildings voluntarily rotate summer school responsibilities in order to maintain a quality summer music program.

Perhaps that’s a commitment our team of middle school math teachers would consider to make this curriculum viable and sustainable.


4 thoughts on “Reflections on a newly created 6-8 math summer school curriculum

  1. Hi Mary, thanks for sharing! I bookmarked a number of resources that you decided to use. I’m glad that you decided to move away from Origo and utilize Number Talks and other useful activities. Number Talks are rarely used in the elementary classrooms that I see, but hearing about the success in a 20+ student class is inspiring.

    It seems to me that recruiting for summer school has been an issue over the years. The curriculum for the classes change depending on the instructor. Having a viable curriculum takes a commitment from the district. Finding quality activities and tasks can be an issue, but you’ve created a plan that seems to be producing results (I know you still have another week). Maybe next year teachers might be more willing to use Illustrative Math and other resources during summer school.

    1. I agree; the summer school curriculum gets altered depending on the instructor and it takes a commitment from the district.

      Our district data guy mentioned to me that a summer school math curriculum is on his to do list. I would love to be a part of that. It doesn’t have to be the same framework and learning experiences, but it must to be a GUARANTEED, and viable curriculum. Teachers who recommend summer school and parents who enroll their children have certain expectations.

      Using Illustrative Math will be a great resource if we decide not to continue with implementation after our pilot. To be honest, that would have been the way to go this time, but frankly I got “lazy” by selecting several tasks and activities I was already familiar with and had come to know in my role as math interventionist.

      I’m pretty sure our district is not the only one grappling with this issue. I’d love to learn how other districts implement their summer school math programs. As an FYI, in my research I stumbled upon this site where the curriculum is designed around a paid subscription to Learn Zillion.

  2. Yes, thanks for sharing this!!
    I was just thinking on my ride in about how crucial the concept of “scale” is.
    I think the whole part about talking to the teachers and knowing what they’re prepping for and what their strengths are is possibly the most important part of “viability” of your curriculum. That does make your skill set critical, though, because translating that into the right number talks and concept builders is a lot harder than “let’s do some worksheets with problems like you’ll see in the fall.”
    (These are just images of the lessons, though — links arent’ supposed to work, are they?)

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