How to Makeover Your Math Lessons with CRA

Teaching math from a scripted program is less than inspiring. And that is putting it kindly.

You likely didn’t sign up to be made to feel like a robot.
You didn’t sign up to teach lessons you don’t believe in.
And you certainly didn’t sign up to choose between keeping up with pacing or leaving your students in your dust.

Giving lessons (yes. even lessons from a scripted curriculum) a CRA makeover can help you to feel more confident in the content you are teaching and will help you to reach all of your learners where they are while supporting them to where you would like them to be.

Below are the steps you can follow to quickly and easily makeover your lesson. Follow through until the end of the post- I have a free CRA model template for you to use!

Concrete, Representational, Abstract Math Lesson Makeover

Step 1: Take Inventory
Check through the lesson and jot down the concrete models, representational models and abstract models that are already being used.
  • Concrete- Hands-on materials
  • Representational- Sometimes called pictorial includes drawings, pictures, and diagrams such as a number bond or place value chart.
  • Abstract- Numbers and equations on their own.
Step 2: Connect The Dots 
Look for linking questions or activities that ask your students to use more than one model at a time.
  • Are your students building with base ten blocks and then recording their work on a number bond?
  • Are your students reading a word problem, drawing a picture and then recording an equation?
Step 3: Fill in the Gaps
If you found only abstract models in the lesson, are there representational or concrete models you can add to the lesson so that all learners can access the content? These models can be incorporated in a variety of ways.
  • A whole group model with hands-on materials.
  • Providing some students with hands-on materials to use as they work independently.
  • Adding in a directions for your students to use a model such as a place value chart alongside the algorithm.
Step 4: Link It Together
You have already taken stock of opportunities to link models together but if you had a chance to add in additional models, or if the lesson was using concrete, representational or abstract models in isolation this is your chance to link them together. Linking can be done through direct questioning and/or by asking your students to use multiple models side by side.
  • I see the number 47 in your equation. Where did you represent 47 in your place value drawing?
  • The story problem talked about 13 pigs. Where are the 13 pigs in your equation?
  • As you add 23 + 58 using place value disks can you draw a picture on a place value chart to show your work?
Giving your students the chance to work with a concept at the concrete, representational and abstract level helps them to build explicit connections in their mind and become fluent with concepts more easily.
As you get used to giving your lessons a CRA makeover it will become second nature to you

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