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How to Teach Math to Elementary Students Without a Curriculum in 2024

Some school districts have outdated math textbooks, while others do not have a formal math curriculum program at all. What should elementary teachers do in this case? Where do they even begin with planning how to teach math to elementary students? These are great questions! This post will offer suggestions for how to teach math to elementary students when you do not have access to a curriculum program. Read below to learn more!

teacher planning guided math lesson without curriculum

3 Ideas for How to Teach Elementary Math Without a Curriculum Program

Here are 3 ideas for how to teach math to elementary students when you do not have access to a formal math curriculum program.

student using plastic clock for telling time

1. Adopt a Math Block Structure.

Before the start of the school year, you will need to choose a math block structure. The one I recommend is the Guided Math Workshop framework. This is a model that includes a mini lesson, four centers, and a closing. This simple framework is an effective format for creating consistent routines for your students and simplifying planning for you. You can learn my systematic approach for how to launch Guided Math Workshop in my Guided Math Workshop Guide or Guided Math Workshop course (coming soon!). Having a math block structure will help you feel confident about how to teach elementary math in your classroom!

guided math lesson 2nd or 3rd grade

2. Develop a Systematic Approach to Planning.

I recommend planning in the same location. This will ensure you have everything you need when you are planning your math block. For example, you may want to keep the following in your planning area: A pacing calendar (created by you or your district), list of math standards, Math Workshop and Guided Math lesson plan templates (which are available in my soon-to-be-released Guided Math Workshop course), laptop charger, and pens. Having a system and specific location for planning will save you lots of time planning and prepping math lessons!

guided math lesson in action

3. Utilize the Understanding by Design Framework when Planning.

The Understanding by Design framework, Backward Design, is a structure for unit planning. It consists of 3 sequential components: Desired Results, Evidence, and Learning Plan. 

When designing a math unit, first you need to identify the learning goals. What do you want students to know and be able to do by the end of the unit? Which standards are you addressing in the unit? This is the first stage, which is referred to as Desired Results. 

teacher with guided math lesson plans

The second stage, Evidence, is to create or find an assessment that successfully assesses the learning goals of the unit. Check out my math benchmark assessments for ideas on what this could look like. I have three benchmark assessments for each Common Core standard. 

The third and final stage, Learning Plan, is to create or identify the learning experiences students will engage in to develop an understanding of the unit’s math concepts and skills (learning goals).

Backward Design is a great tool for planning math instruction. It will truly make you a better math teacher and help you feel more confident about how to teach math!

Math Resources for 1st-5th Grade Teachers

If you need printable and digital math resources for your classroom, then check out my collections below!

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5th grade math membershipElementary Math Resource Collection

Try a Collection of our Math Resources for Free!

In closing, we hope this information about how to teach math to elementary students without a curriculum program is helpful! Learn more about teaching elementary math and try these math resources with your students. They offer elementary students opportunities to practice grade level concepts and skills in fun and engaging ways. You can download worksheets specific to your grade level (along with lots of other math freebies) in our free printable math resources bundle using this link: free printable math activities for elementary teachers.

Check out these other math resources!

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Try these free math activities with your elementary students!