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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

DIY math: Many high school teachers rewrite the curriculum

Many teachers are creating -- or downloading -- their own math materials, according to a recent survey, writes Hechinger's Jill Barshay.

Instead of basing lessons on "the textbooks, worksheets and digital materials that school leaders have spent a lot of time reviewing and selecting," many teachers -- especially at the high school level, are going it alone, says William Zahner of San Diego State.

Do-it-yourself materials can be hit or miss, sacrificing the “coherent development” of ideas that curriculum designers try to create, he says.

Some teachers put together their own materials to meet the needs of students who aren't fluent in English, while others say they need a more advanced or more basic curriculum.

Education reformers have neglected the importance of curriculum, argues Robert Pondiscio. If teachers had high-quality, content-rich instructional materials, they could focus on teaching, rather than spending their time and energy designing DIY lessons.

Nearly all teachers routinely use their own materials to teach English and math, he writes.

"Teachers spend seven hours per week searching for instructional resources and another five hours per week creating their own classroom materials," an MDR survey estimates.

But the materials teachers download are "mediocre" at best, concludes 2019 research.

"Spending hours on customizing curriculum or creating units and lessons from scratch is burdensome, results in lessons of low rigor and quality, and is almost certainly a less valuable use of teacher time than studying student work, giving feedback, developing subject matter expertise, and building relationships with students and their families," Pondiscio concludes.

155 views3 comments


Bruce Smith
Bruce Smith
May 07

Such poor teaching goes a long way towards explaining why Americans spend so much (the most in the world) to get such poor results (last place in the developed world in the mathematical achievement of young adults aged 16-24, unless you consider Cyprus to be a developed state).


Darren Miller
Darren Miller
May 06

You might be surprised how bad some curriculum is.

And to be honest, I almost never use the publisher-provided tests or quizzes. I write my own.

May 07
Replying to

I found that publisher-provided materials were a good source of material for "drill" assignments presented online. My students could attempt a randomly-selected set of questions for a homework score, and, if they weren't satisfied with their score, make another attempt. With a new random draw of questions. Some of my more dogged students made over a dozen attempts to get perfect scores--and had no difficulties with their exams. Said exams containing questions NOT provided by publishers.

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