Open Up to Illustrative Mathematics

This week, I had the opportunity to speak to Dr. Tammy Baumann, Director of Quality & Alignment, Mathematics at Open Up Resources.  I had reached out to the nonprofit following the announcement of its 6-8 math curriculum receiving a near-perfect score in its review by EdReports.  I was interested in clarifying some common misunderstandings I often encounter about open educational resources (OER).  Dr. Baumann kindly shared her thoughts on this subject and I did my best to capture her responses.  But first, I will share a bit of background information about Open Up Resources.

The website boasts the 6-8 math curriculum is, “A problem-based core program that sparks unparalleled levels of student engagement.”  The math curriculum includes student and teacher materials, organized in a scope & sequence, with integrated supports for English Learners and students with disabilities, as well as resources for families.

Sample screenshots are below from the grade 8 materials (unit 3: Linear Relationships).  Notice the integrated supports.

Screen Shot 2018-04-08 at 2.36.05 PM

Screen Shot 2018-04-08 at 2.35.25 PM

The curricula from Open Up Resources are published with a CC BY license, which means they are free to download, edit, and share.  In addition, users are free to distribute, remix, tweak, and build upon, as long as they credit Open Up Resources for the original creation.  The materials are available in print and digital versions, allowing flexibility to districts for the implementation workflow.

The materials are created with certain design principles.  These include:

Developing Conceptual Understanding and Procedural Fluency: From pre-assessments, through activation of prior knowledge with accessible lessons, and a progression of experiences which build to more efficient methods of solving problems, students are guided from the development of conceptual understanding to the goal of procedural fluency.

Applying Mathematics: Real-world content and contexts can be found throughout the materials.

The Five Practices: Selected activities are structured using The Five Practices.  Described within the following texts (below), activities foster anticipation, circulation and monitoring by the teacher, selection of certain student work samples, and a recommended sequence for sharing.

  • Five Practices for Orchestrating Productive Mathematical Discussions (Smith & Stein, 2011);
  • Principles to Actions: Ensuring Mathematical Success for All (NCTM, 2014); and
  • Intentional Talk: How to Structure and Lead Productive Mathematical Discussions (Kazemi & Hintz, 2014).


Below is a recap of my conversation with Dr. Baumann.

Question: What is the biggest misconception about OER that you would like to clear up?

There is a misconception that the only thing OER offers is small scale – such as lessons or individual units.  Open Up Resources is the first publishing group to offer a full course of OER and it is the best in the market, as indicated by EdReports.  This full course of materials is organized into a cohesive progression of learning.

Question: In your opinion, what is stopping districts from using the curricula from Open Up Resources?

Districts who are aware of the curricula from Open Up Resources don’t seem to hesitate.  There were some districts who waited until the final version was ready, but other than those, there has yet to be a district who said no, thank you, once they were in contact with Open Up Resources.  Much like Field of Dreams, it seems if you build it, they will come.

Question: What are you most proud of with the work of Open Up Resources and the new 6-8 math curricula?

The release of the 6-8 math curricula from Open Up Resources indicate there are finally materials for all kids – they are cohesive and support language acquisition and access for students with learning disabilities.  There is no separate handbook for teachers to access with tools for students who need these supports – the embedded supports are found within the materials themselves.

Question: What is next?

Open Up Resources just announced that their High School Math Curriculum is in development.  Similar to the 6-8 curriculum, Open Up Resources is teaming up with Illustrative Mathematics to develop a comprehensive curriculum for high school Algebra 1, Geometry, and Algebra 2.  The high school math series will be published as an Open Educational Resource for 2019–20 adoption.

As a model of continuous improvement, the middle school curriculum will undergo minor revisions during this same time as well.

I am continuing to explore this and other high quality OER.  I am working on an alignment document to our Texas standards (TEKS) for mathematics for the 6-8 math curriculum.  Don’t hesitate to reach out to me (Mary Kemper) for more information about this project, if you are interested, or to share your experience with Open Up Resources.  My contact information can be found on the Authors tab of this site.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s