Math Curriculum FAQs

Here are the frequently asked questions about our Math Curriculum:

What class period length are the agendas in my course planned for? 

This differs depending on grade level. See the table below for details.

Grade Level

Number and Length of Class Periods


Approximately 135 periods of 60 minutes


Approximately 120 periods of 60 minutes


Approximately 135 periods of 60 minutes

Where does your curriculum come from?

For grades 4-5, we recommend our courses that are based on the Illustrative Mathematics curriculum. It includes the most updated features and will be supported by Summit Learning professional development.  Our legacy elementary curriculum will be removed from the base in the future and will no longer be updated or supported.  For more information, review Comparing Summit Learning Elementary Math Curricula in the Learning Space.

Beginning in the 2020-2021 school year, our main curriculum provider for grades 4-11 is Illustrative Mathematics. Additional content for entry events and portfolio problems is sourced from Mathalicious, Desmos, Open Middle, and 3-Act Tasks. A legacy math course for grades 4 and 5, based on the Engage NY materials is still available in the Base curriculum, but will be phased out in the future. For more information about the changes to elementary math, see the Comparing Summit Learning Elementary Math Curricula in the Learning Space.

Our 12th grade offering, Modeling and Statistical Reasoning, consists of a curation of resources from Desmos, Illustrative Mathematics, Mathalicious, EngageNY, Mathematics Vision Project, and New Visions throughout the units. Each piece of curriculum is attributed to its original author. In some places, we have created our own materials.

Does the math curriculum have answer keys?

Yes! We are proud to be offering answer keys for our IM-based courses. Answer keys will continue to be published for Modeling and Statistical Reasoning.  

Legacy courses include answer keys and teacher resources when available, but will not be receiving any updates.  

What is the sequence of courses in the Base Curriculum?


The two pathways for our courses are shown above. All of our courses are designed with a “low floor and a high ceiling,” meaning that they are appropriate for a wide variety of learners.

For our high school courses, we offer both a traditional and integrated math sequence, the components of which are laid out in Appendix A of the CCSS. Most 9th graders will take Algebra 1 or Math I.  We also offer  Algebra 1 and Math I Success courses that are designed to provide just in time supports so that students can engage with grade level algebra content.  These courses are intended to be offered concurrently with either Algebra 1 or Math I and are not standalone courses.  See “What are the Algebra 1 Success and Math I Success courses” for more information about these  courses.

In 10th grade these students will take Geometry or Math II.  In 11th grade they take Algebra 2 or Math III. There are condensed versions of the 11th grade courses, Algebra 2/Pre-Calc and Math III/Pre-Calc, which are designed to prepare students for an AP Calculus course in senior year. For 12th grade we currently offer Modeling & Statistical Reasoning.

While we do not offer a standalone course that is explicitly called “Pre-Calculus,” we do offer “Math III/Pre-Calculus” and “Algebra 2/Pre-Calculus.” These courses compress Math III and Algebra 2 into less time, leaving room for an additional unit and focus areas that are aimed at preparing students to take AP Calculus AB in 12th grade.

For twelfth grade, the Base curriculum includes one offering, Modeling & Statistical Reasoning. Summit Learning does not currently offer AP Calculus or AP Statistics, though we are considering including them in the future.

I am confused about the Mathalicious links.

Summit Learning is excited to team up with Mathalicious. Mathalicious makes real-world application activities that we think complement the other components of our curriculum nicely. These activities are available in grades 6 - 12. As long as you teach one of those grades and access the Mathalicious activity through the Summit Learning Platform, no extra login should be necessary. To best access and understand the flow of a Mathalicious lesson, click on the links in the Platform which take you directly to the specific activity on the Mathalicious website.

Do your courses have syllabi?

We do not currently have syllabi for our Base curriculum math courses, though the information found within the Platform covers many of the same topics a syllabus would. You can also find overarching course information for the Illustrative Mathematics Middle School and High School curricula on the Kendall Hunt/IM website:

We hope to offer course syllabi in the future. 

I found a broken or missing link in the curriculum.

Please check the Base curriculum version of your course to see if this item has been fixed there. If it has not, please submit a help ticket to let us know.

How do I score end-of-unit assessments?

For guidance on how to score end-of-unit assessments, please visit the Scoring an End-of-Unit Assessment resource in the Learning Space.

Can I teach the units in a different order than what’s provided in the Base curriculum?

While teaching the units in a different order is possible, we strongly recommend against it. Various components of our courses are cumulative. For example, 6th grade begins with geometry, which is later built upon as students learn about exponents. Not only do the concepts within the courses build on each other, but the exercise sets, which accompany each day, contain 30-50% spiraled material. Proceeding in a different order than the Base will likely result in disjointed material for you and your students. All of our courses are customizable to your needs but any changes you make will need to be supported and maintained locally. Please see the dependency charts published by Illustrative Mathematics to see how the units interact with each other.

How do the courses change for students on a modified plan?

Each math unit overview includes a section titled ‘Modifications’ that provides general guidance on how to modify a unit in a way that allows students to engage with grade-level mathematics.  In grades 4-8, a Summit Learning Mathematics Modified Blueprint and modified end-of-unit assessment are provided and intended to serve as recommended starting point for modifications; fewer or more modifications may be needed and should be determined on an individual student basis.  For our courses that are derived from Illustrative Mathematics (4-11), the Plans tab includes suggested strategies that address cognitive functioning and are listed as ‘Supports for Students with Disabilities’. Because modifications are specific to an individual student’s needs, modifications should be finalized through the collaboration of the mathematics educator, Special Education department, and school administration or via a predetermined process at the school level.

My students are passing focus areas but failing their end-of-unit assessments. What should I do?

We have a few recommendations for supporting students who are passing focus areas but failing end-of-unit assessments. Students are often more accustomed to the types of questions on focus areas so it is important to clarify the type of understanding that is required to perform well on end-of-unit assessments. The activities in a unit are designed to support the building of conceptual understanding. In addition to having students review and sometimes redo activities, students may strengthen their understandings through Portfolio Problems that push their thinking about the concepts. Another very helpful activity for struggling students is to create a concept map of the material from a unit. This not only highlights the connections between topics, but also helps students identify areas where additional review is needed. Lastly, students might need support with language development and/or reading comprehension. If your course is derived from Illustrative Mathematics, the suggested strategies in the ‘Supports for English Language Learners’ boxes could be used as scaffolds that target language development in mathematics.

At Summit, we echo these words from NCTM’s statement, “Procedural fluency builds on a foundation of conceptual understanding. Research suggests that once students have memorized and practiced procedures that they do not understand, they have less motivation to understand their meaning or the reasoning behind them (Hiebert, 1999)...All students need to have a deep and flexible knowledge of a variety of procedures, along with an ability to make critical judgments about which procedures or strategies are appropriate for use in particular situations (NRC, 2001, 2005, 2012; Star, 2005).” In other words, you may find that students are disincentivized to revisit the concepts when they have had success with the procedures. For this reason, we recommend that students have ample exposure to the concepts of a given unit prior to attempting the Focus Area associated with that unit.

What is the recommended process to set students up for success on focus areas?

Our approach to math focus areas differs from other subjects due to the nature of the discipline. Students progress through math focus areas at their own pace during SDL, exercising choice in determining which resources to review and when to take content assessments. Most students will experience success with math focus areas after learning the associated concepts through the teacher’s instruction of the unit. Since focus areas are not an appropriate medium for problem-solving involving new math content, students’ initial learning of most content occurs during concept lessons over the course of a unit, to be practiced later in focus areas.

In a focus area, students direct their own learning through a playlist of resources in order to prepare for an online content assessment related to that unit’s content. We see myriad reasons why students struggle to pass Focus Areas, many of which stem from the difficulties of adjusting to self-directed learning. In seeking to pinpoint why your students are struggling, we recommend revisiting some or all of the following resources:

It’s also important to remember that Focus Areas are only worth up to 20% of a student’s grade. The majority of their time and yours should be spent on developing the necessary conceptual understanding, which is the work of Concept Lessons. Reinforcing important math content through focus areas supports students’ development of Habits of Success, particularly self-directed learning behaviors. This approach of student agency, coupled with rapid support, leads to more effective, efficient learners.

If you notice your students are struggling, help them view this as a learning experience they can grow from.  Here are some helpful language frames you could use:

  • I can see you didn’t do as well as you wanted to which shows you care.  Let’s look at your mistakes as an opportunity to grow and learn!
  • You are not there YET.  Look at how much progress you’ve made on this though!  Do you remember how much more challenging this was (yesterday/last week/last year)?
  • I admire your persistence and I appreciate your hard work. It will pay off.

How do I best meet the needs of my students who are learning at an accelerated pace?

Our activities are written with a low floor and a high ceiling so that all students can access and engage in them, including those who are ready for more.  In fact, many activities contain an additional prompt called, 'Are You Ready for More?' that teachers can use to help students take their learning further.  The CCSS Publisher’s Criteria states, "National surveys have repeatedly concluded that postsecondary instructors value greater mastery of a smaller set of prerequisites over shallow exposure to a wide array of topics, so that students can build on what they know and apply what they know to solve substantial problems." In alignment with the philosophy of the CCSS, our curriculum prioritizes depth of learning over pace. We have also built these opportunities into Portfolio Problems, which push students to take deeper looks at relevant course concepts.

Student acceleration is a decision that should be carefully considered.  We agree with Illustrative Mathematics’ “commit[ment] to cultivating a solid K–8 mathematics foundation by appropriate implementation of grade-level standards and limiting acceleration options before high school.” To reiterate, we believe that challenging students should come through extension of course level concepts. We are working to provide curricular resources that will support your planning for students that are ready to dig further into the course concepts.  

If your site opts to proceed with student acceleration, careful consideration must be paid to ensure equitable access to accelerated pathways.  The selection criteria should result in a group of students that reflects the racial and ethnic demographics of your school. Disparities should be investigated at the site and district level to help close the opportunity gaps and increase the access of under-represented groups. Sites should also examine over-represented groups to ensure that families understand the positive and negative consequences of placing a student in an accelerated course.  If your site has an existing accelerated pathway, long term student outcome data should guide programmatic changes.  Placement in an accelerated course should always align with student goals.

Our high school course offerings include two accelerated courses.  Math III/Pre-Calc and Algebra 2/Pre-Calc include two units that are designed to prepare students who plan to enroll in AP Calculus.

To read more about Illustrative Mathematics stance on acceleration, please see “Guidance for Accelerating Students in Mathematics”.

What should I print and what should be assigned digitally?

There is great variety in the needs and available resources of every Summit Learning school.  We offer activities in printable, digital, and applet formats so that school sites can make decisions based on their local conditions.  A guiding principle for our curation of IM is that technology should enhance learning, not hinder it.  We include digital applications and activity alternatives when we believe they present improved learning opportunities.  We encourage you to follow the same principle in deciding how to present activities to your students.  Some questions you can consider:

  • Will student thinking be better captured in writing or digitally?
  • Does a certain format better facilitate student exploration?
  • Are appropriate norms in place in my classroom? If not, do I have time to set them up on this day?
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