Make Math Moments Academy › Forums › Full Workshop Reflections › Module 6: LongRange Planning and Assessment to Make Math Moments That Matter › Lesson 62: What is Spiralling & Spacing › Lesson 62: Question

Lesson 62: Question
Posted by Jon on May 1, 2019 at 12:04 pmShare any questions, thinking, and comments on your spiralling and spacing here.
Alison Peternell replied 4 days, 9 hours ago 83 Members · 98 Replies 
98 Replies

I have used my “warmups” as spiral reviews but I have never tried to spiral the whole curriculum. Something that stuck with me was the idea that spiraling can solve the problem of kids moving from one school to another, absences, moving from one class to another, etc. I found the following especially interesting the ideas that kids who missed one part of our content will have the opportunity to go over it later and that students who already had contact with the material will have the chance to deepen their understanding.

Unlike the mathematics curriculum in North America, I had been exposed to spiralling since my primary and secondary education. I have been using spiralling in teaching since I first taught in my current secondary school in Hong Kong.
Spiralling seems to be unnecessary and boring parts for top students and students with good memory of what they have learnt in the past. However, it’s definitely good for the majority of the average and weaker students. They tend to forget what they have learnt and it’s important for teachers to embed or even integrate the previous knowledge with the new knowledge so that students can revisit and apply the previous knowledge in a new context.
I used to give a summative test after teaching one topic by giving a mark. Most students show fear and emotions when receiving their test with an unsatisfactory mark. After this module, I’ll try not to put a mark on their test paper so that students can focus on my feedback/suggestions instead of focussing on the marks.
Thanks for giving us an opportunity to reflect on our current practice!

One takeaway from this is that students learn a concept more deeply and have better retention with spiraling than with blocking the material in units and chapters. I can remember being so relieved once I completed my college course on statistics and how I never wanted to engage with that type of math again. If statistics had been introduced early on and woven into my math classes, I would have been less apprehensive and more open to learning the concepts. As a teacher, I notice that many of my students struggle with retention of previously taught math concepts if they did not have enough time or exposure to interact with the concepts. I also like the concept of using tests to study rather than study for a test.

I am so excited to hear about spiraling again. When I was student teaching 18 years ago, we were using a math program (I believe it was Saxon?) that spiraled. I absolutely loved this way of teaching math and I just thought that was how math was taught. As the years have gone on, I have become more and more frustrated with the math programs that are out there and how much they only teach using blocking, rather than spiraling. They also rely so much on test taking as a way to know if a student has mastered a concept. However, being a special education teacher, I promise you this is not an ideal way to teach. My student work so hard to try to understand a concept for test day and then the second a new concept is taught that are unable to recall most of the preivously taught information. They are definietly not learning through wondre and curiosity. They are just trying to survive and move concept to concept. I see this with both special education and general education students. They definitely are only developing that surface level learning in most cases. Often times when I ask a student to recall a previously taught skills, they will act as if I am speaking a foreign language. Usually after some reteaching the skill starts to come back, but imagine how powerful that would be if that skill was revisited over and over again every 35 days. I’m so excited to think there’s a possibility that more spiraling may be occuring in the future and that more of these kids may have a shot at being successful with math.


Last summer I led some work with a team of teachers from each grade level K5. We put all textbook sources aside, and only looked at the CCLS domains, clusters, and standards at each grade level. We had vertical conversations about priority big ideas, traditional student areas of strength and weaknesses, and connected big ideas within the grade levels. Teams then used these conversations to connect ideas within their grade levels, and then sequence the learning in a way that made sense for kids, considering pacing as well. This was our first step as a district to move away from the idea of just teaching from the textbook, and hints at your idea of sequencing.
Now, having gone through part of a school year with these changes, I will be anxious for us to gather again (possibly over the summer) to reflect on this work and its impact on kids. I do think that we can do better at making more connections between big ideas and create a more effective spiraling effect, so I will be using this learning to help guide this future work.

I have been doing a lot of reading and research on spiralling over the past year or so. I started this process this semester and in all of my classes. It was going well and I was seeing how following the ideas presented here by Jon and Kyle here is making things go well. I look forward to being able to see how spiralling works over a complete semester.

I am a big promoter of spiraling. In fact, on an informal level, I liken it to looping. The teacher that loops can offer continuous learning as s/he knows the students and the content that was presented to them previously. I felt solid this year looping with content, as I had been teaching 4th grade math and now teach 6th. I know what they had been presented. I also know that skipping an entire year of concepts, as is set up through the Common Core Standards (which, by the way, do not endorse spiraling), has detrimental effects on students.

Spiralling math is a great way to mix the math units that way the students are always coming back to previous lessons/stragtegies. Every year I see students work hard to understand and learn math topics, only to forget it by the end of the school year. Spiralling these topics can make it so they are exposed to the topics all year long and not just for a month. By giving the class multiple lessons throughout the year makes it so they can retain the information easier.

I am such a huge fan of spiralling but have been hesitant due to my inexperience with the courses I am teaching (I’m a new teacher). I’ve promised myself to get my bearings with traditional massed practice and then hop straight into spiralling when I’m feeling more versed. I’ve been slowly seeding in these moments throughout this last year, prepping my self for the future. It’s very exciting. The one thing that I have noticed about my own practice is the fear of having to “go back”. There’s a strange feeling of failure (?) associated with going back to “reteach” certain concepts, or a feeling of broken contenuity when you deviate from the overall unit plan. I have been actively trying to fight back on these feelings and tell myself it is absolutely okay to loop back over and revisit a concept by from a different or more nuanced angle.

I am always excited about trying to spiral, however the expectations of performance on district assessments and the expectation of each teacher being in the same place are things that hold me back. I do have excellent teammates, but we don’t always agree about how and when to teach material. I need to continue to look for ways to still integrage this into my teaching. I know it is best for the kids.

I have often been frustrated by how quickly students forget concepts that they have “mastered” based on a topic assessment. I’ve done various things in class to keep students practicing topics, (10 question drills, adding looped problems to their daily practice of current topics) but never with consistency nor could I justify spending the time on these activities when I would look at everything I “had to teach” in the course of a year. I also struggled with how to include the assessment of this spiraling in the gradebook. Grading and reporting out student “achievement” based on standards never felt comletely accurate. I often felt the grades I reported for many students that “mastered” a standard were misleading because I knew given a similar task a month later would cause many to struggle even though they had “mastered” that standard according to their grades in the gradebook. The idea that a test is really an opportunity to access stored knowledge is mindblowing for me. I talk so much with my students about connections in our brains. I make them put their hands on their heads to “wake up” stored knoweldge and constanlty ask them to look for patterns or information in problems that might help them problem solve based on something they see that triggers a concept they may have learned before. It gives me legs to defend spiraling and now has me questioning what I want to include in my gradebook.

We use CPM curriculum and one of their pillars is mixed, spaced practice (=spiralling). So my students tests after each chapter contain 70%+ on previous chapters and only about 2030% on the “newest” concept they’ve learned. So, they don’t get a chance to “forget” because the homework problems have been spiralled and so are the tests!

I totally agree with the importance of spiraling, however, the work required to do that would seem very overwhelming to my teachers (I am an instructional coach). Is this something that I can do? I bet this will become clearer as I progress through this Module!

I Have been interested in using Spiralling but having access to a curriculum or resource, would be very helpful in making my administration see how it will work and someone else has done it before.
Thank you for sharing this !

We use Everyday Math in our district and love the spiral! However, so many teachers are stuck on the teach to mastery and move on thinking that they don’t follow the spiral of the curriculum, but supplement and stay in one spot until students show a temporary fluency that is often mistaken for learning. Most people either love or hate Everyday Math curriculum, and though it isn’t perfect I love it!

Every year students forget what they learnt the previous year or the previous term. They just think about learning a topic, doing the assessment and it’s done!! Spiralling math is really important for students to connect the different strategies and strands. I will be using this learning and reflect over the summer on how to move forward for next September.

Spiraling is something that I’ve known about for a long time, but I usually think of it at concepts that come back in future years, not as something that happens in my class during one school year. I love this idea of teaching in a spiral way throughout the year, and totally see how it can help students retain.
Things I question are how my students will do on our district benchmark assessments, which are very blocked in nature, as well as what the balance would be between giving kids enough time with a concept to develop some understandings, but not siloing at the same time. I’m sure the idea is not to stop the units to just bounce around randomly day to day, but I’m not sure where that balance lies.

I do not know anyone who teaches in a spiraling format! A lot of traditionalists in our school. I definitely plan on using spiraling in the fall. Thanks for the websites that have plans in place for spiraling. That will give me a place to start!

Keep us posted on how the planning and implementation goes!


I had heard about spiraling and we were always told we were doing it by beginning class with review questions. Now I have a deeper meaning of what spiraling really means and how it is a form of interleaving. I like the messiness of it, even though it complicates matters for me for it is much more like how people really learn best, as the researchers stated. I loved Cary’s admonition to “Let go” of the all the paced, repetitive, ritualistic type of teaching and learning we’ve been steeped in for so long. My students have been asking for more wonderful and curiosityinspiring lessons and I intend to respond to the call by spiraling and taking on what I am learning through this course!

I’m really excited to put spiraling into full practice this year. I have tried to begin with baby steps this year (moving certain topics around to make them flow better and pull things like statistics in early to connect to proportional reasoning, etc…). I really love the idea that if a student comes into my classroom later in the year, by spiraling they will be able to see the concepts that they may have missed because we will come back to it. I am hoping to spend the summer trying to plan out what the spirals will look like for 7th and 8th grade, and I will definitely look at the resources you posted. So excited to learn more about this and how to actually put it into practice!

Our Lower School uses Everyday Math so spiraling in middle school is a natural follow on for our students.

I have only taught Everyday Math once when I taught fifth grade for a single year. I’ll be returning to this program (in grade 4 this time) this coming year. In my district, it has a bad review by most. Colleagues put it down because they feel the students can’t focus on a topic and find mastery before doing a different topic. It’s good to hear the research backing the set up and spiraling involved and gives me a positive outlook for next year!

I used Everyday Math in 5th grade as well very early in my career, now over 10 years ago. I remember loving the concept of spiraling, but also struggling with what you say some teachers mention – the spiraling felt ineffective because kids often couldn’t retrieve skills needed and because there were not multiple examples on one topic, I couldn’t figure out a way to teach them without “giving away answers” or taking on the majority of thinking. Now in reflection I think what held it back was the lack of depth and connections to make the spiraling effective.

What I find we need to keep in mind is that we not only spiral content but we also need to spiral the “release of responsibility”. I often direct learning through tasks early and then gradually let that go as students become more familiar and more confident.
Spiralling is a large topic and we just hint at it here (in the workshop). In our Academy (your next step) we have a course that dives into more depth plus case studies with teachers working through problems of practice. https://learn.makemathmoments.com/courses/spiralling/


I heard this idea of retrieval practice on a couple of different podcasts that I listen to. I like brining that idea into the spiraling of the math order of concepts.

Prior to my current central position, I was weaving together different mathematic strands to avoid being stuck at the end of the term in not teaching a unit that I needed a grade for the report card; not realizing that this technique was called Spiralling the Curriculum. I’ve also used the TIPS4MATH website for ideas to integrate within my lessons, such a great resource.

When I first started teaching, I would either follow the textbook or teach strand blocks which I always found myself struggling in getting all the necessary grades needed to have to finalize the report cards. Then I was starting to weave together different mathematics strands together as I planned units; this greatly helped me to ensure that I had all of the grades necessary for the report cards. However, I would rarely go back and review the expectation throughout the school year which is why I really like the concept of Spiralling the Curriculum. It not only helps the students to understand and retain their learning but helps the teacher know which concepts that needs to be reviewed throughout the year. I’ve also used the TIPS4MATH website for ideas to integrate within my lessons, such a great resource.
 This reply was modified 2 years, 5 months ago by Tracy Martel.

Thanks for the website! ‘ll be going there this afternoon for research!

I haven’t used a spiraled curriculum but it’s interesting to hear the research supports it. Before I started teaching at my school, Everyday Math was the elementary curriculum and the teachers did not feel it provided sufficient practice of the concepts; they did not think the students developed automaticity. Likewise, when we were reviewing new curriculum, other teachers who had taught using Saxon math (which is very purposefully spiraled) felt that there were some students were left behind by the constant switching between strands; Saxon, however, may be more inflexible than other spiraled curricula. I’m taking this workshop to shake up some of my wellingrained thoughts and habits so I’m open to learning more about this.

I am aware of spiraling because I worked for one year at a school that “used” Saxon math. I can see how this would be beneficial for average to struggling students and can help to eliminate the “oh I totally forgot how to do that” comments. Unfortunately, I did not feel comfortable with spiraling yet because 1) it was my first year of teaching, but 2) the students’ previous teachers had seriously neglected to do their job. Due to their lack of background knowledge it did not seem feasible to jump around from topic to topic because often they did not have the prerequisite skills that we would be building on from and we had to do a lot of pivoting to fill in all the gaps.
The point of that aside is to explain my feeling that spiraling can be extremely successful if done over successive years. As a teacher who works with the same students for 68 I would be able to make this happen. But I hesitate to implement this for the students in 8th this year who do not like change much and already are a very strong class with things as is. I wonder if/what the varying degrees of implementation are? I also am unsure about the ordering/organizing of lessons because I do think there are some skills/units that need to be mastered before others.
I feel bad that I am not totally on board yet!

Does anyone know if Illustrative Mathematics has spiralling built into its framework? It does claim to incorporate the 5 Practices! I feel like I need some training wheels!

Having taught FDK, I feel like spiralling Math has become a natural means of teaching for me. I strongly believe that this method is a good way to mix the different units. This will help students to get a refresher and/or review of previously taught lessons and/or strategies. I think it is very important to use this method, especially with very young learners, so that they can retain the information easily.

I have students that come and go frequently, so spiraling seems like a great way to make sure my students don’t totally miss out on an important concept.

I have a workbook that does a great job of spiraling. As a fourth grade teacher, I used it for our warm up. Now that I’m moving to 5th grade and have a smaller amount of time, I am going to try to shorten the daily exercises. I love that it allows me to see the concepts students are already comfortable with and allows me to teach and go in depth where students most need it. I have seen many benefits to having the standards spiraled. Students get multiple chances to practice and it has helped with retention of skills.

I teach 5th Grade in North Carolina. I would love to have someone to collaborate with on long range plans. I am also pursuing my National Board Certification.


When I taught 4th grade, we used Saxon Math. Saxon spirals the curriculum daily. I wish I had one of my old textbooks. All of the assessments were spiraled too.

I love TIPS4Math and have used it for years. Did I realize that it was already a “spiralling” math program? Yes and no. I knew it integrated many math ideas but I’m wondering why in the the fervour for everyone to spiral math, no one is talking about it in any of the chat rooms? Everyone seems to be focussed on creating something from scratch. I know we have a new math curriculum in Ontario can the government tweak TIPS to match it so we have a resource for September?

This past school year I tried to spiral my plans. It was tricky! Students would work on different math strands as bell work (their first task after attendance). I loved that it brought up great conversations and we usually discussed the morning work as part of a number talk later in the morning. However, the tricky part was that if students were unfamiliar with the content presented that day, they would just make their best guess and put very little effort into the task (during bell work, I wasn’t normally available to work one on one with students to help them through the task). I guess it would work better if we ALWAYS spent time afterwards discussing solutions and strategies. But this took too much time. Or perhaps be available to those who need help, by gathering as a small group as needed.
I think a lot of educators, myself included, find spiraling to be intimidating as we don’t know how to progress through the concepts in a gradual way throughout the year. We also are very accountable to writing report cards and having a grade for each strand, so I think we often feel rushed.
I do love the idea of spiraling though, and this year I’ll give it another try, perhaps use the Throwback Thursday idea, using 1 day of the week to explore a different strand than we are currently focusing on.

My school uses Everyday Math. They do an okay job with spiralling, but it’s heavily worksheet based, so I add my own things. Spiralling can also happen outside of the math class. Science is a great way to bring in previously learned skills. If you use the NGSS standards, each unit tells you which Common Core math standards apply to that unit.

Questions

How do you assess with spiraling?

You mentioned Everyday Math, which our district uses up to grade 5; what curriculum(s) spiral for grades 68?
In past years I have used what I call forgetmenots for Spiral Review on Fridays to start the class. It can include concepts that are current or not so current. But this type of spiraling is not the type of spiraling that I need to be doing, am I correct? I need to do more focused concept lessons over spiraling, yes?

Luanne,
Great questions. I’d say that “review” Friday’s is a form of spiralling and a great way to get started. We also encourage 510 minute starter activities that link to learning goals that might not be apart of that days Lesson.For assessment we’re building out our course Assessment For Growth in the Academy and you currently have access to module 1. Have a look there for some guidance.


Thank you for this informative lesson. I have a lot to ponder about how to make spiraling a more integral part of my curriculum.

I am super excited to learn about spiralling. I also used to think that a warm up of mixed review at the begininng of class was a good spiral. But am now ready to move on. I am also excited to start putting my classes together. I teach 6,7,8 at a small school and teach one class of each grade – all of them. This type of math program will allow me to really spiral over the 3 years as well! It makes me wonder about increasing my work load (!) to make recording documents closer standards mastery and check them off as I go along. And am just NOW thinking about changing the grading to move toward standards based grading! There is a lot to do in a short amount of time! I am also on my school´s committee for reopening in the fall. At least we get summers ¨off¨…

I’m very excited about spiraling. It makes so much sense to me. Not that I have a plan for how yet . . . .

The concept of spiralling is important. I know from my 12 years of teaching 4th/5th grades that many students do not retain concepts and skills from earlier in the year or previous years. However, if your district does not have a math program that has spiralling built in, do you have suggestions for resources that can help? Otherwise, creating content that spirals tends to become more and more time consuming. Additionally, we have to be aware of what kind of spiralling we are doing. I don’t think mindless drill and kill formats are not valuable. I’m excited to find out more about spiralling in the next lesson and within the academy. I think that one of the ideas that will help me moving forward is just being mindful of going back to standards and concepts at times. Maybe incorporating previously learned concepts into warm ups. With a blended learning format that we are tentatively going to pursue in the fall, I could also try to weave in some spiralling when students are in the remote setting.

I don’t think you can gain enough experience with algebra without some massing. And a lack of fluency can make students feel disheartened or bored. Those are concerns that I have with constant spiraling. But generally mixing it up and going back to prior concepts is good. I feel that more about sixth grade than advanced Algebra 1 or PreCal

All though we don’t spiral at our district, I plan on implementing this principle by adding problems from other content areas other than the one we are doing at the moment in my warm up.

I am really game to try to spiral the curriculum this year! Looking forward to learning more in the next lessons.

My district used to use Everyday mathematics as our K5 math curriculum. I could see how much sense the spiraling of concepts made for the kids. It alleviated a lot of stress and pressure for struggling students – they knew we would come back to the concepts again. I could see the deeper retention happen. Unfortunately when we went to CCSS spiraling went by the wayside to cover blocks of standards. This reminds me of the need to do some spiraling of my own for those concepts I know will take more to retain.

Since I began teaching elementary school, we have always used a spiraling curriculum. I really enjoy it, because students bring more to the table each unit and seem to really make deeper connections and grow exponentially. For example, our intro to multiplication focuses on the idea of multiplication, equal groups, and repeated addition. By the time we revisit it a few units later, students are moving to faster strategies and answering facts with confidence.

I can now see how spiraling is a very good and important approach in math. It is true that once students move to a new academic year, most of them forget what they have learned in the previous year. I will use the spiraling method this coming year and I will think of ways of weaving related expectations from different strands together. I want my students to retain all important concepts that they learn.

I’m all aboard the spiraling train. Meaningful repetition, spaced out, gives kids a chance to apply their learning. Hopefully the concept stuck, and even if it did not, students are in a lowpressure situation where they can take time to rethink, look up, and review concepts.

I can see how this would help especially the students in my Resource math classes. I am planning this year as I type I will be doing a way better job with this in the up coming year.

Great to hear so many folks committed to trying to implement spiralling in some shape or form this coming year!
Let us know what you all come up with!

I have never done formal spiralling in my math classes. I see the benefit of it and glad that you shared research to support it. I have included review problems and tasks during the school year in my classes, but it was not spirally because we did not dive deeper. I did these review problems/tasks to remind students of previous content. It was helpful to students who had mastered the content pretty well in the first place, but was fairly meaningless to the students who hadn’t. I am interested in learning more about spiralling particularly with regard to related concepts so that students can make deeper connections within the content.
One question I have is how do you get administrators on board with spiralling if it isn’t something that the school has already adopted? I will be teaching at a new school in a new district this fall so I don’t want to rock the boat.

I try to spiral content through the use of warmups or morning work. We also have an online program where I can give students assignments tailored individually for them. Our program claims to spiral because we will have a unit focused on say multiplication , then one on measurement, then it goes back to multiplication but with bigger numbers. But it does not spiral in the way you have described in these videos.

I agree with the idea of spiraling and giving students continued exposure to concepts over time. However, I also feel like I’m one of those people who are tied to the idea of using units to organize material for my course (and maybe that’s just it – I need to feel a sense of organization in what I’m doing and teaching my students).
So I guess my question is, how do you commit to unblocking your content and still feeling like you are doing things in a somewhat organized manner?
Similarly, what do assessment cycles look like in this type of classroom? Weekly quizzes and cumulative exams at regular intervals? Although I may not completely shift my class to this style this year, I’m curious about how to make the shift for the future!! 🙂

I feel that my district does a good job with spiraling, as well as the curriculum that we use. I feel that it allows our students to practice, gain understanding, make connections and show growth. I’m excited to see how 4th grade will take concepts taught and 3rd and expand on the knowledge.

I am very lucky that in my district we implement Math RTI, Response To Intervention, everyday! This is an extra time that all students get extra work on what they need. Some do work with a teacher and some are independent.
In these groups we are able to spiral what our students need. We usually focus on a concept during each 6 week block. This allows us to spend time working on the topics and teaching to the students needs.
I am excited to put into practice what we have learned here into Math RTI as well as core.

This was great to listen to and I believe everyone in my math department should.
So when planning your tasks and spiraling, I have a few questions.
How do you know how many tasks you should plan for each standard? For example, with our Number Sense Standard there are two sections to cover where in our Equations Standard there are 7 sections. I do understand that everything can change as the year goes on as lessons are being conducted, but I am just trying to get a general sense of how determine all the lessons.
How do figure what order to do everything since you are interweaving all the concepts/standards?
Thanks

I have tried spiralling grade 9 math class before and it works really well with the intermediate curriculums. I really struggle with the idea of spiralling senior level math courses, specifically the preuniversity courses. Anyone tried spiralling 11th or 12th grade math courses?

I love this and definitely want to use it. It’s something I’ve used without actually realising but I’m glad to have back up for not following a textbook!
My only issue is timing, I find it hard to plan ahead enough to fit everything we need to cover into my term or year. I have groups right now that are all at different stages of this spiral idea (year 2s NZ) but feel that this means that my kids who are back at the beginning of the spiral will never reach where they need to be at the end of the year. There are obviously other things involved but, for me, I don’t want them to miss out but I also feel pushing them on would be building on sand without full understanding of beginning concepts.

I love this idea and think it will be helpful especially this year with some of the prior grade curriculum not being taught due to Covid19 school closures and remote learning.

Makes so much sense. And I can see how all learners can benefit from this. The strong student has the opportunity to be challenged with new topics more frequently to avoid becoming bored with a particular big idea. The notas strong student, will have multiple encounters with difficult concepts, but not in one dreadful and intimidating 2week block. And the time in between (spiraling) will help all learners have time to reflect.

I haven’t heard much about spiralling – maybe it’s not such an Australian thing, or maybe just because i’m not a Math specialist – but the research shown here seems pretty solid. I think we lean towards blocking because of that idea that it gives students a chance to build each day on the concepts learned the day before, but hearing about that “illusion of fluency” gives a strong counter argument to that. If I didn’t arrange lessons by blocking of concepts I’m not sure how I’d arrange them – everything would feel a bit piecemeal and like you are just jumping around? I’d love to know how Jon and Kyle plan a yearlong curriculum – how do you get a feeling of continuity? Also, we have been keeping students on the Autism Spectrum at the front of our planning recently and we are told that ASD students need to know what the learning is going to be about to fulfil their need for routine – how do balance that with a spiralling curriculum? Thanks!

Our most recent approaches to spiralling follow something more like a chunk of an idea which is how we plan our problem based units (https://learn.makemathmoments.com/tasks). Check those out for a feel of length. Usually about 5 days or so and then head off into a different unit and shift the concept/content.


We have started talking about spiraling at length in my PLC meetings lately. We use a problem solving process in in our district and we noticed that students were not doing very well on Free Response Questions on our state tests. We made a hypothesis that they just did not know how to approach the problems (i.e. reading, organizing info, etc.) so we implemented a strategy to help them do those things and did not see much in the way of improvement. It seemed that the students did well on the questions they had just learned but not on the ones form past units. Thus we started talking about spiraling. I also just listened to the Podcast episode about spiraling so I am really excited to figure out how to incorporate this into our curriculum. I am really excited to learn more in this unit!
The one question that always comes up with this is when we expect mastery of a particular topic. Many of my teachers have had experience with a spiraled curriculum and they felt like that piece was missing so I am curious to learn more.
 This reply was modified 8 months, 2 weeks ago by Kerri Brodie.

Awesome to hear that you and your team are working together to try to solve this common challenge!
When it comes to the mastery idea – most believe that happens through mass practice (ie: chunked together) however, it seems that the current approach isn’t truly helping students achieve mastery beyond a few weeks before it fades. So my push back for those concerned about how to build mastery is that the current mass practice approach isn’t working… so why not try spiralling? You can vary the chunks. Do a few days of a concept and then move on, but you must come back and come back often to these older concepts. That is how true mastery can be achieved.

I really like the idea of spiralling, and have dipped my toes into it with some of my classes. Unfortunately I get bogged down with the tracking of learning expectations. It is very overwhelming to try and track each expectation on a larger assessment, record them(sometimes there are 5 or 6 smaller expectaions) on a single assessment. One thing that has helped is assessing more often. I now run a show your understanding every Friday and it is only based on concepts covered in that week. Then there is the issue of reporting. Our current report card only allows for a single % for the course, and at the mid term this % can be very deceiving to parents and students. I do report a level of understanding for each concept on each assessment but many students continue to ask what their overall % in the course is at that moment. Clearly there is a need for a general shift in how we report and in the larger community on assessment of learning. There is too much focus on marks and not enough in learning.

I love the idea of spiraling, but I would need some kind of road map to start it for each particular course. And then I would need my school’s assessment policies to catch up with what all the research says 🙂

I am excited to learn how to spiral content, but it will be a challenge when I teach parttime credit recovery. I will definitely try to incorporate spiraling content as much as possible. Some questions:
How much info. Do you spiral? Is every target or standard we teach to be spiraled? Is the spiraling less effective if done by quarter? semester? yearly? several years in a row?

1). I think students greatly appreciate spiraling or at least revisiting concepts somehow. I recently asked students why they feel they don’t retain skills over time, fractions in particular. They essentially said: We did fraction at the beginning of 5th grade and didn’t see then again until some point in6th grade, so yeah…we forgot. It made sense to me. And as adults we’d be unlikely to expect people in any other situation to remember something they were forced to learn a year and hadn’t used since then.
2). I think that in addition to teaching using the block method, we miss opportunities to spiral, or at least revisit skills and concepts, when we try to keep new ideas “simple”. For example, when teaching a new unit on equations teachers often use only whole numbers because we’re worried that having rational numbers will confuse students and we won’t be able to tell if the issue is the numbers or their understanding of equations. But this is a great opportunity to revisit earlier concepts like fractions, decimals, or integers and for students to see them in another context, which might actually deepen their previous understanding.

I’ve heard of spiraling for math practice but not spiraling in teaching. It makes perfect sense and many of the math concepts overlap. I’m excited to go through my curriculum this summer and create a curriculum that is spiraled, that creates wonder and curiosity. I hope you have some ideas on how to take a typical curriculum and break it down.

I’m always amazed at how students shift their thinking so drastically when they’re inspired by curiosity.

I use Texas Tornado in 2nd grade to spiral information every day. It has 3 different formats and hits on topics we have covered throughout the year. I love it when it presents it a different way, because it makes students think about the questions and answers rather than falling into complacency.

I have done a little spiraling, but I definitely need to do more. I think trying to basically spiral the whole year will be an interesting transition for both me and my students, but I do believe it will bring about greater and deeper understanding. I look forward to trying it when we come back to school in a couple of months.

I completely agree with spiraling and I think it can be done as you move through classic textbook set ups if a teacher plans ahead. For example in Precalculus as we learn about different types of functions (linear, quadratic, exponential, logs, sinusoidal, rational, etc) I am spiraling the vocabulary of characteristics of functions, transformations, solving, and application to real world with each. There is new concepts added as the function changes but the mathematical ideas stay the same if looked at with function notation. An example is a vertical stretch or shrink being taught at a*f(x) and they notice and wonder about a and trial and error with a known quadratic from Algebra II. Then as f(x) becomes different equations the prior knowledge they have spirals back.

As a learning support teacher I greatly appreciate the idea of spiraling math content. The exciting aspect of this for me, is that I will be teaching the math intervention classes and this is exactly what my students need.
I like the idea of using tests to learn/practice retrieving information. I have a horrible brain freeze with testing…. I can’t imagine what my learning support students feel when they take a test.

I think spiraling is an absolute must. I love the visual of when to spiral. It is most effective when the information is almost forgotten.

There is no doubt that spiraling is a must in math. I have taught too long to not believe in it. I am just trying to figure out how to get teachers to do more of this because it is an expectation of district administration to implement our new math curriculums with fidelity. As the math specialist I can see the merit to what Kyle was saying but I have to go with what my boss wants. But that doesn’t mean I can’t challenge teachers to think about the order of what they teach.

Fidelity is an interesting education buzzword these days. Having alignment across grades is helpful and promotes educators collaborating to know what they all want students to achieve and ensure there is some consistency – however, often districts say “fidelity” and what they get is “follow textbook page by page” which isn’t necessarily a good thing.

Crazy to hear this but my district NEVER had an elementary curriculum that was consistently taught in all 4 elementary schools until last year. Teachers could teach whatever they wanted as long as students were taught the standards. The secondary schools taught from whatever book was their choice. One of the reasons I came out of retirement to be the math specialist/coach for K – 12 teachers was because of this idea of consistency across all schools! I tried to push for this a long time ago and was met with resistance! Now we have problem solving based curriculums at all levels and I couldn’t be happier about it. I am in this class to learn better ways to present those problems to students. And this class has given me just that. Thanks!

Fantastic to hear! The benefit of having one curriculum is consistency, but the challenge is trying to say incorporate a better option along the way if it is mandated. Glad you’re seeing the progress though! Enjoy!



I have only used spiraling in my warm ups, or bonus questions on assessments. I love the idea of using tasks to spiral concepts, but am feeling like although I believe in it, I am unsure how to make it work in the context of our district scope and sequence.
I’m very curious as to how you handle grading. It seems like you do standards based vs traditional letters. Is that true? If not, how do you handle the grading and documenting?

Spiralling is certainly a learn as you go experience. There is no one way that is right or wrong and the more you play with the idea, the better you’ll feel about it.
As for grading, you’ll need to check out the Assessment for Growth course as we unpack all of the details of standards based grading and how you might convert that to a number or letter near the end of your course or grading period.

Thank you. I have been listening to a number of your podcasts, including those with Tom on assessments. I am a small cog in a big machine and am trying to push my school to help make grading have more meaning. At a district level, it is engulfed in many layers of bureaucracy.



I just wish I could see an example of MY spiraled curriculum because I’m the worst at coming up with things for the first time I know I’ll be able to make it happen! I worry that my district will be upset that I don’t follow the prescribed pacing guide, but I think I’ll be able to sneak spiraling in rather than a public abandonment of my pacing guide. I’m wondering how much different this looks than scheduled “review days”?

This discussion makes me feel validated as I am currently teaching in a blocking, unitbyunit, way as mandated by the district that I teach in. I know that retention is not where I want it to be and the “illusion of fluency” is so true that weeks later students who mastered that unit may not remember how to do skills after not having daily lessons on that topic. I wonder how teachers can spiral effectively even when their district asks for all teachers to be teaching and assessing units at the same time. I think maybe spiralling would need to occur in warm ups only in this case, though spiraling the concepts would be more effective.

I have heard of spiraling mostly in the context of spiral review, such as for warmups or practice, but not in terms of spiraling the actual curriculum. It’s an interesting idea for sure, but it seems daunting to plan for. As we transition more to taskbased learning in my gradelevel math department for the first time, I think we will naturally see different concepts come up. We have already planned our units for the year, as we are supposed to follow a specific curriculum with those units and fill out a “curriculum map” that outlines each unit. It would be interesting to see what such a curriculum map could look like when planning to spiral.

For us the natural step after we planned our course around tasks was to mix up and reorder the tasks that have some overlap. This was the beginning of spiralling for us.


This explanation really caused conflict in my brain as our district had Everyday Math years ago and teachers complained that it never really taught anything fully. I was not ever at a grade level to have used it but am wondering now if they were not using it correctly or to its fullest purpose. You have made a VERY strong case for spiraling and I am conflicted as to how to begin my new year with a new curriculum that I am not really a fan of to begin with. It is definitely massed together by topics into Units of Study, which when done will be briefly sprinkled in on a few problems at the end of each module. I like the idea of sparking all the curiosity and need for learning but I guess what I struggle with most is how to know where to pick up at each level of spiral as you move through the full listing of standards and content to address/teach. Our Common Core standards feel like there is too much we are expected to do and to spread it out in tiny bits I am worried I may miss something. As much as I truly believe that this sounds like the way to present the material, I am worried about my ability to present everything in a way that will be thorough and in a quality manner all while trying to coach a brand new 7th grade math teacher at the same time who has not had the trainings I have or read the books that I have. Thoughts???

I started off with a low risk spiralling action, but spirally concepts in my minds on tasks. This year though I have full intention of going full out. I am using Marian Small’s Plan as a base. I was about to plan it all out myself but figured I would take inventing the wheel completely out of the picture for the first full time. I am hoping that as I go through this first full test of it, I will perhaps engage in my own reflect and even want to change topic orders up a bit based on my own feelings with the natural progression of the skills.

While I see the benefits of spiraling, it is difficult to do in isolation. Any teacher would need the support of the district, their admin and their fellow curriculum peers. Sometimes it is the peers who are the hardest to convince to try it. Additionally, I was thinking that someone else above talked about Everyday Math and we used to use that program. I wonder how long it will be before that idea comes back around in my district?
 This reply was modified 1 week, 2 days ago by Victoria Murphy.

We do some spiraling by doing “Skill Drills” with our students. They are a worksheet of 20 questions given out every other week that hits on topics that are already covered. However, I do think spiraling is best when it is done more organically–finding a way to fit in what students are currently working on to tie into what they already have learned. I try to do this as much as possible to show the connections.