Make Math Moments Academy › Forums › MiniCourse Reflections › Spiralling Math Class › What Is Spiralling Math Class and Why Should I Do It? – Discussion

What Is Spiralling Math Class and Why Should I Do It? – Discussion
Posted by Kyle Pearce on December 7, 2019 at 6:53 amWhat was your big take away from this particular lesson?
What is something you are still wondering?
Share your thinking below.
Merrillee Reboullet replied 5 months, 4 weeks ago 32 Members · 43 Replies 
43 Replies

I’m still teaching in units. I know that spiralling is best. I know need to know how to plan the rest of my year based on spiralling.

My school PLC plans and organizes with units/blocks. All workbooks and lessons are set by units/blocks AND my student notes are organized the same way (and have been that way for years). I know spiraling is a great practice, but I also know that this means I might be doing planning on my own (for a while). Change is scary…and overwhelming….but I’m ready to move forward.

Totally hear you, @KarenBigham! This can be extremely scary at first and, to be honest, I think you should navigate slowly. I think spiralling a week (or so) at a time can be a great first step. Don’t stray too far away from your comfort zone at first… see how it goes. We’d love to hear how things go if you do try…


If we’re teaching so students will actually learn and retain information, spiraling is a key factor. I am wondering how to make this a reality in classrooms.

Our PLC plans with the unit or chapters in mind, however, this concept of using tests to study instead of just studying for the test intrigues me. I would love to implement this. Ready to try new things!

Big Takeaway is watching the learning curve vs. forgetting curve and why we are still teaching math in units. Several years ago we had a spiralling curriculum and the students did so much better at retaining math concepts. Looking forward to learning on how I can use more spiralling into math class.

I love this idea…I am still teaching in blocks and I see all the time that students know “the stuff” during the unit, but then can’t recall it if it comes back later in the year. I’ve tried to keep some basics fresh in their minds using Daily Math (each day they complete 5 questions from a strand), but I fear this is not enough.

I think that I have been in a bit of a bubble. I have been teaching for 26 years and we have always said…spiraling already happens in math. Example…fractions – taught in grades 3 and 4 – multiply them in grade 5 – divide them in grade 6….but that isn’t spiraling. I also have colleagues that are not open to change and so, this is going to be a big step and a bit lonely for me when I begin this. I do think it is important. I think it is what I have been looking for for many years. I have begrudgingly begin grade 6 curriculum with operations — of whole numbers, fractions and decimals. Truthfully, I hate it. It is BORING! and the kids don’t seem to retain it, just like in the video. But, if next year, I take a different approach and tie it into the other strands and give it some meaning, they will probably retain it better and I will begin to love the beginning of the year curriculum better, because I LOVE the rest of the year with geometry, data, ratios/percents, and expressions and equations. Can’t wait to get started!

I agree that teaching operations is so boring and I believe part of the reason is that we do so much algorithm work. I like your ideas for starting off your classes next year.


My big take away was the importance of spiraling math classes. Putting that curriculum together will be a task. It should be happening because it makes so much more sense than teaching by units.

I agree. Based on the introduction video, spiralling makes so much sense, but I think that with resources prepared by chunking, it is more accessible to teach with chunks. I think that by taking this course and looking more specifically for spiralling resources will help me in my long range planning – to actually implement spiralling in my teaching practice.


I like the idea of spacing practice to the point that just as students are about to forget it, it is strategically brought back at a practice in recall. I feel like so often we teach this thing, check it off the list and move on with the attitude of “Well, I taught it!”. I wonder how many revisits an average student needs to truly learn something deeply with adequate retention? How is that exponentially different for students with learning gaps or deficits?

Biggest take away: Why are we still teaching units when spiraling has better benefits.
I am wondering why the “experts” still create units instead of a spiraled curriculum.

Great wonders!
I think the hardest part is finding the balance between enough of a “chunk” to make connections without being “too much” of a chunk to allow students to depend too much on familiarity. 
I agree with your observation we still see units created by the experts as opposed to a spiraled curriculum. I have seen curriculum with “spiraling” built in but it is not creating a deeper understanding. It really just appears as a practice of algorithms.


I’m ready to learn how to spiral and have resources to help. If students don’t use it, they will loose it.

I have teacher colleagues who spiral their Math concepts (very few) and have always been curious about doing it. My big take away is this strategy seems to be a more effective way to help students get to a deeper level of conceptual understanding. I love the idea of continually revisiting concepts but digging deeper each time.
I am excited to learn more about how to do it in practice.

I have always talked about spiralling, and I have tried to do it, but I know that I am about to have shift in thinking when I am finished with this course.

My big takeaway was that I am chunking, and definitely not spiraling. I’m curious how this would long in a long range plan, and how a week plan would look. I’m ready to learn how to begin to plan and implement spiral learning in math class.

I seem to default to big chunks and only “spiral” on a certain day of the week. The research you site shows that truly spiralling is a much more successful approach if we want students to retain their learning. So how do I do a MUCH better job than I currently do?

Have been looking at the cognitive psychology areas of spacing, interleaving and retrieval practice. Loved how this explained the application of this to mathematics curriculum.

I think it’s easier to teach in blocks, but it’s not as effective. Spiraling works better for students and that should be the only reason we do it. I’m working on spiraling two math courses (together!). Fun times!

I love the idea of spiraling, but am curious (as others have already mentioned) if including spiraled math practice questions in daily warm ups, or pulling math talk prompts from previous topics is “enough.”

Great reflections coming out in this thread!
I think when it comes to many ideas including spiralling, it is easy to put too much pressure on ourselves. I’d say go with your gut and do what you can, but don’t try measuring up to a certain “level”. Some may choose to simply spiral assessments and bring back old concepts as needed while others might run their program in a spiralled way. There is no right way! 🙂

My biggest take away is that I understand that spiralling is necessary. I will need to figure out what is the best method, and in what order to use spiralling. I am excited to start this, but I also have some questions on how to accomplish this.

All very common reflections and worries.
Just keep in mind that you don’t have to “overdo” it.
For example, I’m now pretty happy to stick in an “area” for a week and sometimes a little longer before spiralling off to another concept. See our Tasks area of the Academy for examples of what I mean.
We are all here on this journey with you… never fear!


I really like this idea, at this moment I would not know how to go about it. I certainly am committed though to make the change. Currently teaching Pythagorean Theory and thinking to myself how I would start shallow with this concept and then gradually deepen over the course of the school year. Great video.

I think starting shallow would be to only work the theorem with triangles. Then later on, it would be brought back with finding the measure of the slanted height or height in 3D shapes (cone, cylinder, pyramides) or a diagonal in a rectangular prism or cube. Just a thought…

Love these ideas!
Sometimes a strategy can be to do some exploration, but not “finish” or simply to come back for a day of “refresher” exploration later in the year. It makes problem based lessons such a great fit!



As a former longtime music teacher, spiraling was the only way I knew how to teach. Imagine a music class unit where the group practices only one piece for a set number of days, expects to perfect it, and then moves on. Unfortunately, when I began in the Math classroom I felt institutional pressure to become “a real teacher” by adhering to the block model. However, recently I have begun organizing my lessons in a way similar to how I organized my music rehearsal, with an eye on the longterm goal, not just the here and now. I plan on going deeper into spiraling equipped with the information from this course.

What a blessing to have had the experience to know, understand and implement spaced interleaving via teaching music. I often reflect on sports as another scenario where interleaving is so obviously the better way to go. You never do a full practice of one drill only… while you might have a bigger focus on one part of the game, you tend to cycle in various aspects from different parts of the game throughout a practice. Glad that you’re seeing how mathematics should also have some form or element of spiralling to it.


Research shows that interleaving topics results in deeper and long lasting learning. This is so powerful. I am finishing my student teaching and am seeing the learning loss from prior units. I can’t wait to learn how to plan with spiralling to be more effective for my students!

Agreed! Keep on digging and let us know how it goes!


I can definitely see how helpful it would be to have a partner…I started the process of organizing my learning goals into categories or big ideas. I have more questions than answers at this point but I am going to keep working at it. This makes such intuitive sense but it is a daunting trying to see your year so granularly and as an overview at the same time. That said, I love this side of teaching. The planning, organizing, building my own understanding etc… The payout for the effort is huge and gets me excited about teaching.

Glad you’re seeing the benefits AND understanding some of the challenges. It certainly can be daunting, but the more you think and plan out the possibilities, the better you will understand your curriculum and the better you will be when delivering. So worth it!


As a teacher from Ontario (recently graduated), I had the opportunity to take the Math Part 1 AQ where we often talked about big ideas in mathematics. Following this, I continue to wonder how I can best incorporate best practices such as spiralling in mathematics to better suit the needs of students.

Fantastic. What are your thoughts overall? Yay? Nay? Any style you’re liking more than another?


Teacher I don’t remember how to convert m to mm or I don’t remember Pythagoras, or I can’t remember what I have to do with this “x” 2x 3 =9, can I mixt number 2 with number 3?, or Teacher can I do percents with the calculator?
I will definitely try to spiral my classes next year.
So common for it to seem like we “did nothing” this year when we focus too much on one concept and then move on without spiralling back.


I learned about the forgetting curve in AVID and they use ways to revisit student’s notes to combat this. For the last 8 years I have been creating my own curriculum from the standards or benchmarks. I teach students trying to graduate high school and that are in need of a passing score on the state math test. The textbook for this course starts with multistep equations and moves quickly into quadratics. My students can barely do a twostep equation and forget inequalities.
So my big takeaway from this video is to revisit the concepts over and over in small incremental steps. I am excited to see learn how to use the Tasks from this website to help my struggling students and spiral the lessons.

My biggest wonder is what am I going to do to ensure that spiraling actually takes place in my classroom.

The idea of spiralling is super important. Students so often forget from one blocked sequence of instruction in one year to the next. It is not as easy as it sounds, in terms of planning and revisiting as I learned last year trying to implement this technique. So I am very interested to see how I can ensure I actually revisit concepts multiple times in the year!