Mathspace Virginia: Tailor-made for you

How does the Mathspace approach to curriculum alignment in Virginia result in a better fit?

Mathspace Virginia: Tailor-made for you

It's your wedding day. First of all, congratulations!! Second of all, let me compliment you on your outfit.

That dress (or tuxedo) you're wearing was clearly made just for you.

Why is this relevant, you ask? I'm not getting married, you say.

Maybe not, but you might be getting ready to commit to a new math curriculum for the next seven years, which is a long time. And just like choosing a spouse, choosing the right resource for your students is important.

I have worn a tuxedo once in my life: at my wedding. I rented an off-the-rack tuxedo with a few minor alterations to improve the fit. It did the job, even if there were a couple of pictures where it looked like I was wearing an ankle monitor and a couple of others where it looked like my shin had been violently broken and was pointing off at a 45-degree angle.

All the same, I don't have any regrets. The outfit was for one day only (and let's be honest, I was never going to be the star of the show).

If I had a job that required me to wear a tux every day, though, it would be a different story. I would want something that fit me perfectly, made for me and no one else.

Why is this relevant? Well, many school divisions in Virginia are considering the core resources they will use in mathematics. Every day. For the next seven years. That's quite the commitment.

And yet, from my conversations with teachers and division leaders from across the state, many folks feel like they have to compromise on quality and choose a curriculum that is "off the rack" rather than something tailor-made. Especially when it comes to one factor: Alignment with the Virginia SOLs.

What Alignment Often Looks Like in Virginia

While many textbooks and resources are "aligned with the SOLs," educators I've spoken with have expressed that these resources are like a wolf in sheep's clothing. It might say SOLs on the front, but when you dig deeper, the alignment clearly belongs to a different set of standards.

For some publishers, creating a textbook aligned to a specific set of standards like the SOLs looks like this.

  1. Start with an existing textbook written for and aligned with a different set of curriculum standards in a different state or territory.
  2. For each lesson in the textbook, find the closest SOL or SOLs to that topic and map that lesson to the SOL.
  3. If any lessons don't relate to any SOL, drop them from the textbook and re-number the rest of the chapter.
  4. See if their existing content is missing any SOLs.
  5. If so, write some new lessons specifically targeting those SOLs.
    1. If you're lucky, those will be inserted in the right place in the textbook.
    2. If not, all these new lessons will be stuck on at the end of the book.

It's like buying a tuxedo off the rack and then getting a few minor alterations made. It'll do the job, but the fit isn't quite what you'd like - - and when you wear it every day, even the smallest issues will start to wear on you.

With a curriculum like this, teachers have to work harder to understand the broader narrative of the standards and the intricacies of how they are connected.

Worse still, students might not be prepared for the SOL tests they'll write at the end of the year because they haven't focused on the right content for Virginia.

At Mathspace, we aim to do something different.

What Curriculum Alignment Looks Like at Mathspace

At Mathspace, we want to be that highly customized tuxedo. We start by taking all your measurements, then take a fresh piece of fabric and tailor it directly to size.

Let's explore what that process looks like:

  1. Unpacking the standards: To begin, our curriculum team analyzes every single SOL across multiple grade levels and domains, breaking the standard into its fundamental components. They identify key concepts, skills and knowledge that students will develop and make connections between each SOL, the SOLs that form its foundation and those that come in the future.
  2. Leveraging Backwards Design: The Mathspace team starts with the end in mind when creating our curriculum. This approach allows us to focus on the desired learning outcomes and tailor the educational journey to achieve those results. By starting with end-of-unit Topic Assessments aligned to the relevant SOLs for the unit, we have a clear reference point that allows us to see.
  3. Building the units: Since we've started with the SOLs, our units are constructed especially for Virginia. The order in which we introduced each concept was deliberately decided based on the backward design of our assessments, as well as the overall structure of the standards. For example, for all of our 8th grade content, we should be able to rely on some level of prior knowledge of the 7th grade SOLs, whereas a curriculum built for another market might not have the same pre-requisite standards.
  4. SOL-style questions: We integrate SOL-style questions directly into our assessments and worksheets to ensure students are well-prepared for Virginia's standardized tests. By embedding these questions throughout our materials, we provide students with regular practice in the format and types of questions they will encounter on the SOL exams. The goal is not only to familiarize students with the test structure and question style unique to Virginia, but also to reinforce their understanding of the content in alignment with the state standards.
  5. Inter-relationship between standards: Math concepts shouldn't be a series of independent silos. Rather, students should be able to connect concepts and skills. Because we have started from the SOLs, the Mathspace team is aware of what comes next and what comes before, specifically in Virginia. Mathspace's teacher guides make direct reference to foundational standards and future connections, as well as referencing the Mathematical Process Goals, for each and every subtopic.

Choosing the right curriculum is like finding the perfect outfit you will wear every day—it must fit just right, be tailored to your specific needs, and make you feel confident and prepared. At Mathspace, we understand the importance of a curriculum that is not just "off the rack" but crafted to meet the unique requirements of Virginia's educational standards.

Our commitment to aligning with the Virginia SOLs is reflected in every step of our process, from unpacking the standards to integrating SOL-style questions, ensuring that every lesson builds on the previous one in a coherent and logical sequence. This careful alignment means that teachers can focus on teaching, knowing their students are learning what they need to succeed.

As school divisions across Virginia consider the resources they will use for the next seven years, we invite you to experience the difference a tailored curriculum can make. With Mathspace, you're not just choosing a textbook but committing to a partner dedicated to your students' success. Let's build the future of math education in Virginia together.

To learn more head to the Virginia-dedicated page of the Mathspace website here: