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Frequently Asked Questions

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Who developed Think Math!?

Think Math! was developed by EDC (Education Development Center, Inc.) with support from an NSF (National Science Foundation) grant.

What is the NSF?

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency created by Congress in 1950 whose main focus is on research in science and mathematics. Funding for education in those fields is only a small part of the NSF’s budget, and most of that funding is for research in education. (Curriculum development, in fact, is not a main focus of the NSF.)

Regarding mathematics curricula, “NSF program” means the program received funding from the National Science Foundation. When the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) released their first national standards document in 1989, the NSF funded development of curricula that would implement those standards.

Think Math! is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF) under Grant No. ESI-0099093. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in these materials are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

Think Math! requires less professional development to implement than previous standards-based curricula. Think Math! also emphasizes computational fluency in addition to conceptual understanding.

What is EDC?

EDC is a not-for-profit organization whose domestic and international work in education and health spans from infancy to death. EDC’s work includes research, development, training, and policy in the fields of education and health. EDC is not a publisher, and has no commercial wing.

Think Math! was developed within EDC’s division of Mathematics, Learning, and Teaching, and received support from the NSF and from Harcourt School Publishers.

What is the overall philosophy of Think Math!?

Think Math! recognizes that all students are different and that they learn in many different ways. However, Think Math! also recognizes that children are problem solvers by nature. They are constantly—although without really being aware of it—generalizing their observations of the world around them to make sense of what’s going on and make predictions about consequences. Therefore, Think Math! materials honor what students can figure out, perhaps influenced by their backgrounds, ideas, or imaginations. Students will develop their own strategies for solving problems, and teachers can help put a name to those strategies, or if needed, bring them up as hints for students who might be stuck. As students encounter different kinds of problems, they can apply a technique they’ve used before to a new problem and begin to see the technique, or strategy separate from the context in which they first encountered it.

Think Math! emphasizes connections between topics, and promotes multiple approaches to topics. Think Math! avoids an overemphasis on language, encouraging students to “read” the mathematics in a problem by puzzling out what is missing. In this way and in others, Think Math! builds on students’ curiosity, using puzzles and surprise where it can.

What makes Think Math! unique (not just another NSF-supported program)?

Think Math! provides focused practice, which enhances conceptual understanding as it increases computational fluency. The curriculum allows students to get involved in solving real problems, figuring out what to do without first being told. Instruction is then used to provide good explanations of reliable techniques. The materials, and some teaching techniques recommended in the lesson plans, also reduce the number of words, using visual models to convey information instead. By puzzling out what’s missing, students can “read” the mathematics and figure out what to do without written directions.

Perhaps most unique, the program features embedded professional development for teachers both in understanding the mathematics content at a deeper level and in suggested teaching techniques. Professional development is located in a feature of many lessons titled About the Math, and in thoughtful explanations throughout the teacher’s guide.

Click here for more things that distiguish Think Math! from other K-5 curricula.

How will Think Math! help students do well on their state’s assessment?

Think Math! was developed in accordance with the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) standards, as well as the standards of a variety of states, such as Texas, New York, North Carolina, Florida, California, Massachusetts, and Illinois. Therefore, the program is designed to develop mathematical competence compatible with most frameworks and tests.

How does Think Math! balance skill practice with development of conceptual understanding?

Think Math! provides rich environments for children and teachers to explore that have more in them than meets the eye. There are opportunities for problem solving embedded in what may look to someone like a straight practice sheet, and lots of computational practice embedded in what may look to someone like a free exploration.

Many of the classroom activities ask students to experiment, ask questions, and draw conclusions, but students are also expected to practice computation and to gain fluency. Practice is motivated by activities that are fun and invoke students’ curiosity, but that can’t be completed without that computational ability.

How does Think Math! meet the needs of a diverse community of students?

Think Math! was written for and tested with all kinds of students: high-achievers, low-achievers, confident, timid, English-language learners, and so on. As a set of materials to support good teaching, it supports teaching all of these children quite well.


Think Math! materials are designed to have a “low threshold” and a “high ceiling.” In other words, students can approach any Think Math! activity from where they are at the moment and still succeed, learn, and be challenged. Students are encourages to use many approaches to the same problem and to share their techniques and questions with each other, creating an environment that supports a variety of learning styles.


Furthermore, Think Math! provides a variety of suggested teaching techniques to accommodate and honor a wide variety of teaching styles. The guide materials are not scripted or prescriptive, and encourage teachers to use the particular techniques that resonate with them and their students.

How is Think Math! research-based?

There are three basic types of research that can be used with curriculum projects: background research, formative research, and summative research.

For background research, Think Math! is designed around a judicious use of the research on best practices in mathematics education, to date. In addition, each grade has undergone two years of classroom testing (formative research), with daily feedback from teachers, frequent observations of classrooms using the materials, and extensive interviews with the teachers.

Summative research, such as longitudinal studies, is only possible when the materials are in wide use.

How does Think Math! support teachers and parents?

To accommodate and honor a wide variety of teaching styles, the guide materials are not scripted or prescriptive. Still, professional development in both deeper mathematics and in pedagogical strategies is available to teachers throughout the materials and within a feature titled “About the Math.” Planning charts at the beginning of each chapter and each lesson help teachers place the content within a broader context, facilitating connection-making for them and their students.

In order to embrace parents as learning partners, the program provides a parent letter with each chapter in the primary grades. These letters keep parents abreast of what their children are learning, explaining new strategies or models that might be unfamiliar to them. Also, practice pages (which are intended to go home with students) include notes to parents explaining the task of each page.

How is assessment handled in Think Math!?

Think Math! provides teachers with both formal and informal assessment opportunities. For formal assessment, the program includes assessment pages at the end of each chapter (similar in format to those used throughout the chapter), as well as an additional multiple-choice assessment page in the Assessment Guide. Informal assessment opportunities are pointed out throughout the chapter and include hands-on, individual problem solving, as well as group discussions, that can give teachers instant feedback to guide their teaching. A section titled, “Opportunities for Ongoing Assessment” suggests ways that teachers can use what they observe to informally assess their students’ understanding. A daily Skills Practice and Review activity also allows teachers to informally assess their students.