About the OER SFUSD Elementary Math Core Curriculum


With California's 2010 adoption of the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics, SFUSD saw an opportunity to redefine what it meant to be a mathematically smart student. The Standards for Mathematical Practice highlighted reasoning, precision, and mathematical patterning, and also placed a high premium on behaviors such as constructing viable arguments and critiquing the reasoning of others. However, there was not yet a K-5 curriculum available that was sufficiently aligned to the new content or practice standards. So, in 2012, the SFUSD math department began creating a Math Core Curriculum. 

"OER" is an acronym for "Open educational resources." The SFUSD Elementary Math Core Curriculum, Grades PK–5, is available to the public under the Creative Commons Attribution license (CC BY) that permits anyone to copy, revise, remix, and distribute the work, as long as SFUSD is credited for the original creation. Please see the ACCESS page for more information.

This page is intended to answer the most frequently asked questions about our curriculum and how to use it.

Q - What is the history of the development of the SFUSD Math Core Curriculum?
The SFUSD Math Department worked with many partners to create a template for the Math Core Curriculum, and to select a scope and sequence aligned to the Common Core. These partners included organizations such as the Strategic Education Research Partnership (SERP), through which we partnered with CCSS author Phil Daro and Bay Area Mathematics Project (BAMP) Director Harold Asturias; we also partnered with the Silicon Valley Mathematics Initiative (SVMI), and its Executive Director David Foster. We collaborated closely with SFUSD departments such as Multilingual Pathways and the Office of Achievement and Assessment. Based on this collaboration, the SFUSD Math Department determined that a math curriculum that put student discourse in the forefront needed to include a commitment to meaningful group work involving rich math tasks. This unit design guides all the SFUSD Math Core curriculum from kindergarten through high school algebra.

Over the course of 2 years, 120 teacher gathers regularly to study the standards and develop units of study based on existing materials and new ones created around the country. 180 additional teachers piloted these units and gave feedback. The development of the SFUSD Math Core Curriculum was conceived with a cycle of improvement based on teacher feedback built in. After 6 years of iterative improvement, we released the curriculum under a Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY) so that others could benefit from it and improve upon it. We realized then as we do now that many math colleagues in CA and across the country have not had sufficient resources to engage in such a large project; much of our early work was funded by the S.D. Bechtel Jr. Foundation and by local San Francisco taxpayers through the Public Education Enrichment Fund (PEEF).

Q - What are some of the key features of the SFUSD Math Curriculum?​


A unit starts with an entry task and lesson series 1, then apprentice task and lesson series 2, an expert task and lesson series 3, concluding with a milestone task.

Q - How long is a typical lesson?  Are the math talks included in the timing? 
Elementary lessons are meant to be about 60 minutes a day. In addition, teachers plan Math Talks 2 - 3x/week. The Math Talks built into daily lessons and included in the bank are meant as suggestions. Teachers adjust their math talks to fit the needs of their students.

Q - Do you have suggestions for differentiation? 
Our units are written for heterogeneous classrooms and  collaborative group work. The emphasis is on Tier 1 instruction. Tasks have multiple entry points and are meant to provide every student with access and rigor. 

There are a variety of built-in ways to provide differentiated instruction, including Math Talks, Daily Routines, and Learning Stations. There are suggestions for Universal Access given with each lesson, frequent suggestions for re-engagement, and multilingual language support. Extension suggestions are provided for most lessons and tasks. We are currently engaged in a two-year period of internal work with SFUSD teachers to formalize our Tier 2 recommendations. Watch this space for more information coming soon.

Q - Do you have a uniform data collection system for assessment?
We have twice yearly district assessments. These are the Milestone tasks that coincide with our reporting periods.

Q - What kind of support is there for teachers?
We believe that the key to change is regular grade level collaboration at the school site. Our professional support is built around collaborative learning, usually site-based. All of our Professional Development includes doing math together and developing understanding of math content via progressions. Each of our 72 elementary schools has a math leadership team, who are invited to engage in periodic central meetings with leaders from other sites; usually the leadership team is one teacher from PK - 2, one teacher from 3 - 5, and one out of classroom teacher such as a special educator or site-based coach. We also invite new teachers and special educators into central release days twice per year, and invite all educators into a conversation through grade level Google Classrooms (which are open only to SFUSD teachers). All elementary educators have access to various digital resources as well, including online professional modules. In terms of direct support of schools, we have 5 elementary math content specialists who support our 72 elementary and PK - 8 schools; their focus is on supporting new teachers and working with leadership teams at our highest needs schools, with each working more intensely at 2 - 3 schools only. District-wide, we have focused our greatest intensity of mathematics support is in the middle grades, 6th - 8th.

SFUSD has a variety of initiatives that work hand in hand with the above to support teachers at every level. These include:

  • Complex Instruction (weebly link): A coherent program of pedagogical strategies grounded in the sociological research of Elizabeth Cohen and her colleagues (Cohen & Lotan, 1997; Cohen, 1994), CI aims to increase participation and learning for every child.
  • Problem Solving Cycle weebly link: The Problem-Solving Cycle (PSC) model of mathematics professional development encourages teachers to become part of a collaborative and supportive learning community. As they participate in the PSC, teachers think deeply about both mathematics content and instruction, and they explore their instructional practices with their colleagues through the use of video and other classroom artifacts. We partner with Stanford's Center to Support Excellence in Teaching (CSET), and professors Hilda Borko and Janet Carlson on this project.
  • Lesson Study: Lesson Study is an inquiry cycle that supports teachers to experiment, observe and improve. Most of our Lesson Study Schools use Teaching Through Problem-Solving. This partnership includes SFUSD's Office of Professional Learning and Leadership, as well as a grant with Mills College that partners us with Catherine Lewis and the University of Illinois' Akihiko Takahashi.

Q - What might piloting / PD look like for districts who are thinking of using our curriculum?
We recommend that a group of teachers pilot our curriculum as a team. 

We have some PD modules on our website that will give you an idea of the type of PD we do with our teachers: sfusdmath.org/professional-learning.html (weebly link)

Q - What other recommendations do you have for professional development?
We recommend readings from NCTM’s Principles to Action as well as the 5 Practices for Orchestrating Productive Mathematics Discussion (by Margaret Smith and Mary Kay Stein)

In addition, we recommend these resources:

​Q - What materials do teachers get that is already prepared? 
We work with a local printer to get materials to classrooms. All teachers receive the teacher pages, and students receive both classwork and homework booklets. Many teachers also use notebooks and access resources digitally. Please contact us if you'd like to know more about printing the curriculum.

Q - Does SFUSD provide Professional Development for using the math curriculum?
SFUSD does not offer any PD or support for implementation. Our department is focused on the work of implementation in our own district. However, we do share some ideas and resources for professional development. You can find those here:  
We are also happy to answer questions as our time allows.

Q - Are there answer guides for the student pages or homework?
We haven’t yet had the capacity or funding to make answer guides for all student pages. We did include answer guides for all Milestone Tasks and for any task or lesson that we felt might be confusing. 

This page was last updated on October 21, 2022