CMP Classroom Observation Guide

  This is not a teacher evaluation tool. It is a professional development tool to provoke conversation around implementing CMP.

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The intent of the CMP Classroom Observation Guide: Working Together to Support Teacher and Student Learning is to inspire rich conversations among teachers, coaches, and administrators around the teaching and learning of mathematics in a productive classroom environment. The rating scale on the guide is not meant as a way to evaluate teachers; rather, it is provided as a tool for assessing implementation.

The length may inhibit using the complete document for one classroom observation. Instead, we intend that teachers and leaders may use sections of the guide to discuss, analyze, and reflect on classrooms.

  • Teachers may choose one section to focus a lesson or an observation.
  • Leaders may choose one section to guide a discussion of a classroom.
  • The guide can be used as an observation instrument in a live or filmed classroom.
  • Some teachers have used the guide alone or in groups to discuss, plan, or reflect on lessons.
  • The guide may be used to encourage cross discipline conversations around student engagement in the content.
  • Discussion about scoring levels in the guide may provoke interesting implementation conversations about what it means to “see a Level 3” in a certain category.

You will find creative ways to use the guide as you consider the benefits of having an observation instrument to look at CMP lessons.


The CMP Classroom Observation Guide is intended to provide a comprehensive look at a CMP classroom. It is not a teacher evaluation tool. It is a professional development tool to provoke conversation around implementing CMP.

To analyze what and how much is being learned, one must focus on the learner. Many classroom observation protocols focus on the teacher. While teachers play a crucial role in student success in the classroom, students cannot learn without being engaged. It is the student engagement with mathematics that enhances learning. Paying attention to what the student is doing in the classroom allows for some assessment of the learning potential of a lesson as it is being enacted. In an observation of an effective classroom implementing CMP, it is crucial to observe student behaviors. Since effective teachers have unique styles for producing rich classroom environments, it is also important to examine what the teacher does to create such an environment. We should attend to what the teacher is doing to enable or support the students as they learn. Moving the mathematical learning forward should always be the main focus.

Some parts of the guide show a level rating of 3, 2, or 1. These are listed as a possible rating option to provoke conversation about the classroom. Other parts of the guide are arranged around the CMP instructional model of Launch, Explore, and Summarize. These sections allow for considering what is happening, or has happened, in a classroom during the Launch, Explore, and Summarize.


The CMP Classroom Observation Guide: Working Together to Support Teacher and Student Learning is designed as a guide for facilitating discussions between teachers and others, such as co-teachers, coaches, administrators, and appropriate support personnel. As teachers and their colleagues work to effectively implement Connected Mathematics, the guide can provide a glimpse into the learning potential in a classroom. It provides a general overview of aspects of the classroom on which to concentrate to achieve fidelity of implementation of CMP.

CMP is a problem-centered curriculum, which naturally promotes an inquiry-based teaching-learning classroom environment. A CMP classroom is one in which the Mathematical Practices in the Common Core State Standards come alive as students pursue solutions to tasks. As students engage with these tasks, they build on prior understandings to make conjectures, look for patterns, select appropriate representations, develop strategies, evaluate, refine their conjectures and strategies, and reflect on their understandings that emerge from the task. (A Problem Centered Curriculum).

Overarching Goal of CMP

The overarching goal of CMP is to help students and teachers develop mathematical knowledge, understanding, and skill along with an awareness of and appreciation for the rich connections among mathematical strands and between mathematics and other disciplines. The CMP curriculum development has been guided by our single mathematical standard:

All students should be able to reason and communicate proficiently in mathematics. They should have knowledge of and skill in the use of the vocabulary, forms of representation, materials, tools, techniques, and intellectual methods of the discipline of mathematics, including the ability to define and solve problems with reason, insight, inventiveness, and technical proficiency. (p. 4, A Guide to Connected Mathematics3)

To accomplish this goal, the fundamental design of the CMP program reflects the essential features of effective teaching and learning of mathematics. These features include, a focus on important mathematical ideas and the connections among them, teaching through student-centered exploration of mathematically rich problems, and using continuous assessment to inform instruction. These features allow the learner to take ownership of the learning through a classroom rich in student interaction and discourse. Implementing a coherent student-centered investigation of mathematics presents a challenge to teachers. Teachers need support and guidance when working to engage and sustain high-level thinking with diverse groups of students.

The CMP Classroom Observation Guide was adapted from the “How Do You Know It When You See It?” Observation Guide created by Yvonne Grant, Glenda Lappan, Elizabeth Phillips, Susan Friel, and Sandra Wilcox (2003) as part of the ShowMe Center, an NSF funded project.

Materials and References

Materials and references that were read to revise the original observation guide include:

  • Jackson, K., Garrison, A., Gibbons, L., Shahan, E., Wilson, J. (2013). Exploring relationships between setting up complex tasks and opportunities to learn in concluding whole-class discussions in middle-grades mathematics instruction. Journal for Research in Mathematics Education, 44(4), 646-682.
  • Jackson, K. J., Shahan, E. C., Gibbons, L. K., & Cobb, P. (2012). Launching complex tasks. Mathematics Teaching in the Middle School, 18(1), 24-29.
  • Baldinger, E., & Louie, N. TRU Math Conversation Guide: A tool for teacher learning and growth. Berkeley, CA & E. Lansing, MI: Graduate School of Education, University of California, Berkeley & College of Education, Michigan State University. 
  • Chapin, S. H., O'Connor, M. C., & Anderson, N. C. (2003). Classroom discussions: Using math talk to help students learn, grades 1-6. Sausalito, CA: Math Solutions Publications.
  • Margaret S. Smith and May Kay Stein, Five Practices for Orchestrating Productive Mathematics Discussions. NCTM. 2011