By Steven Prater and Kathleen Pfannenstiel
November 29, 2022

High-quality core math instruction is the foundation of a successful multilevel prevention system within a multi-tiered system of supports framework. As noted in Infusing EBPs to Improve Middle School Math Instruction, when schools and teachers fail to focus on delivering high-quality core instruction, delivering supplemental math support is not enough to address the needs of middle school students with math difficulty. Developing high-quality middle school math instruction starts with good preparation. Teachers who take the time to plan the math vocabulary, activities, questions, and means to assess student learning, prior to the lesson being taught, are more prepared to help their students be successful. When teachers plan, the lesson leads to proactively meeting student needs, rather than being reactive during the lesson. Alas, planning takes time and knowledge of evidence-based practices (EBPs) and instructional strategies to implement effective core instruction.

Problems in Current Lesson Plans

In one study (Opfer et al., 2016), 98% of secondary teachers said that they use materials “I developed and/or selected myself.” Secondary teachers reported using, their state’s department of education website, Pinterest, Khan Academy, and Teachers Pay Teachers to find lessons. The problem is not in finding lesson plans from various sites; rather, it is the teacher’s ability to review and determine if the lessons contain EBPs, are aligned to college and career readiness standards, and meet the needs of various students. In the Opfer et al. (2016) study, lessons were reviewed for quality, and it was found that websites such as Teachers Pay Teachers and Pinterest do not lead to high-quality lesson plans, even though 44% of teachers felt that materials from these websites offered opportunities to engage students in the use of mathematical language and symbols appropriately “to a great extent.” Yet, Bush and colleagues (2021) astutely point out “…. this also unfortunately means that 56 percent of teachers did not report using materials that use symbols and language appropriately, and about half of the teachers did not agree that they teach grade-level major mathematics topics addressed by state standards in a coherent way ‘to a great extent’” (p. 9). These findings speak to the importance of teachers increasing their own knowledge of EBPs as well as instructional practices to support varying student needs through scaffolds while maintaining high expectations and alignment to college and career readiness standards.

Evidence-Based Lesson Plans: Math Project

An Office of Special Education Programs-funded project, Teacher Instructional Practices for Algebraic Readiness (TIPS4AR), collaborated with middle school teachers across the United States to increase their understanding of high-quality EBPs. The lesson plans were created as part of a book and lesson study (see Infusing EBPs to Improve Middle School Math Instruction) across three cohorts of teachers, instructional math coaches, district math representatives, and speech and language pathologists. Key EBPs for math instruction were identified in The Math Pact, including using correct and consistent math vocabulary, precise math notation, multiple representations, and building math generalizations, instead of teaching tricks, shortcuts, or rules that will quickly or in future grades no longer promote conceptual understanding. These practices were coupled with high-leverage practices (HLPs) for the design and delivery of instruction to meet the needs of all students, specifically students who struggle. These high-leverage instructional practices include the use of explicit instruction (HLP 16), providing scaffolded supports (HLP 15), using strategies to promote active student engagement (HLP 18), and using student assessment data to analyze instructional practices and make necessary adjustments that lead to improved student outcomes (HLP 6). With these EBPs and HLPs in mind, teachers developed lessons using a common template that encouraged teachers to think about and indicate how they would identify their lesson objectives, connect their warm-up activities to prerequisites or skills that have yet to be mastered, incorporate modeling and thinking aloud, involve interactive practice, include independent practice, incorporate practices to support math discourse, and assess student understanding.

To ensure that lesson plans were of high quality, project staff with extensive knowledge of math EBPs and classroom experience reviewed the lessons using a rubric. The rubric, which can easily be used by general and special education teachers, evaluated the lesson plans for EBPs and high-leverage instructional practices. This rubric can provide teachers with an initial quality check of math lessons/materials to verify that EBPs are evident. Any lessons scoring below 85% were edited by math and special educators and project staff to ensure they met the criteria in the rubric and to include additional information to verify that lessons were clear and could easily be implemented in middle school math classrooms.

Example Lesson Plans

A total of 30 high-quality lesson plans for middle school teachers were created. The lessons can be taught in core math classes as well as special education classrooms. The lessons include the following grade levels and topics:

5th-Grade Lesson

6th-Grade Lessons

7th-Grade Lessons

8th-Grade Lessons


This content was produced under U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs, Award No. H326M17002. The views expressed herein do not necessarily represent the positions or polices of the U.S. Department of Education. No official endorsement by the U.S. Department of Education of any product, commodity, service, or enterprise mentioned in this website is intended or should be inferred.


Bush, S. B., Karp, K. S., & Dougherty, B. J. (2021). The math pact: Achieving instructional coherence within and across grades: Middle school. Corwin.

Opfer, V. D., Kaufman, J. H., & Thompson, L. E. (2016). Implementation of K–12 state standards for mathematics and English language arts and literacy: Findings from the American Teacher Panel. RAND Corporation.