Do The Math
Building Confident Problem Solvers

Every teacher strives to build a community of confident learners; as educators we aim to help students develop a passion for lifelong learning and the skills to persevere through challenging problem solving. But, as Marilyn Burns says, “solving problems is difficult without a path”.  Do The Math is built to provide students with a choice of different models and pathways so they can experiment as they frame and solve problems. With Do The Math students develop skills to persevere through challenges and build confidence in their problems solving skills.   

As a special education teacher, each year I find many of my students unfortunately give up and lose faith in their ability to try difficult things.  Students strongly dislike sharing their thinking and rarely volunteer to solve problems, especially in math. Every year it is a new challenge to build confidence in each of my students. Do The Math is an incredibly useful support that has helped transform how they think about math and, most importantly, transform how they think about themselves as problem solvers.  

Do The Math has many components that are designed to build confidence in students as problem solvers.  Data based decisions for Do The Math modules and supports paired with frequent student assessment and peer driven activities help students be a part of setting goals and practice self and peer assessment.  To build confident learners, students should be a part of the development and application of their efforts as much as possible. Do The Math is designed to create an environment of decision-based learning driven by student data to supply students with the scaffolds, interventions and supports they individually need to reach their fullest potential. Embedded in the program are a wide range of explicitly designed instruction modules, scaffolds and interventions that are RTI based to provide pathways for students to access curriculum at appropriate pacing.  This way, they can reach their problem-solving goals and build conceptual understanding with confidence.  

Do The Math not only provide students with a space to set goals for learning and explore multiple means of expression in problems solving, but it also opens a platform for students to assess their work with peers allowing them to grow together. Do The Math also provides a platform to hold students accountable, by giving them ownership of their learning through hands on manipulatives and explicitly designed math-based interventions which match their individual learning needs.  Accountability and ownership are key components in building confident learners. With Do The Math, students are held accountable for their learning through explicitly designed instruction models and activities that allow students to practice pathways to achieve solutions to problems. The Do The Math kits and work books are designed to provide students with an explicit goal and task while giving them hands on manipulatives to practice this. Many hands on activities are with groups or partners allowing room for peer assessment and interaction while problem solving. Thinking you are the only one who doesn’t understand something greatly diminishes confidence, Do The Math’s program is built to bring students together as problem solvers and show all learners effort is typical when problem solving. Workbooks and centers are designed to encourage students to interact with each other and conference with partners to solve problems and build confidence in using math vocabulary and strategies.  

 Do the Math activities and manipulatives are designed to make learning accessible and appealing for all types of learners. As a teacher I would find many students giving up instead of preserving through problem solving. Do The Math has changed the way my students think about math by taking even my most reluctant students and transforming them into a student who is excited to try.  These centers not only engage students but they provide them with opportunities to strengthen their learning, thus build confidence in their problem solving skills through authentic learning activities. Centers like Shake and Spill, Pathways, Addition Capture and many more are designed to let students see possibility instead of limitation when it comes to problem solving. It gives them room to practice and preserve through challenges while building confidence through math fluency.  

 I have seen students who felt defeated and shut down when asked to problem solve due to lack of confidence and conceptual understanding of what to do or where to start. Introducing Do The Math remodeled how these students perceived themselves as problem solvers. Students who before were afraid to raise their hand were soon volunteering to show their work. I heard students say “I can do this, I did this in Shake and Spill” (a Do The Math addition center), and while taking a test “I can make Stars and Circles“ (a strategy model and center for multiplication in Do The Math).  Seeing students who started off the year nervous and defeated when starting a math lesson, now confidently jumping at the chance to try to tackle math problems is such a wonderful experience that I thank Do The Math for.  Being able to spark not only confidence but excitement in our students when it comes to problem solving is all that any teacher wants, and tools that make this easier for us to achieve are wildly important.


Delia Reed is a Special Education teacher in New York City. She has taught in this setting for 4 years and prior to teaching worked in life skills focusing on behavior interventions.