Discovery Process

K–5 Discovery Phases

Update on the Elementary Math Curriculum Selection Process

As you may be aware, our elementary math committee has been researching and reviewing potential math curricula for implementation at American Heritage School. The math curriculum has narrowed down the search to three programs: Math in Focus – HMH, Stepping Stones – Oriogo, and Dimensions – Singapore Math.

The next step in the process of choosing a curriculum is to implement lessons from each program into our teaching. Over the next few weeks, your elementary student will be learning similar concepts from the scope and sequence of our current Saxon program, but the lessons will come from the aforementioned math curricula. Homework will look different than what you are accustomed to seeing. Please be sure to check your child’s newsletter to see what homework is assigned for math each night. Your input and insight are very important. Please don’t be afraid to share your feelings regarding what you see and how your child responds to the new lessons.

There will be another parent meeting regarding the forthcoming new math curriculum. However, you are invited to review these programs and provide feedback at any time. Please contact your core teacher, or Reneé Braddy (K-5 Math Committee Chair) or Charné Adams with any questions or feedback.

Implementation Process

6–12 Implementation Phases


We treat the classroom as the most concentrated arena where learning occurs. Interventions outside of the classroom are necessary not only during a curriculum implementation phase but also, in the case of some interventions, into perpetuity.


  • Supplemental Group Teaching – This is offered about three times per week during advisory periods (~30 minutes just before lunch on Tuesday – Thursday) by math teachers. Students who need repetition on a concept or who missed a class period and need to be introduced to a concept can join these topic-specific group lessons.
  • One-on-one Teaching – This is offered on demand, twice daily, five days a week. Students can visit with their math teacher before school (8:10 – 8:30 a.m.) or after school (3:10 – 3:30 p.m.) to seek individualized assistance.


  • Tier-one Support – Supplemental videos available on Veracross are categorized by unit and lesson, they are usually 20-25 minutes in length, and they serve to allow the student to have a teacher guide them through the lesson again (giving the student the ability to pause and replay as needed). Links for the video libraries by course can be found at the Home Math Resource.
  • Tier-two Support – Parents who want to act as a point of escalation for students who struggle after attempting the aforementioned interventions can access (on Veracross) digital versions of the teacher texts. They can also access digital texts written by the curriculum publishers and intended for the student and the parent. Links for the digital texts by course can be found at the Home Math Resource page.


To avoid the immense expense of creating a math curriculum from scratch, we have decided to purchase an off-the-shelf product and adapt it to our needs. That adaptation includes not just determining how we use the curriculum but also how we supplement and complement it with other resources that fill gaps. Below is a summary of adjustments made thus far.


  • Supplemental Videos – Supplemental videos available on Veracross are categorized by unit and lesson, they are usually 20-25 minutes in length, and they put the student in the driver’s seat with the ability to pause and replay as needed. Using these videos as a tier-one home support allows parents to act as a tier-two support if desired. Visit our Learning Supports section (above).
  • Specialized Tutors – The school sought out tutors who were specifically trained in our curriculum to be available for parents wanting that proficiency in their chosen tutor. Visit our Tutoring page for details.


  • Study Hall Enhancements – We are ensuring that study hall is supervised all seven periods by a faculty member who is competent to assist math learners, allowing study hall to function somewhat like a math lab where students can get in line for one-on-one help.
  • Free Independent Study Courses – Those choosing as their independent study provider can enroll free of cost (course fee + textbook). Math Courses offered by AHW include I Master Math in sixth grade math (through the Family School program), and the following Saxon courses: Math 7, Pre-Algebra, Algebra 1, and Algebra 2 (through the Scholar Connect program).
  • Middle School Study Hall – Middle School students may now enroll in high school study hall if they wish to do independent study math on campus during the school day.


  • Implementation Committee Formation – We are forming a special task force focused on tightening the feedback loop so adjustments can be made faster and both the magnitude and duration of struggle can be shortened. We need parents on this committee; interested parents can contact Mr. Hale directly at


As we proceed through the implementation process, we strive to understand the pain points of those who are struggling with the transition. Once the pain points are understood, the question we next ask is how we might alleviate those pain points. When we finally have those answers, we implement adjustments to eliminate or reduce the problem. Below are some of the questions we are presently pursuing.


  • Teacher Pain Point – A teacher likes the methodological shift of prioritizing their students’ conceptual understanding alongside their procedural fluency, but that teacher wants to determine the balance between the two prioritizes from day to day and lesson to lesson. The teacher, from lesson to lesson, also wants to determine the sequencing of exposing students to conceptual-understanding exercises and procedural-fluency drills. If we are reliant on just a single curriculum, a trained teacher who has mastered their craft and knows their individual students well does not have the flexibility they desire.
  • Question – What other resources can we incorporate into our curriculum toolbox that will supplement and complement the core curriculum in ways that provide master teachers the flexibility they desire?


  • Parent Pain Point – A parent who wants to help a child with homework finds that certain of the homework questions appear more focused on conceptual-understanding exercises than on procedural-fluency drills. Frustration sets in when the parent has to spend what feels like excessive amounts of time reviewing a digital teacher’s text to understand the concepts before the parent can then help their child.
  • Question – If we find good resources to supplement and complement our core curriculum (see question above), can we structure the classwork-homework dynamic such that conceptual-understanding exercises are done mostly in the classroom while homework is more heavily dependent upon procedural-fluency drills that are accompanied by readily accessible explanatory language?


We first committed to a math transition in the late spring of 2022. We were not transitioning from a curriculum that had universal support from all stakeholders. We thus held—as a starting premise—that it would be impossible to find a replacement curriculum that would universally be seen as the best curriculum. It therefore follows that we anticipated that some would struggle with the transition, and we had yet to discover who those individuals would be. We are not content to just accept the reality of strugglers though.

For those who struggle, we want to both reduce the magnitude of the struggle and shorten its duration. To do that, we have to identify the strugglers, listen to them, brainstorm solutions that can mitigate the issues they are facing, and then incorporate adjustments to our implementation. While we have certainly done that during this first implementation year, we want to get faster and better at it.

The Implementation Committee is intended to shorten the feedback loop described above. We want to identify pockets of strugglers quicker, learn quicker, brainstorm quicker, and incorporate adjustments quicker than we have. For this committee to work well, we need a host of volunteers to populate it. The most impactful committee members will be those parents who represent households that struggle. For example, a student may be earning an A, which may portray a positive situation when we make data-driven measurements, but that A grade may be the result of excessive and unsustainable efforts at home. We need that parent on this committee, and we need many other parents possessing a variety of other struggles.

Those interested in joining the Implementation Committee are invited to reach out directly to Mr. Hale at Many details about how the committee functions, how often it meets, and other logistical considerations will be forthcoming.

FAQ’S (General)

We treat the classroom as the most concentrated arena where learning occurs. Interventions outside of the classroom are necessary not only during a curriculum implementation phase but also, in the case of some interventions, into perpetuity.

Why is the school claiming that this isn’t Common Core when some view it as a Common Core curriculum?

American Heritage School has always been and continues to be deeply concerned about the move in so many states and schools toward alignment with Common Core standards. We do not align our curriculum (in any subject, including math, including in the use of Open Up Resources and Illustrative Math curricula) with Common Core standards, even if the curriculum we select could be used by another school to align their program with Common Core standards.

As we speak with and listen to various stakeholders, we are finding that most have differing definitions of what Common Core means. Our working definition of Common Core for math is that it is a set of standards that mandates what topics are included and the sequence in which those topics are taught. As we adopt a curriculum, make subsequent alterations to it, and supplement it with complementary resources, we have no interest in or intention of ensuring that our approach maintains alignment with the mandates of Common Core standards.

My student is really struggling with math this year more than ever. What kind of support is the school providing to help my student succeed and really learn the concepts?

Supporting students through this transition has been and remains a high priority. Continuing to understand and adjust to the challenges of those whose struggles persist in spite of supports we have already provided is also a priority. Please see the Learning Supports page for a detailed listing of how we are supporting all students. Please see the Implementation Committee page for a description of what we are doing to understand and adjust to the challenges of those students who continue to struggle.

Where can we find the data about the effectiveness of this program at other schools, and its longevity?

This is an excellent question and is one that we raised during our discovery phase during the 2022–23 school year. Specifically, we wanted to understand SAT, ACT, and AP scores of students using various curricula (not just for the curriculum we ended up choosing but for all curricula that we considered). Unfortunately, that information proved hard to come by due to the number of confounding variables in play (i.e., various school populations will present differing levels of parental involvement, teacher training and experience, class sizes, school funding, methodological splicing, curriculum supplementation, etc.).

While the curriculum we have chosen was published fairly recently, the methodology upon which it is based is more storied. Open Up Resources is a rebrand of a curriculum that was first published in 2011. Illustrative Math is a curriculum that began in 2015 and finalized all of its K-12 offering by 2021. The philosophical basis of these curricula (i.e., the idea that conceptual understanding and procedural fluency are two complementary halves of a complete approach) began in the 1970s and was both mainstream and well-defined by the early 2000s. It is also the pedagogical approach commonly used in other subject areas like science or in practices such as the Socratic method frequently employed by our high school English and history teachers.

When and how will the school be reevaluating the math program?

We are not married to any curriculum other than those tied to our foundations (e.g., the scriptures). All other curriculum will eventually be replaced as time passes, needs change, and better tools become available.

Curriculum implementations are always challenging, more so with the subject of math than any other. We are focused right now on making this implementation successful. That will take time, evaluation, and a continuing willingness to make adjustments as we learn more. Our first round of adjustments came as a result of listening to parents, students, and teachers. Our second round of adjustments was informed by a larger volume of feedback. With more individuals eager to help in providing good and actionable feedback, we are now able to shorten the length of the feedback loop. We would like to do just that and increase the rate at which we are learning and adjusting. We want fewer students struggling, and for those who are struggling, we want their individual season of struggle to be of a shorter duration.

To facilitate the shortening of the feedback loop, we want to form an Implementation Committee. Please see the Implementation Committee section (above) for more details.

What was the process for piloting the math program before being implemented in the middle and high school?

We spent one year (the 2022–23 school year) gathering user requirements and preferences, searching for curricula that appeared to meet those requirements and satisfy those preferences, and then closely evaluating and testing final candidates. We invited and received a lot of good parent feedback during that period that allowed us to feel confident about the curriculum that was ultimately selected. We are now focusing on learning quickly, making adjustments that are appropriate and effective, and reducing the magnitude and shortening the duration of the struggle for those students who are having negative experiences with the transition.

For nearly everyone involved, this is the first time we have experienced the transition of a math curriculum. We have certainly made some mistakes that we would have avoided had we known when we began what we now know. We are committed to a continued process of listening, learning, and adjusting.

Why did the math curriculum change start in the upper grades?

We counseled about this question broadly and carefully from the outset of this process and had near unanimous support from the faculty, administration, and the Curriculum Committee members involved that starting in upper grades would be more effective than starting in lower grades, so long as we provided the support, accommodation, and flexibility that students needed when making the transition.

We understand that subsequent to when we made the decision to transition math curriculum, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt has revised its earlier signals about its timing for discontinuing the Saxon curriculum. At the time we made our decision, we understood the following:

  • Version 3 of Saxon was long out of publication and would remain as such given that Saxon was actively publishing subsequent versions. So, any continued reliance on Saxon version 3 would be based upon the hope that we could continue to source a diminishing supply. While there were and are such sources, they will not last forever.
  • Houghton Mifflin Harcourt would not sell us the copyright or enter into a licensing agreement for Saxon version 3. We contacted them directly.
  • Houghton Mifflin Harcourt signaled that they would no longer publish the consumable materials (worksheets, etc.) used in our elementary grades beyond the 2023–24 school year. So, regardless of how much longer we could source the diminishing supply of textbooks, there was no way to continue sourcing the consumable materials beyond 2023–24 without violating copyright law.

At the time we had the above information, we understood a runway that would entirely expire at some point, with critical components that would expire after only two years. (Our present understanding of remaining runway for Saxon version 3 is as follows: while texts may be available longer than previously signaled, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt has not been clear on exactly how much longer; the runway for elementary consumable materials has not been extended and will expire at that end of this year.)

We wanted to have a math scope and sequence that was smooth K-12. We didn’t want choppy transition points between grade levels or school levels to create avoidable and ongoing turbulence. We decided to begin with the end in mind by defining what we wanted our graduating seniors to become (with regard to their math understanding and math skills). This is a common practice in education referred to as backwards design. For example, it is the practice followed by our HS English Department, which looks at the culminating experience of a senior thesis and then designs the curriculum backwards throughout the high school years to build toward that project. With the math end game defined first, we could subsequently design the earlier stages of the pipeline to support the desired outcome.

We appreciate that this transition is, in some respects, hardest for the high school level, where grades influence college applications. We will continue to be very accommodating with students who feel that their math grade is suffering because of the curriculum change, providing to those students support and accommodation to help them feel confident and be successful.

Independent Study FAQs

While independent study has always been an option, during the remainder of 2023–24 school year, AHS is providing a few unique and novel supports to students and parents desiring independent study for the subject of math. The FAQs that follow are intended to equip students and parents with the information they need to navigate independent study for math while taking advantage of the extra supports provided by the school.

What do I need to know before committing to independent study?

AHS does not recommend independent study. Those choosing to pursue it for reasons beyond personal enrichment are encouraged to first read the Counseling Office’s Independent Study Disclosure. That disclosure will acquaint parents with not just the benefits of independent study but also its challenges (challenges related to accountability, accreditation, and transitioning between independent-study coursework and on-campus coursework).

How do I enroll in a free math course?

It is up to parents to select and commit to a third-party provider of independent-study courses. Among the providers that are pre-approved by AHS for incorporation onto a transcript is AHS Worldwide (“AHW”). Parents choosing this provider may enroll for free with the following instructions:

  • Grade 6 – I Master Math, an AHW-developed curriculum based upon the Virginia State standards, is available as part of AHW’s Family School Interested parents should contact Kerry Nielsen at for more information or to enroll.
  • Grades 7-12 – Math 7, Pre-Algebra, Algebra 1, and Algebra 2 courses, developed on the Canvas platform and based upon the Saxon version 3 curriculum, are available as part of AHW’s Scholar Connect Click here to watch a short demo video of the program. Parents wishing to register students for AHW online courses should contact Tammy Morse For more information on the courses, feel free to contact Jeni Starley (Program Manager) at or Holly Langston (Office Staff/Customer Service) at

What math course should I select?

For students in middle school, please work directly with Mr. Hunsaker ( for help in selecting that curriculum. For students in high school, please work directly with Mrs. Hendrickson ( for help in selecting the curriculum. We will not be able to give high school credit for a same or similar math course taken two times. For example, if a student is currently enrolled in the on-campus Algebra 1 course and receiving credit for that this year, we will not give them an additional math credit for taking Algebra 1 via independent study. This principle applies to repeating the same term-specific or semester-specific content; if a student starts a course in one environment and then finishes it in another, the student can receive credit for work done in both environments assuming the student covered different portions of the course in each environment.

How do I get a free textbook?

Parents who pursue an independent-study course based in Saxon version 3 are welcome to checkout a student textbook from the library in the Elementary Building.

How do I sign up for study hall?

Students wanting to pursue independent study during the curricular day and while on campus may enroll in a study hall course during the same period they would otherwise have on-campus math. To enroll in study hall for the 2024–25 year, parents can signal that election as part of the normal scheduling process. To enroll in study hall during the 2023–24 year, parents should contact the following individuals:

Can the school provide more support than what is described above?

The school does not encourage students to pursue independent study courses in place of on-campus courses. For a host of reasons, it is imperative that the school focus its efforts on strengthening its on-campus courses and improving the experience of those enrolled in on-campus courses. In providing the supports mentioned above, the school has deviated from its normal posture of not becoming involved in independent study. These unique supports will persist while the school remains in the implementation phase of the math transition.

Can the school offer a second curricular math track?

Scheduling is always a challenging puzzle to work through, and math is always the first course placed on a student schedule when building that schedule. The reason for this prioritization is because of the sequencing of math curriculum. If a student wants to take Ancient Greek history but finds the course full, they can opt instead for Civil War history. Conversely, if a student needs Algebra 1 but finds all sections of that course full, they can’t opt instead for Pre-Calculus. If AHS offered two different tracks for Algebra 1, it would cut in half the number of sections available for either track. With half as many sections available when building a schedule, we would double the difficulty of working with the bottleneck subject in the scheduling process. Rather than trying to make a second track available and introducing a new set of problems, we are instead focused on improving the one track so that it works better for all students.