Every child is curious. Every child has an active imagination. Every child would love to grow up to do great things. That’s why we know that every child is capable of greatness. It’s the belief that drove our founder to create Great Minds® and it is what fuels every Great Minds employee day in and day out.
Too many students are left without the opportunity to reach their potential. But we at Great Minds are determined to empower learners with one of the most equalizing forces out there: knowledge. High-quality, content-rich instructional materials are found to improve student learning where skills and strategies alone fail. Why? Because new knowledge sticks best to existing knowledge. When students activate and build on an integrated and developing body of knowledge, learning is simpler, less susceptible to errors, and less likely to be forgotten.
What does a knowledge-building curriculum look like? It looks like students engaging with fine art and the history of math as they learn long division. Like English language arts students learning about the circulatory system or the American west while they learn to write persuasive essays. And it looks like young scientists reading about and modeling the journey of Amelia Earhart’s flight to Howland Island as they learn about light, sight, and radio communication.
At Great Minds, we believe that knowledge-building curricula unlock the greatness in every student. At Great Minds, we give teachers the tools and professional support to ensure all their students can cultivate deep and enduring knowledge. And we honor students’ curiosity with opportunities for them to make sense of the world around them and to build knowledge through rich content that is designed to meet every learner’s needs.
Making Math Instruction Exponentially Greater
Research tells us that memorization is an important part of learning math. Students free up cognitive space for more complex thinking by having basic multiplication facts, the distributive property, and other facts and procedures firmly committed to memory. But what curricula have failed to do for so long is provide students with the opportunity to build enduring math knowledge. Eureka Math²™ is a revolutionary math program with a learning design that aims to establish a foundation of conceptual understanding before tending to automaticity of procedural skills.
Students need to understand the rationale behind different math concepts and why they are important. They need to identify the kinds of contexts in which different procedures are useful, and when they may fail. And students need to continually build connections across concepts, lessons, and grade levels as they learn new skills. Why? Because students with more conceptual knowledge see and approach math problems differently. They focus on the underlying structures of a problem rather than surface features, and they can apply procedures more flexibly, more accurately, and more successfully to unfamiliar material.
Eureka Math² classrooms look and sound different from other math classes. Every lesson includes opportunities for student discourse because peer-to-peer discussion helps students solidify understanding. And every module features a piece of fine art that is connected to the math being taught because we know that mathematics itself is an art, math is a key element of artistic composition throughout history, and art provides students with a novel point of entry to develop a deeper understanding of math concepts.
What does this look like in a Eureka Math² module on multiplication? Before jumping into multiplication tables and how to multiply efficiently, teachers build wonder in students as they explore together the history and evolution of different multiplication notations and symbols. Students investigate Paul Klee’s painting Farbtafel, a colorful grid of 35 squares that helps students understand patterns and structures related to multiplication. And students connect multiplication to known concepts like equal groups, skip-counting, and repeated addition.
Over time, this foundation enables students to tackle problems and facts they have not memorized, especially as they experience increasingly abstract and complex mathematics.
Inspiring Students to Wonder about the World and Empowering Them to Make Sense of It
Science is both a body of knowledge and a process. From a young age, children are curious and observant and need the opportunity to make sense of the world around them—something that an understanding of science makes possible. Too often, science instruction in the earliest grades consists of disparate, trivial activities rather than the comprehensive, coherent instruction needed to build a strong foundation for science literacy.
PhD Science® builds deep scientific understanding by exploring compelling authentic phenomena. Students actively engage in the process of knowledge construction by analyzing questions about the phenomena, modeling and solving real-world problems, studying informational texts, and performing hands-on investigations. Storylines that are carried across lessons, modules, and grade levels highlight key concepts and ensure coherence to deepen understanding.
Cross-curricular connections are another key component of the PhD Science learning design. Every module incorporates fine art—which, like science, creates a sense of wonder that invites students to observe, question, and make sense of the world around them—and features connections to literacy, math, social studies, history, geography, and more.
How does this come together for students? Picture the Level 3 PhD Science module about weather and climate that anchors students in the history of the 1900 Galveston, Texas, hurricane. In addition to the focus on science, the module also embeds English language and vocabulary instruction, explicitly building students’ understanding of words like hurricane, weather, and precipitation. Later in the module, the painting Under the Wave Off Kanagawa captures students’ curiosity and promotes deeper discussion about severe weather hazards. And that same module prompts students to think like both meteorologists and mathematicians who use specific tools to measure, graph, and predict weather features like temperature and rainfall.
PhD Science allows students to experience meaningful connections across content areas and acquire deep and lasting comprehension of scientific concepts.
Building Literacy Skills and Rich Layers of Knowledge
Wit & Wisdom® is a comprehensive, standards-based English language arts curriculum developed by and for teachers to help students build knowledge in science, history, geography, and other topics while they develop their reading and writing skills and expand their vocabulary. Because when students know a lot about a topic, they can more easily learn to read, write, speak, and listen.
Everything that happens in Wit & Wisdom classrooms starts with exceptional texts, because content is the core of English instruction. Each module centers on a carefully curated mix of age-appropriate literary, informational, and fine-art texts that build student knowledge around the module’s topic of focus, with essential topics that strategically reoccur throughout the curriculum. Instead of basals, in Wit & Wisdom all students are invited to read content-rich and complex texts that will build their core knowledge of important topics while they master literacy skills.
The Wit & Wisdom approach helps teachers celebrate the joy of reading and writing with students, while also supporting all learners in tackling the rigor that standards demand. Consider the Wit & Wisdom module about the sea: It enables students to investigate how people explore the sea through art, literature, and science. The module’s core texts include artwork like The Boating Party and The Gulf Stream and picture books like Amos & Boris, The Fantastic Undersea Life of Jacques Cousteau, and Ocean Sunlight: How Tiny Plants Feed the Seas. And the module’s supplementary texts include related poetry, articles, and fables to support deep and meaningful discovery.
With these cohesive, content-rich texts at their fingertips, students not only find the main idea of the texts, engage in collaborative discussions with peers, and learn to write explanatory and informational paragraphs—they also gain valuable knowledge about the sea as a complex ecosystem full of beautiful, mysterious, and important life forms. In the process, students are set up for future success as they become well-prepared to apply this background knowledge and vocabulary to learn about how animals, weather, and landscapes interact in ecosystems in their science classroom.
Reading to Learn While Learning to Read
Reading can open up new worlds for students by helping them build knowledge and sparking their curiosity. But often students don’t gain access to these enriching literacy experiences until they’ve mastered basic reading skills. Geodes® have changed that. Informed by the science of reading, Geodes enable students to practice foundational skills while also building background knowledge and comprehension skills.
Geodes are accessible knowledge-building, information-rich books for emerging and developing readers, aligned with the scope and sequence of the Fundations® foundational reading program from Wilson Language Training. Each book in the classroom library is at least 80 percent decodable and designed to cultivate a deep reading experience, enabling students to apply decoding skills while building knowledge.
A traditional book for emerging readers may share that “Pat sat on a mat.” But in the Geodes book Smell Tells, young readers practice their decoding skills while learning that ants use their sense of smell to tell whether another ant is the queen or a worker. Students also learn that ants communicate through scent to find food or to warn of danger.
Each module of the Geodes library centers on a rich topic that sparks students’ natural curiosity, and each Geodes book was written with the belief that every book—even those for students who are still developing phonemic awareness—can provide students with an exciting opportunity to learn something new.
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Great Minds PBC is a public benefit corporation and a subsidiary of Great Minds, a nonprofit organization. A group of education leaders founded Great Minds® in 2007 to advocate for a more content-rich, comprehensive education for all children. In pursuit of that mission, Great Minds brings together teachers and scholars to create exemplary instructional materials that provide joyful rigor to learning, spark and reward curiosity, and impart knowledge with equal parts delight.