Interdisciplinary Lessons for Remote Learning
by Amy Withers, Bank Street College of Education
Planning for remote learning may require more flexibility than does planning lessons for our classrooms. Students are engaging in mathematics outside of school, where support may vary. In addition, access to materials, including technology, will vary from student to student. Interdisciplinary lessons are one way to address a variety of situations and needs during remote learning, and also present an opportunity that is enhanced by remote learning. Interdisciplinary projects are an opportunity to:
• offer flexibility and choice
• build on students’ strengths and interests
• encourage students to connect mathematics to other content areas
What does this look like? To take one example, we might ask students to build a structure. We could be as broad (build a shelter for something) or as specific (build a shelter for your favorite stuffed animal) as fits the needs of our students. This is the kind of project that students could work on over the course of a week or so. It could be incorporated into a choice board or menu of options.
The project can become interdisciplinary by asking students questions such as those below.
Math 
Literacy 
Social Studies 
Science 
What did you build? How big is it? How can you measure it?
What is the tallest thing that can fit inside your structure?
What math did you use while building your structure? 
Write instructions so that someone else could recreate your structure.
Write three or four diary entries from the perspective of the person or animal that would live in your structure. 
Who lives in your structure? What needs do they have?
What is their daily life like? 
Experiment with different materials to build your structure.
Which materials are most durable? How could you make your structure waterproof if it rains or snows? 
In a complex, weeklong project like the one above, each part presents its own set of neurodevelopmental demands. What accommodations can we make so that each part is accessible?
Below, we describe our thinking about two mathematical questions that are part of the task of building a structure: How big is your structure? How can you measure it?
We deliberately phrased the questions so that students could interpret the words “big” and “measure” in many ways. Students can decide whether to measure height, volume, area, perimeter, and so on. Our goal with this phrasing is for students (perhaps in grades 3–5) to think about the different ways one can measure, and the ways in which they are related. As always, the questions should be rephrased depending on grade level, particular content and practice goals, and the strengths and needs of students.
Our planning was guided by a focus on two specific students who each have different strengths and challenges. We believe that making the task accessible for them will make it accessible for many.
One of the students we were thinking of is Eddy. He is an English Language Learner who has strong language skills in his native Spanish, who loves mathematics, and who gets along very nicely with everyone in his classroom. Another student we thought about is Mona. She is a strong reader and pays attention well. However, she has difficulty remembering things, especially when she is presented with a lot of information all at once.
We used the chart below to help us plan.
Learning Area 
What are the demands of the task? 
How will Eddy and Mona handle the demands of this task? 
How can we adapt the task to make it accessible to Eddy and Mona (and other students in the class)? 
Language




Memory




Considerations for remote learning

This is one example of an interdisciplinary, weeklong, project and a way to think about making it accessible for all students.
We would love to hear about the different ways the teachers with whom you are working are approaching remote learning, and whether they have tried out any interdisciplinary projects. Please reach out to your MFA coach or any member of the team to share your experiences.
Math for All is a professional development program that brings general and special education teachers together to enhance their skills in
planning and adapting mathematics lessons to ensure that all students achieve highquality learning outcomes in mathematics.