Developing Math Vision and Practices at STEM K-8

Thanks to “What Parents Should Know” (www.corestandards.org), “Advice for Parents from Professor Jo Boaler” (www.yocubed.org), and Joe Roicki for significant contributions to this article.

STEM K-8 staff undertook a lengthy evaluation of the way we deliver math instruction to students this year.  We were driven by an ongoing struggle to achieve high levels of success with all students in mastering common core standards, and also providing opportunities for challenge and acceleration across a range of skill levels.

The way we were teaching students was not preparing them for the higher demands of college and careers today and in the future. Our staff is committed to improving teaching and learning to ensure that all children will graduate high school with the skills they need to be successful.

In mathematics, this means major changes. Teachers will concentrate on teaching a more focused set of major math ideas and skills. This allows students greater time to master key math concepts and skills in a more organized way throughout the year and from one grade to the next. It will also call for teachers to use rich and challenging math content and to engage students in solving real-world problems in order to inspire greater interest in mathematics.

The major changes – greater focus on fewer major topics, coherence within a school year and across grade levels, and rigor in the form of challenging, complex, and real-world problem solving – align with the philosophy behind Singapore math, which served as a model in the construction of the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics (CCSS-M). This three-dimensional framework provides the structure for teachers to provide higher-quality math instruction for all students.

In order to meet the goals of the framework, teachers must have access to high quality, standards-aligned instructional materials. The Primary Mathematics series of textbooks we have been utilizing have not met these new requirements, causing teachers to spend too much planning time finding or creating materials. The Primary Mathematics series is based on the California State Standards, predating the CCSS-M.  This contributes to a lack of alignment across grade levels, widening learning gaps and decreasing school achievement in mathematics.

As we worked to refine a vision for mathematics at STEM K-8, staff identified a need for supplemental instructional and assessment materials that a) support differentiation and multiple math pathways that build conceptual understanding and elicit student thinking b) support baseline, formative, and summative assessments aligned to standards, and c) support efficient teacher preparation and student learning.

While no single set of instructional materials will address all the challenges inherent in teaching mathematics, we believe that the Eureka Math provides an important supplement and large step towards meeting the expectations set by the CCSS-M. With materials based on the CCSS-M, teachers can spend more time developing best practices in teaching mathematics, including engaging students in rich tasks, conducting class discussions about strategies, and helping students communicate mathematical reasoning.

Our next steps include defining a clear professional development sequence to achieve our goals in mathematics, and identifying multiple measures of success that we can use as checkpoints.

As we continue this work at STEM K-8, do not hesitate to reach out to your child’s teacher if you have concerns or questions. You are a vital part of your child’s education. Ask to see samples of your child’s work, or bring samples with you. One of the most important things parents can do for their children with regards to math learning is to model a growth mindset – that learning math is about making sense and working hard. Making mistakes means that their brains are growing and learning, not that they are not “smart.” Ask questions like:

  • Is my child making adequate progress at this point of the year?
  • Where is my child excelling? How can I support this success?
  • What do you think is giving my child the most trouble? How can I help my child improve in this area?
  • What can I do to help my child with upcoming work?

Thank you all for your support as we continue to strive to provide the best education possible for your children!

 

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