Parents, teachers, and students are learning the positives and negatives of the " curriculum the district implemented months ago.
A handful of elementary-age students stood up at the March 13 school board meeting to praise the program. The students, representing an array of ages and levels of learning, spoke highly of the review games they play during the lessons and the progress they have made.
“In the past, mathematical teaching has been focused on getting to the right answer and putting that answer down,” said Brian Biscari, principal of Minnesauke Elementary. “Now they not only solve problems, they work on understanding how they got their solutions."
The Everyday Math program is intended to prepare students according to New York State's common core standards. The program places a focus on a cohesive vocabulary, mathematical reasoning, and stamina in problem solving, according to Biscari.
“To hear the children using words like rhombus and trapezoid…is just amazing,” said Jane Murphy, a kindergarten teacher at Minnesauke Elementary. "It’s in their everyday conversation and how they’re relating it to the world around them. It's very exciting."
Murphy was one of several teachers who came forward to express support for the curriculum on March 13. But when it comes to parents, not all are fully convinced that the program is improving the quality of the math education their children receive.
Lisa Cahill has found that the focus on vocabulary is a large part of what confuses her two older kids, who are in the fifth and six grades.
“They are having to retrain and reprogram their thinking with the vocabulary,” Cahill said. “They have to retrain their thought process from the old way and try to make the conversion to this new way.”
Cahill now finds herself taking her children to extra help on a weekly basis, something she has never had to do. She cautioned against keeping the program, citing the removal of the program at other school districts.
Not all parents are completely dissatisfied with the program. Carol Stuven, a mother of three children in the district, said she is still open-minded about it. She has found the curriculum to have both pros and cons.
“I like math. I'm a math person, so I'm open minded about it and I don't mind learning different ways,” Stuven said. “This introduces new ways to approach something and it probably works well for kids who didn't grasp it the traditional way.”
Since the program is still new, there is no real measure of how effective it has been thus far. At the March 13 meeting, school board trustee Susanne Mendelson asked whether there is data that shows the kind of impact that the program has had in the classroom.
“We don’t have anything to compare it to, so our benchmark is comparing it to New York State assessments,” said Dr. Anne Rullan, executive director of curriculum and instruction. She added that data would be forthcoming as the district spends more time with the curriculum in place.
“To be fair to the teachers and the students ... we realize this is an implementation year," Rullan said.
Still, Biscari remains optimistic that the program has been effective.
“The next few years will be critical to determine what kind of impact the program has had,” he said. “On small scale we are seeing what’s going on in the classroom with the vocabulary being used and the thinking that's going on. I think it has been a tremendous benefit to these kids.”