Archive for Thursday, September 29, 2005

Getting a handle on ‘Everyday Mathematics’

September 29, 2005

Mathematics is being taught differently this year in the Baldwin School District elementary schools, but an informative meeting for parents and teachers helped explain the new series, Everyday Mathematics.

"I was pleased to see a large group of people there, which tells me the parents are supportive of the program and that they're taking an active role in their kids math," Maxon said. "I thought they were receptive to the presenter and I think they had a good time."

Approximately 80 people attended the meeting, including parents and teachers, was used to help parents understand the new elementary math series.

"I think the presenter did a good job of presenting an overview of the problems we are facing," Curriculum Director Connie Wehmeyer said. "She also did a good job of giving examples of what the kids would be bringing home."

Molly Musson, programming consultant for Everyday Mathematics, came to Baldwin City Sept. 15 to present information about the teaching methods of Everyday Mathematics.

"We want parents to know what we are teaching in the classroom," Musson said. "We want the children to know what they're doing in the classroom and how to apply in the real world."

Cheryl McCrary attended the meeting and thought it was helpful as a parent.

"I always feel good about finding out more information, and there was some good information at the meeting," McCrary said. "Hearing more background about the program makes me feel good about the program. It helps validate it."

Maxon thought the timing of the meeting was important, because parents have been experiencing the series for about a month.

"I think it was a good time to have it now, after they have seen some of the things that were coming home," Maxon said. "I think the meeting helped make that a little bit more clear. I think the timing of the meeting was good and I thought they had great questions."

Vinland Elementary School math teacher Chad Scoby said the parents have been adjusting to the homework their children bring home.

"The big thing for parents is the homework is going to look a lot different," Scoby said. "It's nothing big, it's supposed to be like 10 or 15 minutes. They will be seeing different things come home."

One way parents can understand what their children are learning is the family letter that is sent home with every unit. This includes a description of the unit, vocabulary, home activities and the answers to the homework.

"It's really a self-help for parents to better inform them on what their children will be doing and how it will be done," Wehmeyer said. "It's also a quick refresher so they don't have to look back at a textbook."

Wehmeyer also said parents should keep the letter throughout the entire unit; otherwise they will not have the answers or information for the unit.

McCrary said the letter has been very beneficial for her.

"The first week was a little bumpy, but we are now doing very well," McCrary said. "The family letter is really helpful and important. I think it's going great."

One way the series is supposed to help children learn is by teaching in spirals. It will not teach a subject and move on, it will keep touching on that subject throughout the year.

"Everyday Math teaches in a spiral," Musson said. "It comes back to topics all-year round. Like reading, it comes back to skills again and again."

Scoby also likes the spiraling of the information along with the games and activities.

"The games I think are good, because its breaks it up and makes it more fun," Scoby said. "The idea of it spiraling is a big thing they told us about. It keeps coming back to things in small doses, rather than one big dose at one time. I think that's good. Also all of the things they get to use, and we use those all of the time."

Masson said the series is supposed to help children score better on state assessments and other tests.

Last year, the fourth graders in the district were 100 percent proficient in the math portion of the Kansas State Assessments. But this year the third and fifth graders will be taking the math assessment also.

Scoby said the series has some different vocabulary than the assessments, and many of the teachers will have to teach specifically to the tests come springtime.

"There are some different definitions of words we are going to have to change," Scoby said. "When it gets time for state tests, we will probably start hitting some more specific examples for the assessments. I think it's going to be fine, but it's again about the teacher getting used to it."

Many of the teachers are taking more time to adjust than the students are.

"I think it's probably been harder for the teachers than the students, because a lot of the teachers have stuff they have used for years that has worked," Scoby said. "Now we are just switching completely and we are using the complete series. The kids seem to like it. We are playing games and they seem to like it."

Maxon agreed, because the students haven't had too much trouble changing math series.

"They pick up on it a lot faster than I do," Maxon said. "It's down to a routine, which they learn faster than I do. Each lesson is fast-paced and they are working with many things, which they like."

Scoby doesn't believe the children have really been affected by the change, because it's still basically learning the same concepts.

"They are resilient and I don't think they really care,' Scoby said. "It's still math to them. They have a student reference book they can use to look up things if they have questions. It's more like a math encyclopedia than a textbook."

Some components of the series that help children learn are dominoes, fact triangles, frames and arrows, function machines, name collection boxes and number grids. Dominoes and fact triangles are used for doing addition and subtraction, instead of using flash cards.

Frames and arrows are used for learning counting patterns. Function machines help children learn to do problems with the same functions. Name collection boxes help students find different ways to represent numbers. Number grids are used to find patterns for place value concepts on a sheet that counts in rows of 10 to 100.

"There are some skills that the students haven't seen before, because they haven't been in this program before," Maxon said. "We are having to adapt to that."

There are several Web sites that parents can look at for help. Some of these are,,

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