On Wednesday, October 1, the Board of Education held its regular meeting at Eagle Elementary School and heard from Principal Dianna Reagan and K-12 Math Supervisor Dave Hurst as they talked about the continued integration of Common Core into elementary math instruction. Eagle’s third-grade teachers, Diane McNiven, Kim Montalvo and Leslie Obermayer, walked the Board and attendees through a condensed third-grade math lesson and its instruction, allowing the Board to participate in an activity associated with a math lesson at that level.
Reagan and Hurst began the presentation by describing the district’s cycle of instruction; including unit and lesson planning and the various ways teachers communicate student progress with one another. They also discussed why teachers continuously assess student understanding and progress throughout the year, how the faculty analyzes the data from those observations and assessments and how that analysis guides the next year’s cycle of instruction.
Bethlehem is in its third year of Common Core integration, and when it comes to math instruction, many of the faculty members are seeing success.
“It allows us to go deeper and really think about the ‘why’ of the math, rather than just how to do it,” said Principal Reagan.
“There’s much more emphasis now on student discovery,” said Mr. Hurst, as he explained that math has moved from students memorizing a set of steps to discovering many ways to solve a problem and working to identify which method of problem solving resonates with them.
“The way we do that is through something called an anchor task,” continued Hurst, who explained the anchor task as an activity that introduces students to many ways of solving a problem and gives the teacher an opportunity to observe what type of learner each student is.
Third-grade teachers, Diane McNiven, Kim Montalvo, and Leslie Obermayer, then asked members of the Board of Education to work through a typical third-grade anchor task of their own, one which involved folding and cutting squares of paper in various ways in order to make equal pieces.
“It’s not imperative that every student knows every way (to accomplish the task), but they’re being exposed to it all, and they’re actually doing it; they’re discovering it,” said McNiven.
“Teachers do on-the-spot assessments all day long so we can see, in the classroom, which kids are having a little bit of trouble, and which kids are breezing through it,” explained Montalvo. “We’re meeting every learner where they are and we’re exposing the whole class. It’s not necessary that they master every way to find four equal pieces, but they must master at least one way.”
After students complete an anchor task in the classroom, the teachers explained to the Board how they then move into “guided practice” which enables students to practice the different problem-solving methods they discovered during the anchor task and prepares them for independent practice (homework).
K-12 Math Supervisor Dave Hurst explained that as new classes of students begin with Common Core lessons in kindergarten, this new way of learning will become “second nature to them.” He said many elementary students have been successful adapting to the new standards.
“We had significant improvement in our elementary results, significant gains in math particularly – some gains in middle school – but certainly not to the same degree,” said Assistant Superintendent Jody Monroe, in discussing the latest results from state tests aligned to the Common Core. “As those students keep moving up through the grades, it will become easier not only for the teachers, but for the students and hopefully for the parents as well.”
See the video of the presentation below:
Note: It is about 30 minutes in length, and begins at minute 9 of the BOE meeting video below.