2008-02-07 / News

Workshop offers help for parents in using basic mathematics

By Michaela Kennedy

Parents went to Melrose Avenue School last week to learn mathematics. The presentation screen in the multi-purpose room welcomed the adults with a quote taken from legendary mathematician Albert Einstein, "Do not worry about your difficulties in Mathematics. I can assure you mine are still greater."

Math coach Jenn Clark presented the Jamestown Schools' newly adopted mathematics curriculum in a work session for parents on Tuesday and Thursday evenings, Jan. 29 and 31. "We have just fully implemented a new K through 6 curriculum, and this workshop is enrichment for parents to help support children in the new approach," Clark said. The seventh and eighth grade students have new textbooks, as well, she added.

The new curriculum, called Everyday Mathematics, builds understanding and development of math skills through a series of connected learning experiences, Clark said. Through repeated exposure and practice of new math concepts, the learning curve spirals into more difficult and challenging content. "The curriculum approaches math in a different way. It's a spiral technique, and new concepts build on each other," Clark explained as she flashed a picture of a spiral staircase on the screen. "The concepts are constantly reintroduced so they are not forgotten."

Clark opened the workshop with a "What's My Rule?" task sheet. Number tables offered samples of computation practice at various grade levels. "A typical task in the curriculum includes a warm-up mental math activity," Clark said. Students are given a question to solve. They compute in their heads, and write down their answers. "It's a quick way to assess the student's ability," Clark said.

The math approach, developed by the University of Chicago School Mathematics Project, is based on research about how students learn and develop mathematical power, Clark explained. The research evidence about Everyday Mathematics shows that children who use EM tend to learn more mathematics and like it better than children who use other programs. "The curriculum introduces students to math concepts at a much younger age," she added.

Clark provided parents with a research summary on the math program. The summary offered extensive evidence proving the program's success, from feedback on standardized tests to reports from individual school districts that implemented the curriculum.

Clark admitted that the idea to show the strategies to parents came from the school administration. "Principal Kathy Almanzor and Superintendent Marcia Lukon thought that providing parents with the informational tools would be a big help," Clark said.

More than 50 parents attended the workshop event and were given opportunities to practice activities that their children typically experienced in the new math lessons. Clark sent the adults home with suggestions on good homework habits and games to play in math.

Clark has taught elementary education for 12 years. She taught sixth grade last year in Jamestown and feels comfortable with leading educators and instructing students in the new math approach. Her role as a math coach is to provide classroom teachers and other instructional staff members with strategies, tools, and techniques to teach math effectively to all students.

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