On Thursday, October 3rd, the Upper Darby School District gave a presentation on the new elementary math program, Go Math!. Led by Math Curriculum Supervisor Christine Kelley, the presentation focused on how Go Math! can help our students meet the nationwide Common Core standards.

Go Math! takes the students’ fluency in math facts and concepts and expands their knowledge by having them work through problems using higher order thinking skills. Go Math! requires students to demonstrate mastery beyond memorization of facts and formulas. The concepts are presented in a way that is calibrated to the cognitive abilities of each grade level, moving the students from concrete to abstract. Lastly, there is a greater emphasis on the math vocabulary associated with each concept. Each chapter has its own Vocabulary Builder section, and students are expected to be familiar with the key terms.

This approach to math is more rigorous…and is leading to some frustration. But the frustration is, in some ways, part of the larger lesson – that it is OK for students to struggle with challenging concepts and even make mistakes on the road to mastery.

Students have two workbooks – one that they use in class and one that comes home. Both workbooks are designed to be written in. Parents and guardians are encouraged to review their child’s in-class workbook online at: www.hmhco.com/shop/education-curriculum/math/elementary-mathematics/go-math.

Go Math! breaks down each math concept into four steps:
(1) Unlock the Problem – a new concept is presented to the students, and they have to use what they know to solve the problem (this differs from previous textbooks that modeled a problem/solution for students and asked students to use the model to answer more questions).

(2) Try This – the class works together to apply what they just learned to complete an additional problem.

(3) Share and Show – each student works independently to solve a set of problems. He or she shows the work to the teacher, who determines if the student has mastered the concept. If the student has not shown mastery, the teacher will provide additional help.

(4) Problem Solving – the students who have mastered the new concept work independently to solve higher order thinking problems.

Manipulative kits are available in the classroom to reinforce concepts for more tactile learners. Grade-level appropriate story books are also available to emphasize how language is intertwined with real-world math concepts. Each chapter offers suggestions for enrichment activities for struggling learners, as well as challenging activities for advanced learners.

In order to assess growth, students will be given three comprehensive tests during the 2013-2014 school year. These tests are based on concepts that students should master by the end of the school year. The first test was administered during the first week of school. The second test will be given in January, and the final test will be given in May. The goal is for the students to show progressive growth throughout the year. These test scores will appear on the student’s report card but will not be incorporated into their final grade.

Both teachers and parents acknowledge that this approach to math is more rigorous. At the meeting, some parents reported that their children’s homework and tests are more challenging, and this is leading to some frustration. Mrs. Kelley noted that the frustration is, in some ways, part of the larger lesson – that it is OK for students to struggle with challenging concepts and even make mistakes on the road to mastery.

Chapter tests have moved away from basic computation and are now primarily word problems that require students to interpret the written information and then solve the problem using the math concepts they have learned. In some cases, math tests are now being given across multiple days due to the length of time necessary for most students to complete them. Students who have an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) in place can ask the teacher to read the questions aloud.

Many parents in attendance had questions about Go Math!, including why it was chosen over other, more established programs like Singapore Math, and whether this kind of math instruction has been proven to correlate with higher standardized test scores. According to Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction Dan McGarry, the benefits of this program include professional development components for the teachers that are built into the lessons, and a more adaptive method of instruction that addresses the needs of students with various learning styles.

Please let us know what you think of the new Go Math! program by typing your comment below in the Leave a Reply box.

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