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Janet Blenheim is a K–5 math coach in the Upper Dublin School District, outside of Philadelphia. The district has four elementary schools, one middle school, and one high school. It is a high-achieving district, in which 95 percent of students enroll in a two- or four-year college upon graduation.

“Recently, we hosted a neighboring district to observe Eureka in action. They were ‘blown away, awed’ by the high level of mathematical student discourse and cognitively engaging tasks.”

Tell us about this first school year using Eureka Math.

We implemented Eureka: A Story of Units in September 2014 in grades K–5. However, we spent the two previous years focusing deeply on the eight Standards for Mathematical Practice and the progressions across grade levels. This provided a strong foundation for delivering the new PA [Pennsylvania] Core Standards

Extraordinary professional development was provided for our elementary teachers in June and then again in October. Our staff had the unique opportunity to work with veteran teachers who were on the team of writers for A Story of Units. Support, training, and grade-level collaborations have continued throughout the school year

We are the first district in Pennsylvania to implement Eureka Math, so it was truly a leap of faith. Recently, we hosted a neighboring district to observe Eureka in action. They were “blown away, awed” by the high level of mathematical student discourse and cognitively engaging tasks

What are you hearing from teachers?

As with any new program, there was a learning curve for students, parents, and even teachers. In the beginning everyone struggled with new vocabulary, the multiple models, and the sheer rigor of the program. Through the growing pains we realized productive struggle is necessary for learning.

Our teachers put in a remarkable amount of time and effort and now there are so many “aha” or “eureka” moments happening daily in their classrooms. Teachers and students alike are uncovering the “why” behind the math. Collegial math discussions abound. Teachers are collaborating in countless and creative ways across the district. 

You’ve hosted parent nights in your district and worked to help parents understand the new approach to teaching math. Has that been well received?

Yes, we tried to be proactive from the very start, releasing an introductory letter and video over the summer. Almost 700 hundred parents attended the parent math nights offered in early September at each of the four elementary buildings. The majority of parents were receptive and appreciative. There were a few who were resistant to change, or had political agendas.

Frustration with homework has eased with the support of various school websites from across the country. During recent parent-teacher conferences, parents confessed, “I’m not sure I should be saying this, but I love the new math.” Learning support teachers [who assist struggling learners] are seeing success with their students due to the multiple ways to model a math problem, and at Gifted Individualized Education Plan meetings parents are thankful their children are being challenged.

In general, how do you feel about the direction of math instruction in our country?

I am passionate about math education and feel so positive about it right now. Our children need to know how to think, make sense of math, and persevere. And that is exactly what is happening with Eureka Math. It’s an exciting and exhilarating time for math in Upper Dublin and across the country