Andi Misemer is the K–12 curriculum coordinator for the Humboldt Unified School District near Prescott, Arizona. It’s a highly diverse district, serving a rural population. About two-thirds of students qualify for free or reduced lunch. As curriculum coordinator, Andi helps choose the curricula used in the district. She also helps schools implement resources effectively, including by shaping and providing professional learning opportunities for teachers. Previously, Andi taught in Kentucky, where she consulted on the state initiative to develop college- and career-ready standards. Currently a Eureka Math Curriculum Fellow, Andi is temporarily splitting her time between her district and helping to revise the Eureka Math curriculum.
How are you spending your time as a Curriculum Fellow? I’m doing coherence studies where I’m looking at addition and subtraction across Grades K–6 in Eureka Math to make sure the curriculum is coherent. I’m really seeing how the curriculum was written, and I get to ask questions about the curriculum of the people who wrote it. It’s a very open, collaborative process. I started my work as a Curriculum Fellow by reading the research the writers used to develop the Eureka Math curriculum, which made me realize all the components that go into a good math program.
How did your district come to select Eureka Math as its mathematics curriculum? This year (2017–2018) is our second full year of using it. We had a math program that wasn’t working at all before, so our superintendent formed a committee to write our own math curriculum. I got hired to lead that. We met 19 times to write a curriculum for our district. But we kept coming back to EngageNY Math (the early version of Eureka Math created for the New York State Education Department website and available free online). We kept saying that we liked what they were doing. We liked the structure of it. I had also used EngageNY Math in my classroom for two years, so I knew I liked it in that very real context, too. Nevertheless, we did try our own curriculum for a year. After the first year of implementation, we took feedback from teachers to guide our next steps. As a math cadre, we came to the consensus that we needed a program that was complete and vertically aligned throughout Grades K–12. After that, we formed an adoption committee and reviewed curricula on EdReports.org. We met several times in grade level bands to discuss each viable math curriculum and agreed to invite two publishers to present their curriculum. One of those was Great Minds. After talking to the Eureka Math team, we did some piloting. We had about 25 teachers on our committee this time, and we did a consensus-building protocol. The group unanimously approved Eureka Math and our governing board approved the adoption in May of 2016.
How did the first year go?
Since Eureka Math is so rigorous, we spent a lot of time providing professional development to our teachers in year one. Ten of us went to a Eureka Math training in California. We focused—both there and in ongoing training back home—on fluency as well as lesson preparation and customization. Those are the areas where our teachers needed the most help. I also provided teachers with a quarterly pacing guide for every grade level. We needed teachers to feel comfortable with the pace. One of the many good things about Eureka Math is that it’s cohesive. The curriculum revisits material, and kids aren’t expected to master a concept until the end of the grade level. I would add that the professional development we offered also focused on explaining the new strategies in Eureka Math. Initially, teachers questioned why Eureka Math had more problem-solving strategies than other curricula. But, as I told the teachers, my feeling is that the strategies help them reach more kinds of learners and provide kids with multiple pathways to solve problems.
If a neighboring district asked for advice on what to look for in a math curriculum, what would you say?
Districts should look for a curriculum that is rigorous, focused on addressing the college- and career-ready standards, and coherent throughout the grade levels. And Eureka Math is all that. I champion Eureka Math everywhere I go professionally. If someone asks about the curriculum, I say it was our best decision for our students. Eureka Math is one of the most coherent curriculums I have seen in my years of teaching.
How is Eureka Math different from other curricula? Eureka Math is different because it gives students multiple strategies to solve problems. As a result, it meets the needs of all kinds of learners. In addition, Eureka Math is written by classroom teachers and is based on research on the best practices for mathematics instruction.
So what’s next for you?
My next step as an education professional will be to obtain my doctorate in curriculum and instruction. My goal is to be a college professor for preservice teachers.