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Now in her third year using Eureka Math, Laura Jacobsma works as an instructional coach for grades K–6 in Oakridge School District of Oakridge, OR, near Eugene. Her school services approximately 300 students, and is small and rural. She also helps educators in neighboring districts use Eureka Math through the local regional educational service district.

What can you share about your experience with Eureka Math?

Two years ago when they were rolling out the Common Core State Standards, a lot of teachers were talking about EngageNY [the resources Great Minds developed for New York State that laid the groundwork for Eureka Math]. What we were doing wasn’t working for our students, so I got permission to try out this new curriculum for a year with my 4th graders.

What were the results once you implemented it?

We dove right in. The kids were patient with me and I [was] with them. We persevered through the problems, did lots of strategic grouping, and had lots of rich math conversations. By about January, my students felt really confident in those conversations, which was really exciting. By April, 90 percent of my students passed the Oregon State Assessment, compared to the district average of about 60 percent. Last year, two other 4th and 5th grade teachers continued with EngageNY materials and liked it.

This year as an elementary school we’re supplementing our curriculum with Eureka Math. Everyone is using it.

How have things progressed this year?

It’s a sensitive time, two weeks into the year, with all K–6 staff trying to jump into Eureka Math. There are lots of questions about which parts of the lessons are most important to develop concepts and skills and about pacing. In my first year, there were times I didn’t completely understand where the lesson conversations would lead. But I was surprised about the math conversations we were having. And the students could explain why we were doing certain things! It made so much sense to them. Even my less confident math students increased their participation. That’s when I knew.

What advice do you have for first-year teachers?

Planning is the difficult piece — having a good idea where the lesson is going, knowing what questions to ask, how to create the conversations and get to those “aha” moments. You need to break the problems apart to see where kids are struggling. You may need to take them further back at first, but that will help you speed up later. Be patient with yourself. It takes time. Look at the lesson. Begin with the assessment to see what kids are expected to know and demonstrate, then make professional decisions based on those requirements.

© Great Minds 2016