GIVING STUDENTS THAT “DEEP UNDERSTANDING” OF MATH: A FIELD REPORT FROM RAPIDES PARISH, LA
By: Anna Teekell
Anna Teekell is a curriculum specialist who works with 4th- and 5th-grade teachers in Rapides Parish, northwest of New Orleans, which serves about 24,000 students. About two-thirds are eligible for free and reduced-price lunch.
“Eureka Math is giving kids that deep understanding, so that they are able to complete problems that probably last year they weren’t able to complete.”
How is it going in this first year of Eureka Math implementation in your district?
I think it’s an awesome curriculum. I think it’s definitely made teachers step up their game. That’s not a bad thing. It’s okay to stretch. Of course like with anything new, next year will be even better. Eureka Math is giving kids that deep understanding, so that they are able to complete problems that probably last year they weren’t able to complete
My daughter — she’s 8 — is in private school. Her school implemented Singapore math four years ago. I see a lot of similarities between the two curricula. They are conceptual, foster deeper learning, and some of their strategies are very similar. In her school, they had huge teacher pushback and parent pushback in the beginning. But now everybody has settled into things, and the kids and teachers are all doing well. And my daughter is great at math. She can add numbers and subtract numbers and figure things out in her head so fast. She has such great number sense, too. I’m hearing a lot of teachers here in our schools saying the same thing this year. They’re saying that their kids are doing amazing things.
How is this different from what you had in place in the past?
We didn’t have a district-wide curriculum before, so it’s good to now have something that everybody is using. In reality, the Eureka Math strategies and approach aren’t really that different from the strategies I learned to use when I was a third-grade teacher — a lot of them are just good, common sense teaching strategies. For example, as a teacher, I knew just teaching math facts wouldn’t have worked with my students. I had to teach them strategies to remember the math. You’ve got to explain things and show what they mean, and then you’ll get to deeper understanding with kids. You’ve got to be able to get them to relate to what you’re doing so they internalize it, so it means something to them
Are there any challenges that have come up in this first year of implementation?
We had a scripted reading program at one point in the district, and teachers were initially afraid this was going to be the math version of that. We had to explain that this is a tool. You don’t have to follow it word for word. We told them we want them teaching the strategies and using the problems laid out in the Eureka Math materials but that it’s okay to still be creative with this. We’re not trying to take away anyone’s creativity. Right now, I think the majority of our teachers understand that and are comfortable with the strategies
How are parents in your district responding to Eureka Math?
Every school was asked to do a parent night. The parents were very receptive to going and responded positively afterwards. Once an adult, an educator, sits down with parents and explains to them what we’re doing and why, instead of them getting their information on social media, parents are fine with it.