“LIKE A BREATH OF FRESH AIR:” A FIELD REPORT FROM ALABAMA

Kimberly Graham is a 3rd grade teacher in Guntersville City Schools, a small rural district (480 students, about 40 percent low-income) about an hour from Huntsville, Alabama. This is her seventh year teaching, but first using Eureka Math, and she’s already seeing a huge difference in her students’ understanding.

How did you get started with Eureka?

We spent our entire 2014–2015 school year trying to build and piece together resources to supplement our curriculum. We were tired, beat down, and fed up because we couldn’t find anything that would honor the best practices that we knew would help our children be the most successful. At the end of that school year, we set out on a search to find something better … and boy did we ever! Someone from the state education agency told us about the EdReports.org evaluation, so we looked into it.

When we went to our first Eureka training last summer, it was like a breath of fresh air. Finally, a curriculum that honored the rigor of Common Core but provided our children with all the pieces they needed to have a strong foundation in mathematics. Eureka is what we had been longing for!

My ‘Eureka Moment’ came this year while teaching multiplication. Since I began teaching seven years ago, we have always taught multiplication strategies for problem solving, but when it came to memorizing facts, we used drill and practice. I had tried building ice cream cones, rockets, stickers; you name it — to help my kids learn their multiplication tables. With mixed results.

But once my students had fluency practice and learned how to skip count by 2s, by 5s, by 3s, by 6s, etc. — both forwards and backwards — their multiplication fluency really took off. My kids could multiply quickly because of skip counting. It changed their thinking about math.

They like math much more. With the critical thinking, applications, and real-world experiences, they are more confident and independent.

I was a struggling math student. I wish someone had taught me this way. The farther we get into it, the more we see how beneficial it is for kids. This is what we’ve been wanting all along.

What do you anticipate next year?

I’m looking forward to just teaching math next year, full-time. This will be my first time to departmentalize and I am really excited to be getting even deeper into Eureka. I also can’t wait to see the difference in our students’ learning after one full year of implementation. I’d also really love to get some more PD this summer!

What advice do you have for others just starting to use the curriculum?

Stick with it. Trust in the process and what’s been given to you. We’re so used to supplementing the materials. But have faith in these. They work!