LOW-PERFORMING STUDENTS PROGRESS WITH EUREKA MATH: A FIELD REPORT FROM EAST BATON ROUGE, LA
By: Em LeBlanc
Em LeBlanc is the Principal of Park Elementary School, a Title I school in East Baton Rouge Parish, Louisiana, that starting using Eureka Math during the 2013–14 school year. Ms. LeBlanc is the district’s former elementary school math & science specialist and also previously taught 3rd grade.
“I had a low-performing student last year when I was teaching…One day he raised his hand, and I called on him. He said, “Ms. LeBlanc, if I would have known math was this easy I would have liked it a long time ago.”
What makes Eureka Math different from other approaches?
Eureka does not do tricks. For a lot of teachers and a lot of parents, or people of older generations, their teachers taught them tricks or rhymes or songs. So for multiplying fractions, they might use the butterfly method. That would help them remember a procedure, but there’s no math behind that and it doesn’t work every time. People were just remembering a trick, but then they would get frustrated when they couldn’t explain it, because they didn’t know the math.
This is exactly why some parents can’t help their kids with math homework now. They didn’t learn to understand math. They can’t explain it to their kids.
What does the math instruction across grades look like in your school with Eureka?
The strategies are used coherently among grades. They’re not just one-hit wonders. You may learn about a number bond in kindergarten, but by fifth grade you’re applying that to fractions.
There’s definitely a progression within a grade level and across grade levels with an emphasis on concrete, pictorial and abstract ideas. Usually when giving students concrete models, we use things like Unifix cubes, counters, or any kind of manipulative. Then we have them draw problems. Then they do the math in their head. It’s a progression.
How are your teachers doing with the transition to this curriculum?
The curriculum perfectly reflects the standards and the instructional shifts. You can’t get any better than that. The teachers, once they get familiar with it, they’re sold even if it’s a struggle sometimes at first.
I had a group of retired teachers come back to teach this school year, and I had to train them. Once they got into Eureka Math, even though it was new to them, they loved it. They could see why it made sense. They liked how the curriculum was visual for the kids, but also that the students who were ready to move on to abstract problems could do that, too. I thought they might be resistant to something so different, but they weren’t
How do students like it?
I had a low-performing student last year when I was teaching. He raised his hand a lot, but you never knew what he’d say. One day he raised his hand, and I called on him. He said, “Ms. LeBlanc, if I would have known math was this easy I would have liked it a long time ago.” His math experiences prior to 3rd grade must have not been good because he turned off liking math. He shut down. He would have liked it those other years if he had had these successful experiences.