“MATH IS IN EVERYTHING”: A FIELD REPORT FROM ALEXANDRIA, LA
By: Sarah Jolly
Sarah Jolly is a 5th-grade math teacher at L.S. Rugg Elementary School in Alexandria, Louisiana. Sarah also serves as a lead math teacher at the district level, helping to provide professional development to her peers.
“Math is in everything. And if we’re going to prepare these kids for careers and colleges — for jobs that pay really well and are going to be there when they get out of school — they’ll need really great math skills.”
How is this first year with Eureka Math going?
So far it’s going really well. You’re going to have some bumps. This group of students I have this year went through multiple changes of curriculum and standards over the years, and that’s been a struggle. But with the strategies in Eureka, the kids have really done well.
A large percentage of these kids are visual learners. All the modeling in Eureka is just really good for them. In other words, drawing things out for this group is so helpful. Many of them don’t really get it unless they can draw a picture, and Eureka asks for that. And by doing this, we show them there’s a meaning behind what we do, so when you get to the algorithm you can justify or explain it
It’s always been intimidating for my students when I say, “Prove your work.” Now, they have a larger toolbox of strategies to do that with. If I say, “Hey, model this with a picture,” they’re not looking at me with a blank face.
In what other ways is Eureka Math different from other approaches you’ve used?
Kids need more than one strategy for solving problems, and then they can pick which one makes the most sense to them. In everything else (writing, reading, etc.), you’re giving kids multiple strategies. You should do that with math too. Eureka helps with that. This makes math more meaningful, too, and more relevant to life
I think students have had tricks in the past, but they tended to expire by fifth grade. The strategies in Eureka Math can carry them into the upper grades. They’re going to be able to use tape diagrams in junior high. They’re a great visual aid to help a student map out a word problem. And area models can follow them going into high school
How is the transition going for the teachers you work with?
When we’re doing a lot of these trainings, it’s almost like some teachers are having a harder time than the students because they weren’t given a conceptual framework of learning in math as kids. But we definitely have teachers taking this curriculum and doing amazing things with it.
What’s different in the classroom this year, with Eureka in place?
They’re doing better with fractions than my students in the past. I think the manipulatives we use with Eureka help represent the number and show fractional parts, and there are many opportunities to draw them out, too
We work more on relating the math to real life, too. For example, we were recently looking at a recipe for a meal, and we were adding up fractions. If we get the fractions wrong in cooking, kids understand it’s going to come out tasting like garbage. Math is in everything. And if we’re going to prepare these kids for careers and colleges — for jobs that pay really well and are going to be there when they get out of school — they’ll need really great math skills.