Edward Hampton is a Eureka Math Fellow and math coach for Prekindergarten through Grade 5 at Westside Elementary School in rural Cumberland, MD, where the majority of students are low income. Edward previously served as a math specialist for his district (Allegany County Public Schools) and as a Grade 5 teacher. Westside Elementary fully implemented Eureka Math in all grades in the 2015–2016 school year, and Edward talked with us about that experience and about his role as a Eureka Math Fellow in a recent conversation. Excerpts are below.
How did your school come to use Eureka Math?
A few teachers heard about Eureka Math/EngageNY Math and started reading parts of it and trying it out before the whole school started using it in the 2015–2016 school year. I previously taught Grade 5, and I was among those who began studying Eureka Math to further develop my own understanding of math. Another teacher, Mandy Tang, who taught Kindergarten here and grew up in China, was a real proponent of it, too. She was wowed by it and said it felt similar to the math approaches used when she was going to school.
What do the data show?
Our PARCC scores went up, in all grades, once we started using the curriculum. Let’s begin with data representing the same population of students. Take our current Grade 5 students [for school year 2016–2017]. When they were in Grade 3, they weren’t using Eureka Math, and 28 percent of them met or exceeded expectations on PARCC at the end of 2014–2015. A year later, at the end of Grade 4 in 2015–2016, 60 percent met or exceeded expectations. This group of students moved from tenth in the district to fourth after one year of implementation. The percentage of students currently in Grade 6 that meet or exceed expectations also doubled from Grade 4 [for SY 2014 –2015] to Grade 5 [for SY 2015–2016]. Before we implemented Eureka Math, our Grade 3 ranked tenth in the district, and last year, after implementing, it ranked sixth; our Grade 4 had ranked thirteenth, and last year it ranked fourth. I believe this communicates that the curriculum further develops teachers and students in their understanding of mathematics.
What are you seeing in the classrooms in your school that looks different than it did in the past?
I was just in a Grade 1 class observing and giving feedback. These students had Eureka Math last year in Kindergarten. Watching them develop has been so rewarding. They were working on the Read-Draw-Write (RDW) approach. They were answering word problems using a variety of strategies. And they were demonstrating strength with math practices we want students to have, such as making use of structure and modeling with mathematics. Their drawings were organized, and they were writing out solutions to word problems in complete-answer statements. You can see clearly in their work that our educators are doing an effective job, and the curriculum is helping facilitate that learning.
It’s also great to listen to teachers and students talk about efficient strategies for solving a problem instead of simply hearing a teacher say, “Hi boys and girls, this is how you subtract.” Now we’re hearing things like, “What strategies do we know that can help us add and subtract? Which one is most efficient? Which one is more efficient for you as a learner?”
Why did you decide to apply for this fellowship, and how is it helping you professionally?
I want to continue to build my knowledge base in mathematics. The Eureka Math writers I work with through the fellowship have a profound understanding of fundamental mathematics. I’m learning so much from them and passing that along to the teachers and students I serve. Some elementary school teachers are less comfortable with math than with other subjects. But I know at my school, their comfort level is growing.
How else are you growing professionally through this experience?
I’m a better math coach to the teachers in my school. I also might be able to effectively serve as a math specialist for the district again someday. One of the reasons I left that specialist role a few years ago was that, although it was a huge compliment that I was hired for it, I didn’t really view myself as a math specialist serving five schools. Now, three years later, I feel that I would be better able to help in that role.
Has there been a specific area of focus for you in the fellowship program? If so, can you describe it?
My area of focus has been Prekindergarten through Grade 5. As a fellow, you can focus on elementary, middle, or high school, a blend of two or all of those, or even narrow your focus to a grade band within elementary education. I’ve also been focusing on the coherence across grades and problem solving with tape diagrams and other models. I’ve chosen to focus on coherence because it allows me to better serve the teachers and students I work with in my school and district and across the country. I’ve chosen to focus on tape diagrams and other models for problem solving because these were areas where I personally have the most room to grow.
What would you say to someone considering this Eureka Math Fellowship Program?
The fellowship program allows you to deepen your own profound understanding of fundamental mathematics, connects you with other educators who love mathematics, and provides opportunities for you to scale your impact in education beyond your building or district as you travel the country to facilitate adult learners.