Tracie Lampson is an instructional coach in Hudson (MA) Public Schools, a district of about 1,000 students in east-central Massachusetts, which is now using Eureka Math in all grades.
This is her 24th year of teaching, 21 of them teaching high school math—from remedial courses to AP Calculus. We talked to her about her experience as a Eureka Math Fellow this past year. Excerpts are below.
What does being a Eureka Math Fellow involve for you?
Twenty percent of my year is committed to working for Eureka Math. I travel the country, meeting hundreds of other amazing math teachers, talking about math education, and showing how Eureka Math fits into the Common Core standards. Conceptual understanding is more stressed, which is a big shift. I have frank conversations with people, find out where they’re struggling, and try to help them.
What are some common challenges? First, how do teachers fill learning gaps? How do you teach a Grade 6 student who didn’t really understand Grade 5 math? That’s a challenge for any curriculum, not just Eureka Math. Second, how do you assess? Teachers are used to pulling forms A and B out of the textbook materials. Third, how do you differentiate to make it work for all students, from special ed to honors level?
Have you had any Eureka Moments when teachers “get it”? Once in California, we were really hammering the use of tape diagrams to solve word problems. Middle school teachers just want to write the equation, so we gave them problems that weren’t easily solved with the algorithm. At one point a math teacher jumped up, said “OMG,” ran to the document camera, and displayed his work. He said, “Please tell me this is right.” It was, and it changed his teaching forever.
In a district in Michigan, we met with middle school teachers. Grade 6 teachers were using the Eureka Math curriculum fully, some Grade 7 teachers were using some of the material, and Grade 8 teachers weren’t using it at all. By the end of the day, they all decided they really need to talk more regularly about the curriculum, whether it was Eureka Math or not. They realized they needed to know what each grade was teaching. Otherwise, students were losing out.
What are the benefits of being a Fellow? I can bring so much back to other teachers in my district. I get to work with the writers to really understand why they chose a particular sequence. When I help teachers understand that logic, they become better teachers, and students benefit. And the district wins as well. I can deliver all Eureka Math PD for free, which is a huge financial benefit. I also love the network. We’ve created a Fellows group that’s like our math family. We support each other all the time. It’s great for our professional development—and our sanity.
What’s next for you? I hope my district lets me job share again so I can stay on for a second year. I look forward to participating in some virtual coaching in 2017. I love math. I get excited about math. This is a way to share my passion.
What would you say to a teacher who is considering becoming a Fellow? It probably sounds cheesy, but I don’t know why you wouldn’t do this. It offers opportunities for professional growth and to network with other great teachers, see the country, and bring great PD back to your district.