PROMOTING DEEPER THINKING IN STUDENTS & TEACHERS: A FIELD REPORT FROM RAPIDES PARISH, LA
By: Meredith Rhoads
Meredith Rhoads is a curriculum specialist for elementary schools in Rapides Parish, Louisiana, northwest of New Orleans. Meredith helps implement the Eureka Math curriculum for teachers in Grades K–3. Rapides Parish serves about 24,000 students. About two-thirds are eligible for free and reduced-price lunch.
“At first, I think the teachers were kind of like, ‘Why are we doing this?’ Now that they see what is coming with the PARCC exam, they’re like, “Oh I see why we’re doing that.”
How is it going this first year of implementation with Eureka Math?
For our district, we never had the same math curriculum for our schools. We have 34 elementary schools, and we have a large transient population. Getting to one curriculum, getting on the same page was big.
When we decided on Eureka, our biggest pushback was in the early grades. Second-grade teachers were vocal. I think it’s because our elementary teachers teach everything. They aren’t necessarily math teachers. In 2nd grade, the curriculum is one of the hardest. They’re introducing a lot more strategies. We’ve been trying to give extra support to that grade.
How do you support teachers?
Every time we roll out a new module, before implementing that module, we pull the teachers in and have a professional development day. Rather than having me do that, we’re having some teacher leaders present that information. Teachers dive in and break down the information. That seems to be really beneficial.
At first, I think the teachers were kind of like, “Why are we doing this?” Now that they see what is coming with the PARCC exam, they’re like, “Oh I see why we’re doing that.” Seeing what’s coming with the PARCC test, they’re saying “Eureka is going to help me with that.”
They’re finding their groove with it. Many are saying, “This has made the difference in my classroom.”
How are the students progressing?
The middle school curriculum specialist is excited about what we’re doing in the elementary grades because we’re getting the kids ready. We’re not using cutesy little words anymore. We’re using the word “algorithm” in first grade.
They are understanding the meaning behind the math. It’s promoting deeper thinking. In explaining this to a parent, or someone who doesn’t know Eureka, I would show that if we’re working on addition and regrouping, I would have the parent work the problem and the kid work it with the number disc. He or she would show that when you exchange it like this, you do this, or would explain that with 21, you have two 10s and one 1. They truly have an understanding of number sense. They understand what that number means.
Our schools have held math nights, and they’ve been very successful. In some instances, these parents sit down in a chair, and the children are teaching their parents how to do the math.
How is Eureka Math different from other approaches you’ve used?
It’s that deeper understanding, and with Eureka Math, the strategies are different. We always had strategies, like underlining this word in a word problem. But there are more strategies for solving a problem with Eureka