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Set Expectations High and Students Will Meet Them

Teachers at Kentucky’s Second Street Elementary learned an important lesson early in their implementation of Eureka Math: Students will rise to the high expectations of Eureka Math, even if the curriculum’s particular strategies are new to them and their teachers.

Because our kids had not been provided the right amount of rigor previously, a lot of teachers pushed back on [the curriculum]—they felt it was too hard for our kids,” recalls Stephanie Starkey, Grade 4 math teacher at the school. “But if you set the expectation that, ‘I know you are capable of doing this,’ then students will as long as you provide support and scaffolding,” she adds.

Now in their fourth year of using Eureka Math, students are so enthusiastic and proficient that Starkey has them teach their parents what they’re learning, which eases parent skepticism about the rigors of the curriculum.

Getting Parents On Board through Social Media 

Students use Starkey’s Facebook Live to broadcast lessons and share what they’re working on with parents. “I use some videos of me or other teachers teaching,” says Starkey. “But I’ve realized that it’s so much more effective if the kids actually show what they’ve learned today, and then it’s on Facebook for parents to easily view it.” 

My kids love making those Facebook Live videos. They think it is so much fun,” Starkey adds. “I try to feature different students—usually it’s a kid who struggles a lot of the time, but they got the lesson that day. They get so excited and make sure their moms and dads see the video.” 

It’s important for teachers to empathize with parents who don’t understand the conceptual approach Eureka Math takes to teaching the big ideas of math. As a parent herself, Starkey has experienced the skepticism firsthand. “My daughter is in fourth grade this year, so I receive some pushback from my husband,” she says, chuckling. “He asks, ‘Why do you have to teach it this way?’”

Rigor and Standards Alignment Praised

Starkey was on the committee that first learned about Eureka Math during the 2014–2015 school year. “We loved that it was developed to align with the new education standards.” Another huge advantage is the curriculum’s rigor. “We knew that our students needed much more rigor than they had been receiving in the area of math. That is a huge plus of using Eureka Math.

Starkey believes her own willingness to learn the new instructional approaches helped her colleagues overcome some of their early misgivings. “I’ve been teaching for 15 years, but I haven’t always just taught math. Others saw that I wasn’t afraid to take on something new. I think when they saw other teachers doing it, not complaining, teaching children that productive struggle is a good thing, and seeing my kids being successful, then they kind of jumped on board,” she says.

As the school’s students are now starting Eureka Math in Kindergarten, Starkey notices a difference in student achievement in the higher grades. “We’re just getting so much farther with them—we’re getting deeper into the standards—and as a result. I’m able to take my students to a deeper level in math.”

One Step at a Time

Starkey says the many resources on the Eureka Math website have been invaluable for helping her and her colleagues learn the curriculum. She advises educators who are implementing Eureka Math for the first time to take it one step at a time: “It will be overwhelming at first, but I mastered one part at a time.” She started with concept development, then added an application problem, and then the fluency activities.

Make sure that you implement one piece of the curriculum effectively, and then pull in another piece, rather than trying to do it all at once,” she advises. 

One outcome could very well be that your students will teach their parents, as students at Second Street do!