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Be Prepared, Be Flexible, Be Patient

Solomon Schechter Day School in Northbrook, IL, is having great success with Eureka Math. The school’s secret? Educators there say they’ve taken care to master the curriculum, pace lessons flexibly, and let the story of math unfold through the modules.

Solomon Schechter’s principal found Eureka Math during the 2015–2016 school year after teachers realized their existing curriculum wasn’t adequately aligned with college- and career-readiness standards. “In third grade, we had to supplement for all the units except one,” recalls Suzanne Mishkin, a Grades K–4 director. Educators especially welcomed Eureka Math’s alignment with the new rigorous standards. 

That same year, the school began piloting Eureka Math in Grade 3, which had the least standards-aligned units. When the Grade 3 teachers expressed strong support, the school extended the pilot to the other grades and decided to adopt Eureka Math in Grades 1–4 for the 2016–2017 school year.

Pacing and Preparation

Missy Friedman, the school’s lead educator for math and a Grades 3 general studies teacher, recalls that teachers struggled some in the beginning, a common occurrence for schools making such a profound shift in their teaching approach. She says that after helping others implement Eureka Math over the past two years, it’s evident that good preparation is critical and recommends that teachers “really pay attention to the training and prepare each lesson to understand the lesson and the strategies for that lesson with an eye on the module as a whole.”

Flexibility is especially important for a school like Solomon Schechter, which has less than 60 minutes a day for math. Eureka Math lessons are designed for 60-minute classes, so teachers need to identify and focus on the most important components. “Being familiar with the entire lesson and knowing where it’s going allows you to be a little bit more flexible. Understanding the goal and how the concept is laid out over the module helps to prioritize how and when to fit in all of the program's components,” Friedman says.

Both educators also urge patience. “It’s really easy to become frustrated … because it’s a bit different from other approaches. Live it for a whole year, and then as you go, take notes to see what you can tweak the following year,” says Friedman.

Mishkin says that one helpful strategy has been to closely track the Mid-Module and End-of-Module Assessments. “Some grades are even tracking every Exit Ticket to look for patterns so they can meet student needs right away,” she says. The school has also made extensive use of the curriculum’s supplemental resources, including Student Workbooks and Teacher Editions, the Eureka Digital Suite, blog posts, and Teach Eureka videos. 

Professional Learning and Growth

Friedman leads the General Studies’ math teams, where she shares her current hands-on experience in Grades 3 and 4 during implementation to reassure teachers in the earlier grades and demonstrate the curriculum’s coherence. “They can see the progression of skills,” she says, “and how things build from the background that they provided [in earlier grades] to the third and fourth grade.”

The results have been impressive. In Grade 3, more than 80 percent of students met their growth target from fall to spring last year. “Having the fluencies and Sprints built in gives us a really great gauge to see where students are making progress,” Friedman says.

Learning the Language of Math

She and Mishkin are excited by how fluent students have become in speaking the language of math. “The conversations about math, process, and understanding happen daily. No other program that I’ve used in my 18 years at this school has taught those skills as successfully as Eureka Math,” Friedman adds.

Next year, the school intends to improve parent training efforts. Friedman says, “Since Eureka Math's approach and strategies are different than programs we have used in the past, parent education is key in helping them to understand the program. Using the Parent Tip Sheets allows parents insight into the strategies their children are learning to help understand the mathematical concepts, rather than just learning a rote method.” Friedman added, “Over time, especially in the grade I’m teaching, parents have grown more comfortable as their students are growing more comfortable with the program.” 

I tell them our kids are going to understand why, when you add these numbers together, you get a certain answer. Then they can take that knowledge up to multiplication,” Mishkin says, adding that she’s a Eureka Math parent herself. “That’s what I’m seeing with my own first grader. He says, ‘I can make this group of 10 and then I can add this, and that’s how I got the answer.’ It's about building understanding.