After years of using Eureka Math®, Calcasieu Parish Public Schools (LA) decided to launch a small pilot of the new Eureka Math²™ curriculum in the 2021–2022 school year. We recently spoke with one of the pilot participants, Elizabeth Fruge, who has been a math teacher for 13 years and is currently a grade 7 and grade 8 Algebra 1 teacher. She shared her Eureka Math² pilot experience with us and offered advice to other educators who may be considering or beginning implementation as well.
How long were you using Eureka Math before the transition to Eureka Math2?
- 58 schools
- 27,932 students
- 57% White, 33% Black, 5% Hispanic
- Two teachers piloted Eureka Math2 in the 2021–22 school year; K–9 implementation planned for 2022–23 school year
I have used Eureka Math for both grade 7 and grade 8 previously, and then last year I used Eureka Math² for my grade 7 class. This year, I’m transitioning to Eureka Math² for my Algebra 1 class, too. I’ve already worked through the first module, and I love it. I had a lot of visitors in my classroom last year because I was piloting the program and my kids would always ask me, “Mrs. Fruge, are you a salesperson for Eureka Math² or something?” and I would say, “No, I am just very impressed with the curriculum.” My students really liked it, too. I will have them all again next year, so they were all excited when I told them we are going to do Eureka Math² for Algebra 1.
From your perspective, what is different about Eureka Math²?
As a teacher, I have learned so much more about how to teach the concepts behind the math in one year—it’s just unbelievable. I was always told, “Here’s the formula. Use it, and don’t ask why. Just do it.” And for me, that always worked. But kids would ask me why we do things a certain way, and I would have to say, “I’m not sure, it’s how I was taught so that’s what we do.” But now, I’m understanding the why, and it’s helping me to become a better teacher because I understand the concept development and reasoning behind what we are learning. Instead of saying, “I know it works, but I can’t tell you why it works or where it came from,” now I actually understand it.
When we did the lesson where you derive the area of a circle by using the little pie slices and we eventually got them into a rectangle and color-coded the circumference and the diameter, we could see how it all fit and how you get to A = πr². The kids loved it and I had this moment where I thought, "Wow, I never knew that." So, as a teacher I’m gaining a better understanding of the reason why things work, and now I can do a better job of reaching those students who aren’t just taking my word for it because I’m the teacher. I honestly cannot say enough good things about the curriculum—it gets me excited to teach math every day.
I'm also really looking forward to teaching Algebra 1 this year with Eureka Math². Working through this first module and seeing how the very first lesson relates place value to help students understand how to add and subtract polynomial expressions and combine like terms—it just makes so much sense. It takes their prior knowledge from the elementary school grades and connects it to something at a high school level, but students can relate to it because they’ve been doing it for so long.
What has gotten your students excited about Eureka Math²?
I think for the students it’s the discussion part of it because usually, in math class, the teacher tells you how to do something, and you do it without a lot of discussion. In math we tend to ask, “Who got the right answer?” But the difference with Eureka Math² is that questions are not asking for the answer, they are there to promote discussion with prompts such as, “What do you notice about this?” or “How would you do this?”
Eureka Math² asks questions any of the students can answer, and it opens up discussion in the classroom because no one is afraid to talk. It takes the fear out of being wrong, and that to me is the biggest thing: It makes it easier for the student to be comfortable in class.
Did your students like the context videos that are included?
We did like to watch the context videos. We would say, “We’re going to watch a movie, let’s get the popcorn and dim the lights,” and it was always exciting. Especially some of them where it was just the music, and they would show what the characters were thinking in little bubbles. I think there was one that was on percent discount where the character was going to the store, and she was going to buy some shirts, and it showed a price and then she got a coupon off. But there was no narrative; it just showed the pictures, and students had to infer from the video what was happening. So, again, that leads back to the discussion piece and being able to spark conversation by asking, “What do you think happened here?”
Were your students comfortable with discourse prior to being in a Eureka Math² classroom?
My grade 7 students were a little more comfortable with discourse than students I’ve seen in the past because they had been exposed to Eureka Math before. But by the end of the year, it was such a difference between the discussions in my grade 7 classroom and my Algebra 1 classroom. It was night and day, and that’s part of the reason I wanted to move to Eureka Math² for Algebra 1. It builds that comfort with discourse, and it gets students talking, and students learn so much more when they’re talking and working together. And students want to have that discussion—they know the rules, they know how to do it, and they don’t even think about it anymore—it’s just part of what the classroom is.
Do you see students building their conceptual knowledge or applying models like tape diagrams or number bonds in different ways over time?
I think they’re starting to. I am just now teaching students who have had Eureka Math long enough to make those connections. I do think they’re seeing how it builds, and even as we went on throughout the year they would say, “Oh yeah, I remember we did that back in module 2,” or “We did this last year.” So, they are making those connections, and it makes our job so much easier, it really does. I think explaining the why behind the math helps their conceptual understanding, and it helps them remember.
When I worked through module 1 for Algebra 1, I could immediately see the connections back to grade 7 and grade 6. The lesson is on multiplying binomials and trinomials, and the curriculum relates it back to the distributive property and the area model. There’s just so many different avenues the curriculum relates concepts back to prior knowledge that spark kids to think, “Remember you did this, or maybe you saw it this way.” To see the connections as a teacher and how the curriculum provides an entry point for students, at some point you’re going to find something that students remember from a previous grade to help them do what they’re doing now so everybody can be successful.
The district is expanding implementation to grades K–9 in this upcoming year, right? Is there any advice you would offer to other educators as they start using Eureka Math²?
We are, and we were just having conversations about how to get teacher buy-in. I think the teachers will need to work through it, keep an open mind, trust in the process, and experience it for themselves. Based on my experience I truly believe Eureka Math² is going to make their jobs easier; it’s just so much easier to teach.
As far as advice, I think the biggest thing is you have to do is trust the curriculum. It’s hard, but you have to trust it, and it works. You also need to do the math yourself. My recommendation is to start working through the lessons in the student manual ahead of time. Then go back to the teacher’s manual and make sure you understand the intent of the lesson, look at the questions you’re supposed to ask, and think about how to adjust your delivery. For me, working the problems in the student book as a student would helped to uncover some common mistakes or misconceptions the students might have and anticipate them ahead of time.
Also make sure to do the Exit Tickets—those provide invaluable information—and then keep moving on. Not every student is going to get it right away, but the curriculum comes back to concepts so many times throughout the module, and that’s the intention. The Exit Tickets allow you to identify who didn’t understand something and may need extra support the next day, but then still allows you to move forward.
It was a lot to trust that the curriculum would work as intended and there were times I had my doubts but I stayed the course and taught it with fidelity. In the end, I’m glad I did because I saw tremendous growth in my students and they really enjoyed the learning process.