Topics: Teacher Engagement High-Quality Curriculum Eureka Math Squared

Coaching Teachers and Building Connections Across Grade Levels with Eureka Math²

Alyssa Buccella

by Alyssa Buccella

May 9, 2023
Coaching Teachers and Building Connections Across Grade Levels with Eureka Math²

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Posted in: Aha! Blog > Eureka Math Blog > Teacher Engagement High-Quality Curriculum Eureka Math Squared > Coaching Teachers and Building Connections Across Grade Levels with Eureka Math²

After successfully piloting Eureka Math² in school year 2021–2022, KIPP Northeast Elementary (Denver, CO) moved to full implementation of the curriculum in grades K–4 for school year 2022–2023. We recently spoke with NyLeesa Graham—assistant principal and instructional coach—who has been supporting implementation school-wide. Read on to hear about her experiences with Eureka Math² as well as her advice to other educators who may be considering or beginning implementation as well.

School Profile
•    KIPP Northeast Elementary
•    500 students
•    53% Hispanic, 29% Black, 6% White
•    Piloted Eureka Math2® in school year 2021–2022; full adoption in school year 2022–2023

What has been going well with implementation, and what has been most challenging?

NyLeesa Graham: It’s been really cool to dive into Eureka Math². I really love the curriculum. I love the interface of the web version and being able to use the slides. I think what’s been going well from a coaching standpoint is that teachers are mostly following the curriculum to fidelity, which is one of my biggest pushes as a coach. It’s easy for teachers to get stuck in their ways or on something new that doesn’t make sense to them, but I’m encouraging and coaching my teachers to stick to the curriculum and trust the process.

One of the challenges I’m facing with some teachers is around internalization of the content so that they are really ready to teach the curriculum. I’m noticing that some teachers think they can just open the Teach book when they show up and read what it says teachers are supposed to read. Yes, the materials are there for you, but there is still a lot of prep work that goes into teaching these lessons. So that is something I’m working on with some of my teachers. I have a few who are a little more old-school who think it’s a lot, but they are also open to it and can see the potential in it.

Are there any common reasons that teachers may not teach the curriculum to fidelity?

NyLeesa: I definitely see pacing as an area of growth in the entire school just because things don’t always go as planned and then not all pieces of the lesson happen. Teachers often focus on the Launch, Fluency, and Learn parts of the lesson, but lessons start to break down when it comes to the debrief time. So I’m coaching my teachers around that because the debrief is such an important time, especially when you are giving an Exit Ticket. I’ve been trying to empower my teachers to adjust their delivery to get to all sections. That might mean they have to cut Fluency a little bit shorter or do fewer examples in Launch to make sure they get through all pieces of the lesson.

I will say this though: Pacing is less of an issue for my teachers who have internalized the materials. It’s my teachers who aren’t putting in the time to internalize and prepare who are struggling. I think some of my teachers need to develop the skills and the routine needed to prepare. I tell them that teaching math is way more than the time they spend in class, but if they put in the time, it’s going to make their life easier and their time teaching a lot smoother.

Teachers work with me to internalize one lesson per week with the goal that they take what we do together and implement it in the other four lessons they teach that week. I choose the lesson for us to work on together based on things like whether there is a new term being introduced in that lesson or a major concept teachers and students need to understand to connect to later modules.

Does Eureka Math2 help teachers build their own conceptual knowledge of math, especially those who maybe have not felt that math instruction comes easily?

NyLeesa: Absolutely. I can think of one teacher in particular who really loves that internalization process and to see where Eureka Math² is taking the story and the conceptual development of the mathematics. I even have some veteran teachers who have used different curricula and have had those moments of, “Okay, this is cool. I can see where this is going. I can see how this connects to later modules.”

I think the biggest aha moments that my teachers have had is when they’ve done professional development with me where the goal of it is to see how each grade level impacts the next. I find common vocabulary, and I have them explore each other’s materials and pick out where they see their grade level come up. It really helps teachers see, “Okay, grade 2 is depending on this concept from kindergarten. Grade 4 is depending on that concept from grade 1—if this isn’t really solidified in grade 1, then the student’s journey through math is going to be more difficult.”

Which features of the curriculum have made planning and delivering instruction easier?

NyLeesa: Definitely the digital platform, that is a big one, and then the materials as well. For each module I make sure teachers look ahead and tell me what they need, and since we get the materials from Great Minds®, I don’t need to go and order all these things from different places. That was really nice for me coming in as a leader: knowing there’s a closet full of what my teachers need—every owl poster, every story card, it’s all there. Also, having materials that you don’t have to print out. When I was a teacher, I was making materials and printing out pages and pages. It was a lot. Now my teachers have the Learn and Apply books ready to go. That takes away a lot of prep work.

What are you hearing or seeing in terms of student engagement and discourse?

NyLeesa: Kindergarten and grade 1 students are excited about the materials that they get to use. In kindergarten there’s a lot of bears, animal farms, cookies, play dough, and things like that. I know that they enjoy it, their little faces light up. I think it feels less like math and more like a play experience for them. In grade 4, we have such a great math teacher. Students are always engaged, and they have very academic conversations about math. That’s one of my favorite classes to go to, especially because I taught grade 4 for most of my classroom career. It’s fun to see them all so serious about math and really thinking about things. The teacher in that classroom holds them to a high standard. He doesn’t let them off the hook. He asks the tough questions. He’s really creating mathematicians who think about math.

I think students are having a positive math experience across the board. We aren’t seeing the changes in the data that we want to see, yet, but there are a lot of things beyond our control that play into that. Because of COVID, a lot of students just don’t know how to be in school, and they didn’t have the manipulatives that they needed when they were learning at home. We are seeing the impacts of that that right now, and we are working through it.

In that grade 4 classroom, what has Enabled students to have thouse academic conversations about math?

NyLeesa: I think there are a few big reasons for those successful math conversations. The first is the teacher’s level of internalization of the curriculum and his understanding of conceptual math. He knows what answer he’s looking for and how he wants students to get there, and he really pushes their conversations. And I also really think it’s the curriculum: the questions that are embedded in it and the flow of it. That teacher is one who teaches the curriculum the closest to fidelity, and I think that is a big part of it. He’s also a very data-driven teacher. He looks at the materials and students’ Exit Tickets on a daily basis and uses that to adjust his instruction.

How has the increased readability or accessibility of the curriculum affected student learning?

NyLeesa: I think the readability of the curriculum is huge, especially in kindergarten and grade 1. When I was teaching math, students couldn’t access the material because they couldn’t read, so it was becoming a reading test and not a math test. But with Eureka Math², there are words and there are also visuals. I think the readability in the lower grades takes a huge lift off students. Instead of trying to read the materials, they can look at symbols, but I do like the fact that the symbols are paired with words so students can learn to read at the same time.

How have students engaged with the digital features like the math context videos?

Animated image of five kids sitting in the back row of a large red roller coaster car with more kids approaching to bard the car.Still image taken from the Roller Coaster Story context video found in kindergarten module 5 of Eureka Math². Students watch the video and tell a math story to match.

NyLeesa: First of all, I really like those videos. I think that visual story piece is so important, especially because we don’t have protocols for word problems at our school. The videos are a different form of engagement, too, which is why I like them. They get students thinking about and seeing math in a different way. Sometimes students have a hard time visualizing concepts, but now they can watch the video and think, “Okay, I see a roller coaster. I see five kids getting on it. I see the roller coaster going up.” I think it makes a huge difference, and the videos are interactive too. The teacher plays the video, stops it and has students think, and then they discuss, and students predict what’s going to happen before the teacher plays part two. It’s a really cool feature, and I think teachers and students enjoy it.

What advice would you give someone who was about to start using Eureka Math2?

NyLeesa: I think I would tell them to trust the process. Trust that the leaders and the minds that created this curriculum thought about all the things you might think it’s missing. A lot of times teachers think they’re smarter than a curriculum that’s research based, or get stuck in things they don’t understand, but I would tell them to trust the process and stick to the curriculum. Also, to remember that teachers don’t have to do the thinking when it comes to lesson planning, but that doesn’t mean there’s no internalization needed. You are lucky enough to not have to create materials. That’s great. Spend that hour and 30 minutes a day reading every piece of the curriculum and making sure you know what’s going to happen in your class.

Is there anything else you want to add about your experience?

NyLeesa: From an equity standpoint, I think that this curriculum, more than versions in the past, considers the diversity of its audience. I really like the historical piece that’s brought in with Math Past. Math is ancient, and I think it’s important and valuable to honor all the diverse people and communities who created it. That component may be more subtle than some of the other obvious features that come with this curriculum, but I appreciate the thought that was put into it because it’s important for a curriculum to reflect the students that I serve. I think Eureka Math² has done a good job with starting to consider those things.


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Topics: Teacher Engagement High-Quality Curriculum Eureka Math Squared