Paragould School District’s (AR) journey with Eureka Math® started in 2014, when they were in search of a curriculum aligned with college- and career-readiness standards that would help their students gain deeper conceptual understanding of mathematics. After years of success using Eureka Math, the district seized the opportunity to pilot the new Eureka Math²™ curriculum in their grade 3 classrooms during the 2021–2022 school year.
“Part of our willingness to move forward with Eureka Math2 was the trust that we had in Eureka Math because Great Minds® had already created a curriculum we had been using with fidelity and had seen great gains with over the course of several years of implementation,” said School Improvement Specialist Timothy Parrott.
The district decided to pilot the new curriculum because they were excited about the possibility of enhancing math instruction for their students and creating new opportunities for their teachers to collaborate. “We're fighting all these learning gaps as a result of COVID and other factors, so we wanted to bring teachers together to really brainstorm what we can do to create the best learning opportunities for our kids. Piloting Eureka Math2 has helped us accomplish that, and it’s been a good partnership so far,” said Parrott.
When sharing her initial thoughts on this year’s Eureka Math2 pilot, grade 3 teacher Julie Wagner said, “I love it. I love how easy it was to implement. The Teach book was laid out very well and was a lot less wordy than the original Eureka Math version. It also gives me the reason why I’m teaching lessons and shows the progression of them, and I love to have that background knowledge.”
Teachers See Impact of Curriculum’s Enhanced Accessibility
Eureka Math2 was designed with a new level of flexibility and accessibility, and Paragould teachers appreciated several features that enabled all of their learners to be successful with the rigorous material. For example, grade 3 teacher Tonya Hill and her colleagues found value in the in-context margin notes that are designed to help teachers address learner variance. “I really like the [margin] notes and the UDL [Universal Design for Learning] supports on the side of the lessons. One of our schools that was piloting this year has a lot of English language learners, so those supports have really helped those teachers. I haven't had to use them as much in my building, but I always read them because they help differentiate the curriculum for some of my resource students.”
“I think the readability is one of the areas that we've been most encouraged about. It is not uncommon for struggling students to shut down pretty quickly if they feel overwhelmed, and one of the benefits of this new curriculum is we are seeing fewer students shut down from being intimidated and not knowing where to start. That's a gateway into learning and that's been a huge benefit of this Eureka Math2 curriculum."
—Timothy Parrott, School Improvement Specialist
Paragould educators also noticed different ways that the enhanced readability of Eureka Math2—like the structure of sentences, increased white space, and repetition of names used in problems throughout the modules—benefitted their students’ engagement and learning. “I liked the readability. Especially for my English language learners and some of my students who struggle, I feel like having the text broken up so that each individual sentence was on its own line made the text less scary for them to look at. That really helps them think in their head ‘Okay, this is one sentence. I can deal with one sentence and then move on to the next one,’” said grade 3 teacher Amber Followell.
Wagner added: “There are fewer words on a page and students had more white space and I really think that helped them. Especially in the beginning of the year, students want to write everything out and a lot of kids are too timid to ask for extra paper. Eureka Math2 just made it easy—the space was already there for them.”
Manipulatives proved to be another important support for many learners, building and solidifying their understanding of math concepts through hands-on, concrete tools. “We did purchase the manipulatives that are specific to Eureka Math2, and we had several teachers who did an especially good job using those manipulatives and incorporating those into their lessons. The manipulatives reinforce the visual component of what we are trying to accomplish with our kids, especially the ones who maybe struggle with reading fluently or reading for comprehension,” said Parrott.
A CURRICULUM DESIGNED FOR STUDENT DISCOURSE
Throughout the pilot, these embedded supports along with the curriculum’s interactive elements brought Paragould math classrooms to life. “The curriculum prompts us to have students discuss constantly—to turn and talk in pairs or to have a group discussion. That has been huge for my class. In fact, at the end of the year I asked my kids to tell me something about math this year that they loved, and one of the first things most students said was that they loved that discussion piece,” said Hill.
Several teachers noted the ease with which they were able to elicit that discourse due to the structure of Eureka Math2 and the way the curriculum clearly lays out and works engagement strategies into the materials. “Probably my favorite thing about [Eureka Math2] is how it’s geared for student-led learning. I’m a firm believer that the kids have to talk in class, they have to communicate, and it’s just built right in with Eureka Math2, so that made it so much easier,” explained Wagner.
“My kids are excited. I’d say to them ‘It’s math time, get your stuff,’ and they’d get excited about math. Math and science are my favorites, but it was really neat to watch the kids be excited about math. They knew we were possibly going to get a video, there were going to be pictures on the screen, we were going to collaborate, and they were going to get to talk about what we were learning. They loved that.”
—Julie Wagner, Grade 3 Teacher
Almost all of the grade 3 teachers also commented that their students really enjoyed and benefitted from their Eureka Math2 workbooks being in color, and Hill also remarked on students’ enthusiasm for the curriculum’s digital features like the embedded context videos. “Any time there's a video, I'm showing that video because it captures students’ attention and it's so quick and short. They picked up on things in the videos that I don’t even pick up on, so that's been a really good thing.”
Working Through Pacing Challenges
As is common when implementing a new curriculum, getting the pacing right was a challenge Paragould teachers had to work through during the Eureka Math2 pilot. Ultimately, ongoing independent study of the materials, informal collaboration among the cohort of teachers, and formal professional development and coaching from Great Minds helped each educator refine their implementation across the year.
“Paula and Martha [Great Minds implementation support specialists] have done a really good job coming alongside of us saying ‘Can we get together?’ or ‘Can we have a zoom meeting?’ or ‘We’d love to come visit.’ We’ve had them on our campuses observing our teachers and giving them credible feedback. And then certainly the additional professional development that has come along with this pilot has helped tremendously,” said Parrott.
“I struggled to complete Eureka Math lessons prior to Great Minds trainers coming to school and demonstrating a lesson for us. It doesn’t leave a lot of room for error, and it takes preparation, but it can be done. That was the main thing I learned this year: The lessons can be finished, and I think it is so helpful to finish it all and get to those exit tickets.”
—Amber Followell, Grade 3 Teacher
There is optimism that pacing and overall implementation will only improve in year two, and grade 3 teacher Jeana Hayes emphasized the importance of approaching the first year of any curriculum implementation gradually and with intention. “Any time I implement something new I know that I’m probably going to be behind or going at a slower pace. In that first year, I give myself permission to do that because I’d rather become familiar with the curriculum thoroughly and then be able to move through it more quickly later,” said Hayes.
Preparing for District-Wide Implementation of Eureka Math2
Paragould plans to expand implementation of Eureka Math2 to multiple grade levels in the 2023–2024 school year, following implementation of a new English language arts curriculum in the upcoming 2022–2023 school year. “There’s interest from other teachers around the district already. I think the readability is a huge selling point, especially because we are a high-poverty district with so many English language learners, students with dyslexia, students with learning disabilities—that readability is a huge selling point at the lower grade levels,” said Parrott.
In the meantime, they plan to review their high-priority math standards for the district this summer to make sure the progression of those standards and when they are assessed are well aligned with the new version of the curriculum and their goals as a district.
Paragould teachers did have some advice for others based on their experience piloting Eureka Math2: Most agreed on the need to slow down and trust the curriculum and how it is designed. “Take it one day at a time, take it a topic at a time, even if you take it one lesson at a time—just pour over that one lesson and get that lesson down and then you can move on to the next thing,” said Followell.
As for Parrott, his biggest takeaway is, “Don’t allow your comfort zone to deter you from exploring these new horizons. I’ll be the first to say we were never displeased with Eureka Math, and there's this mentality that says, ‘If it’s not broken, don’t fix it.’ And I get that. I'm not going to go look to change something that’s doing just fine, but it can also at times deter you from exploring and really creating even better learning opportunities for your students, and that has been our experience so far with Eureka Math2.”
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Alyssa has nearly a decade of education research experience. She has led equity and student success research to support K-12 public school districts across the country in addressing their most pressing challenges, including college access, mental health, social emotional learning, and racial justice. Alyssa holds a B.A. in Psychology and Global Studies and an M.Ed. in Globalization and Educational Change from Lehigh University.