LOCS poised to approve new elementary math programming

By Megan Kelley
Staff Writer
LAKE ORION — During its meeting on Feb. 14, the Lake Orion Community School’s Board of Education received a presentation and recommendation from members of the district’s math pilot committee regarding findings of a now completed trial of two elementary math pilot programs.
District math specialist and instructional coach Emilie Schiff, along with DK-2nd grade coach Lisa Jones, gave an overview of the pilot program which consisted of 19 elementary teachers in the district at various levels and at different schools utilizing two different programs for their math instruction earlier this year. Teachers then discussed the programs, comparing them to each other and to the current program the district utilizes in order to make a decision on which program the district should implement next year.
“Why did we do this? The biggest reason is the research is pervasive on the fact that we should be looking at our resource every 10 years. We don’t have to change our resource every 10 years but it is really important to have a look at it to make sure it’s still meeting our needs and meeting the needs of our kids,” Schiff said. “We’ve also noticed that over the last probably six to seven years, our mathematics scores have not kept pace with our literacy scores.”
Additionally, the district wanted to ensure that students are carrying the cognitive load of the work they’re doing, allow for more collaboration among students with their peers and make sure students are actually learning the math they’re doing rather than just mimicking their teacher, Schiff explained.
Jones was able to provide insight on research that shows how students can best learn math, noting that there is a progression in how they learn.
“Students need to build math with concrete objects. They can use base ten blocks, they could use fraction tiles, algebra tiles – that leads to drawing or representing mathematics. This is key to mental math. This forms visuals inside their metacognition. We finally reach abstract math, which we’re all familiar with, that’s equations with standard numbers,” Jones said. “CRA (Concrete Representational Abstract) supports all learners. It also supports long term memory. And we want our students to do mathematics. We want them to apply mathematics.”
District teachers and staff worked together over the summer to create a vision on what they pictured math learning to be like in their classroom. These individual visions were compiled to create one vision for elementary level mathematics and use that vision to decide which math program fit that vision best.
“In LOCS, we strive to build mathematically proficient students prepared to meet the demands beyond K-12 schooling. By engaging in rigorous mathematics in collaborative, creative and fun learning environments, students will be able to confidently apply mathematics in the real world,” the vision states.
The pilot programs tested by teachers were Bridges in Mathematics and Everyday Mathematics. They also looked at the district’s current math programming Math Expressions.
While the pilots were taking place and at the end of both, teachers and district staff that made up the math committee gathered together again to revisit the vision and look at each program through the lense of that vision. The committee measured each program using data.
“They (teachers) did the vast majority of the hard work which was enacting it in their classrooms but we tried to be as responsive as possible and say, ‘okay, we’re meeting two weeks in; what are the issues. What’s going well, what’s not going well. What would you change? What’s going on?’ So, we would have those little check ins because we wanted to make sure we were being as responsible as possible,” Schiff said.
Teachers scored each pilot through rubrics in how the programs met the vision.
Once data was collected, one program, Bridges in Mathematics, stuck out above the rest making for an easy decision Schiff, Jones and Director of Curriculum at the elementary level Kerri Anderson.
“Bridges was the clear winner…the vast majority of our teachers scored Bridges ahead of Everyday Math and Math Expressions,” Schiff said. “It was very clear to us. There was decision that was needed to be made. The decision was done with the evidence in those rubrics and how it aligned with our vision.
Several teachers that were a part of the pilot also spoke to give their feedback on the program and show pictures to give an idea of how they saw it impact learning in their own classrooms first hand.
“What you can’t see in the pictures is the talk. The discussion that’s going on in my classroom is nothing I have ever seen before. I have students who are sharing their problem solving. They’re critiquing each other respectfully. They’re taking the critiques and they’re changing their work. They’re really collaborating with each other and teaching each other,” said Lauren Miller, a first grade teacher at Webber Elementary. “Truly, I am hands off. I back off. I give a question here and there but they’re talking to each other, they’re engaging with each other.”
Cost wise, upfront for the first year Bridges in Mathematics costs $336,000 which includes an intervention program for each school and teacher and student materials. For year two, the cost is estimated to drop to between $20,000-$25,000 for the year but Anderson believes it could be less based on which classes want to utilize workbooks.
Everyday Mathematics, the district’s current math program, costs about $70,000 annually on consumable workbooks.
“Overall it would be cheaper for the district down the road,” Anderson said.
The Board of Education is expected to vote on the recommendation to move forward with Bridges in Mathematics as the elementary math program beginning with the 2024-25 school year at its next meeting on April 28.

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