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Differentiating math instruction through a comprehensive instructional program

Santa Fe students are more engaged in learning since the implementation of Everyday Mathematics 4

A few years ago, when Acequia Madre Elementary Principal Ahlum Scarola looked at his school’s New Mexico state report card, it showed some troubling numbers.

“Our math numbers were a good 20 points behind our reading numbers in proficiency,” says Scarola. The school’s demographics weren’t the root problem—only 5 percent are English Language Learners—meaning there wasn’t a disconnect with reading and translating problems. Scarola believed that the problem was that their current math curriculum didn’t allow teachers to differentiate. “How do we help remedial students as well as those who are ready to accelerate?” he asks. At one point a math teacher, Scarola had great success using Everyday Mathematics.

Everyday Mathematics is a comprehensive mathematics program for grades pre-K through 6. Rather than teaching math through rote memorization, Everyday Mathematics curriculum teaches mathematical concepts through the use of concrete, real-life examples that are meaningful and memorable. It offers frequent practice of basic computation skills to build mastery of procedures and quick recall of facts, often through games and verbal exercises. Scarola began piloting Everyday Mathematics 4 across his entire K6 school in the 2015-16 academic year. Every lesson includes activities designed for differentiation, whether it be for reinforcing what that day’s lesson covered or for offering enrichment options for students ready to move on. “We allow kids to move at their own pace and that is a huge, engaging thing for them,” says Scarola. Everyday Mathematics 4 teaches students that it’s more important to know how they got to their answer than what their answer actually was.

“It asks them to do a lot more thinking and self discovery. I went into 4th grade classes last year, and they wanted to know what the right answer was, and I wouldn’t tell them,” says Scarola. “They have to come to it on their own. It creates better math thinking. Everyday Mathematics 4 is much heavier in reading and writing. They have fewer problems to solve and a lot more explaining to do about their thinking.”

Increased interest leads to increased scores

The Everyday Mathematics 4 workbook allows students to take learning outside of the classroom. “The students can keep moving. We’ll have groups of kids working in hallways or at tables in the back of the room, and working at their own pace,” says Scarola.
Everyday Mathematics 4 also makes math a hands-on activity.

“They’re not just opening a book and solving problems,” says Scarola. “They’re measuring, they’re doing manipulatives, they’re weighing things, and they’re working in groups.”

At the beginning of the 2015-16 school year, 19 percent of Acequia Madre students tested proficient in math. By the end of the school year, that number had jumped to 86 percent proficient. Another measure they used was testing students at an advanced math level. At the beginning of the school year, zero students were advanced. By the end of the school year, nearly 20 percent of the student population was.

“The teachers worked so hard,” says Scarola. “The growth we saw last year was ridiculously large.”

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