Frequently Asked Questions – Elementary Mathematics Pilots
Following are answers to FAQs about the mathematics programs being piloted in the West Orange elementary schools.
Q1. Why was the discussion on the math pilots presented at the December 14, 2009 Board of Education Meeting?
The budgetary process requires school districts to present the budget to the public in March 2010. Therefore, we must plan for new programs by January 2010 to include projected costs for the 2010-2011 school year. The timeline for the elementary textbook adoption was discussed with the Board of Education in September 2009.
Q2. Which schools participated in the program? What grade levels?
West Orange has been piloting two elementary mathematics programs since September 2009. “Everyday Mathematics” is being piloted in Gregory School and Pleasantdale School in grades 3 and 4, and Redwood School in grade 3. “Think Math” is being piloted in Redwood School in grade 4, and Washington School in grades 3 and 4. Training has been provided throughout the past four months to grades 3 and 4 general education teachers, as well as special education teachers and basic skills teachers for in-class support. A mathematics consultant has been visiting the classrooms, teachers, and principals piloting “Everyday Mathematics” and “Think Math” to assess both programs, and provided feedback at the December 14, 2009 Board of Education Meeting.
Q3.What is the timeframe for implementation? Do the math programs align to the current New Jersey Core Curriculum Content Standards and do they prepare students for the NJ ASK State assessment?
It is the intention of the district to purchase a new mathematics program, grades 3 through 5, for implementation in September 2010. Both elementary mathematics programs piloted this year align to the New Jersey Core Curriculum Content Standards (NJCCCS) in Mathematics and the State (NJ ASK) assessments. Both programs piloted include a variety of multiple-choice, short-constructed response and open-ended questions available to help students acclimate to the State testing format. “Everyday Math” and “Think Math” are formatted to encourage and develop the mathematical processes of problem-solving, reasoning, representations, communication and connections in mathematics, which reflect the NJCCCS. Therefore, students will be prepared for the NJ ASK regardless of the program selected.
Q4.Why are we not starting the new math program beginning in Kindergarten?
Grade 3 is a transitional year in mathematics when students begin learning concepts. They have built a foundation of number sense and operations in the early elementary years. The math programs being introduced build on these skills to support a growing knowledge of mathematical concepts. There is enough foundation in the skills in the existing program K-2 to support the children moving into a new math program in the third and fourth grade.
After the initial first few months in the pilot programs, many teachers found that the children were being very successful in the transition to a new program.
Q5.Do you have information that you can share regarding the effects of the math programs being piloted for special needs students that are mainstreamed in the classroom under the “Least Restrictive Environment” laws? If a child does need additional accommodations in the classroom under an IEP or 504 plan, how are they implemented?
Special education students participating in the pilots responded well to the use of manipulatives and cooperative groups, and each program offers differentiation for concepts and skills throughout the lessons. Modifications are provided to help students with entry points for the content. If you have any questions regarding a 504 plan or an IEP, please contact Elizabeth Maddalena, Director of Student Support Services, for clarification of the accommodations that will be implemented.
Q6.Would our Resource Room teachers also be trained in the new math program so that a child would be receiving equivalent instruction if they required such services?
All teachers, including all special education teachers, basic skills teachers, ESL teachers, and the mathematics coach will receive training in the new math program.
Q7. How do the mathematics programs help prepare students for NJASK?
There are a variety of multiple choice, short constructed response and open-ended questions available in the programs to help students acclimate to the testing format of NJASK. The content of the programs is aligned to the New Jersey Core Content Curriculum Standards, which the NJASK assesses. Additionally, there is a process standard that measures problem-solving, reasoning, representations, communication and connections in mathematics. The programs are formatted to encourage and develop these mathematical processes.
Q8. What affect should the adoption of a new math program have on NJ ASK scores?
If the program is adopted authentically, and teachers are given proper training and support, NJASK scores should reflect a positive increase in student accomplishment in mathematics over time. This should be seen in increases not just in the number of proficient students, but also in the number of advanced proficient students.
Q9. What will be done regarding parental outreach and support on the new math program?
Parent information sessions will be held at each of the elementary schools on the program that is adopted. Letters will be sent home frequently informing parents of what is being learned, and depending on the program adopted, explanation of how the concepts are taught. Help will also be available online. Additionally, other options as resources for learning and information are being explored.
Q10. One concern in the past has been the lack of attention on basic math facts in the programs. How is this being addressed?
Both programs show varied ways to teach the basic facts now, including memorization tables. Skills practice and review, fact triangles, drill practice and mental math are offered throughout the programs as well as using games to practice basic math facts.
Q11. How will the district provide support for students new to the district?
Students new to the district will be given a diagnostic assessment that can help the teacher establish areas where extra assistance may be needed. Additionally, the online resources, games, and differentiated instructional materials will help students new to the district adjust to the district’s mathematics curriculum.
Q12. Reading is an essential skill in the math programs. If a student has a reading problem, how will they answer open-ended questions?
Students who are struggling with reading, if identified in an IEP, receive extra help and instruction in reading strategies. The same can be said for students who may not have an IEP but still need additional help. Reading in math is a skill that is necessary no matter which program is chosen, therefore, support in cross-curricular content areas for the struggling reader is a necessity.
Q13. How many other districts are using the math programs in New Jersey?
Everyday Math versions 2 and 3 are being used in 220+ school districts.
Think Math, a new program, is being used in three school districts.
Q14. What are we doing about the transition to sixth grade mathematics?
The district is also in the process of looking at the middle school math program. There are currently two pilots being conducted in the middle schools.
Q15. How is training going to be provided to the teachers and how do we guarantee it will be done properly?
The math coach and the math supervisor will arrange and oversee all of the math workshops to be certain that they are providing instructional strategies and support for the materials in the programs. The teachers will be asked to evaluate each training session.
Q16. There is a concern regarding the pace of Everyday Math and how quickly concepts are introduced, is this a problem?
Both math programs have a spiral approach. Students learn the concepts over a period of time. If a concept is taught for the first time in grade 4, it may not be
mastered until grade 6.
Q17. Can you better explain what a spiral approach is?
The New Jersey Core Content Curriculum Standards (NJCCCS) identify a set of achievable high-level expectations for the mathematical understanding and performance of all students, by the end of each grade level. Introductory or mastery is identified throughout the NJCCCS, by grade level, with identifying phrases. In the Introductory Phase, students will learn to Explore, Develop, and Investigate mathematical concepts. In the Mastery Phase, students will be expected to Understand, Apply, and Use the concepts.
Properly spiraled mathematics curriculum support the mastery of math skills by multiple exposures to topics earlier than the designated year of mastery, so that children are ensured solid comprehension by the time the skill or concept is assessed for developmental mastery.
In a properly spiraled curriculum, students are continuously orchestrating several levels of learning, much in the same way they learn reading, writing, sports, etc. They are taught content for mastery and they are also exposed to content that they will be expected to master when it is sequentially and developmentally appropriate.
Q18. What are the costs of the programs and teacher training?
Costs are comparable. Both program costs include textbooks, on-line resources,
manipulatives, and training.
Thank you for your interest in the elementary mathematics textbook adoption.