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Linda Mah
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Eureka Math Launches in K-3

New Math Program Lets Students Use Multiple Approaches to Problems

When you listen to the math lesson of Kelsea Putman's kindergarten class, you can hear the varied approaches kids are taking to studying the number 10 with Kalamazoo Public School’s new Eureka Math program.

She shows them 10 dots and they have to write the numeral 10. Someone calls out 10 and another child says they have to do 10 jumping jacks. She has them look at papers with 10 dots arranged in rows or columns — depending on how you turn the page. They place beads on the dots and talk about two sets of 5 being “hidden partners” in the number 10. They take the 10 beads and string them on pipe cleaners to make bracelets, then they divide the beads into groups of other hidden partners in the number 10. They wind up the lesson by drawing the number 10 in the air and then practicing writing it on paper.

Whew.

“It’s definitely a different approach to math. It’s not the traditional way we learned math. It’s definitely approaching math with an emphasis on understanding math and not just memorizing,”

said Putman, a kindergarten teacher at Milwood Elementary School.

Matthew Johnson, the district’s science and math curriculum coordinator, said Eureka was selected as the district's elementary math series after a 14-month review of numerous resources and was the overwhelming choice of a majority of teachers and administrators. Kindergarten through third grade classes are implementing Eureka this school year, while fourth and fifth grade classes will begin implementing it in the 2018- 2019 school year. Teachers are receiving training and coaching support to aid in the implementation of the new curriculum, Johnson said.

The district made the switch to bring the math program in line with state standards and to ensure the needs of all students are being met, Johnson said. Eureka is being used by a majority of districts in the county and is the most widely used elementary math program in the country, he said.

Eureka appealed to the staff for a number of reasons, including the way it creates a balance between knowing math facts and understanding how math works, he said.

“Eureka emphasizes students making their thinking visible,” Johnson said. “At the early grades, students use objects and simple drawings to represent mathematical concepts that are the foundation for more complex strategies in the later grades.”

Even watching Putman with her kindergarteners, one can see the groundwork being laid first for addition and then multiplication as students look at the number 10 as two sets of five — or five sets of two. Their little bead bracelets let them push beads around and see 10 represented by various “hidden partners” of numbers.

During the lesson, one can eavesdrop on conversations between students explaining to friends how they came up with their answers.

“Eureka develops students’ long-term understanding of the math concepts by following the ‘build it, draw it, write it’ learning progression,” Johnson said. The program uses objects and drawings to help students understand mathematical concepts. They then learn written strategies that lead to the traditional way of solving math problems.

“Real-life problems are used throughout the program, so students can use each of their building, drawing, and writing strategies as they develop a deeper understanding of the concepts," he said.

The new program includes parent resources. Parents can sign up for an account at greatminds.org to access the curriculum and other helpful resources. Johnson also encouraged parents to visit the mathematics page on the KPS website, www.kalamazoopublicschools.com, to find homework videos for each lesson and parent tip sheets for each module.

Putman said her students are enjoying the new math lessons, which rely less on drills and more on relatable lessons.

“We want the kids to add that personal experience to what the math means. It’s all about the conversations and it gives kids the opportunity to redirect their peers,” she said. “The students learn mathematics in layers. It’s very intentional. We do things in anticipation of where they’re going next.”

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