Sunday, May 19, 2013
‘Everyday Math’ Praised, Criticized by Parents and School District
The learning strategy is designed to help students understand math in a different way, but it’s throwing some parents and educators for a loop.
Breaking down math in the classroom and at home, the Anchorage School District is looking at new ways to teach one of their key programs so students, teachers, and parents will all know how to do it.
Everyday Math has been taught to Anchorage School District students in grades K-8 for 15 years and counting. But figuring out how to multiply or subtract is a lot different than the way most adults learned how to solve math problems growing up.
Some parents are concerned about Everyday Math because they aren’t familiar with the new method and are unable to help their kids with their homework. For upcoming fourth grader Jaden Reed, figuring out math problems is a work in progress.
“It can get pretty hard,” said Jaden. As part of the school district’s 15-year Everyday Math program, he is one of thousands of students in grades K-8 who is learning math in its different forms.
Educators say the variety of teaching methods help students better grasp mathematical concepts and will prepare them to be more competitive with the rest of the world when they are older.
“What Everyday Math does is teaches the 'why' and so many different ways of adding and subtracting, multiplying and dividing,” said Ruth Dene, principal at Denali Montessori.
“Because they've had it from the beginning, they've seen the patterns because that's what math is about,” she continued.
But the "why" part is what parents are worried about. A new audit says parents are not getting information on how to do the math, which leaves them in the dark when their children ask for homework help.
“We have to do a much better job of taking the information that is going to the students and putting it to parents in a manner where they can understand it,” said Ed Graff, Anchorage School District assistant superintendent.
Gretchen Guess, president of the Anchorage School District School Board, said the audit was “really strong” in addressing shortfalls regarding implementation of the “math curriculum with Everyday Math both from a parent communication and from a staff support.”
Denali Montessori Principal Dene said teachers at her school still teach addition, subtraction, multiplication and division the traditional way, but by offering a variety of teaching methods, students are able to figure out which math method works best for them.
When he doesn't rush his work and has plenty of time to work on a math problem, Jaden said he can “get it down pretty easy.”
The Everyday Math program is in its third version and still requires memorization skills.
But based off the recent audit, school district officials will present an improvement plan to the school board in 45 days on ways to bridge the gap in teaching the math to students, teachers and parents.
Things like math nights, parent workshops, and parent universities are options being considered.