The end of my second school trimester is coming to a close with my first grade class. A class that began with our kindergarten round up and Wakids family interviews and pre-testing. WOW…It has been almost two years with this same class. A class that I adore and love and wish that I could have one more year with. As this second school trimester draws to a close, pressures of testing starts to mount. I am panicking a little of where my students are at in reading, writing and math. Resources are plentiful for students that are below in reading, however, when it comes to math interventions, they are in short supply for students, families and teachers. I suspect that this is a common problem across school districts based on the fact that the US ranks well below the international average in math based on the Program For International Student Assessment (PISA).
Since my career change into teaching 9 years ago, reading has been a focus of education and little thought has been given to math. Even through my master’s program, I took classes on reading instruction and how to teach reading, however, when it came to math, very little emphasis was given. Historically, school districts have received resources to improve reading scores which includes celebrating one our most famous authors, Dr. Seuss, with Reading Across America. Testing incoming kindergartners mainly focuses on letter identification, letter sounds, and Concepts About Print (CAP). Granted, there are sections of the Wakids test that focus on math concepts, however, these sections are not given the same attention as those reading indicators when it comes to resources.
Why have we not given math the same resources? The same attention? Why is it, we are not celebrating a famous mathematician or have Counting Across America? It is important that early learning educators give the same attention to math as they do reading. Dr. Doug Clements, who is the Executive Director of the Marsico Institute of Early Learning and Literacy at the University of Denver’s Morgridge College of Education, explains that children see the world mathematically naturally and children make sense of their world looking through mathematical lenses. So how do we help students make mathematical gains as Early Learning Educators? According to the National Center for Teaching Young Children, “If progress in improving the mathematics proficiency of Americans is to continue, much greater attention must be given to early mathematics experiences. Such increased awareness and effort recently have occurred with respect to early foundations of literacy. Similarly, increased energy, time, and wide-scale commitment to the early years will generate significant progress in mathematics learning.”
In order for students to make significant gains in Mathematics, WE as educators, need to bring math to the forefront of education, not only an awareness but actual practice. Early learning educators must be purposeful when planning their day and balance the content areas, being sure to give mathematics an equal spotlight. The National Council of Teache of Mathematics suggest that schools and teachers follow these guidelines as they are planning and integrating math:
- Equity: Excellence in mathematics education requires equally high expectations and strong support for all students.
- Curriculum: A curriculum is more than a collection of activities; it must be coherent, focused on important mathematics, and well-articulated across the grades.
- Teaching: Effective mathematics teaching requires understanding of what students know and need to learn and then challenging and supporting them to learn it well.
- Learning: Students must learn mathematics with understanding, actively building new knowledge from experience and prior knowledge.
- Assessment: Assessment should support the learning of important mathematics and furnish useful information to both teachers and students.
- Technology: Technology is essential to teaching and learning mathematics; it influences the mathematics that is taught and enhances students’ learning.
If we are to move forward and help our students become competitive in Mathematics with the rest of the world, WE, as educators need to advocate for math in our schools. This is especially true as the students who are entering the education system for the first time.
What can you do?
- Start with a needs assessment.
As an early learning leader for my district and champion for early learning, I started with a needs assessment. I asked “what do we have in place for math?, What is working in math? What are we missing in math? and what is not working in math?”. Based on the National Council of Teaching Mathematics guidelines, curriculum is non existent. I was working more with a collection of activities that is not well-articulated across grade levels. Therefore, that has become my focus as a teacher leader. I have created a group in my school to start addressing this issue and aligning this deficit so it becomes more than just a collection of activities.
- Be an advocate.
As a teacher leader we should be asking the tough questions. Is what we are doing in math, best practices? I make it a point to challenge the “status quo”, in everything I do by asking those tough questions. There are plenty of people in this profession that are satisfied with the “status quo”. However, the “status quo” is not necessarily best practices. One of my favorite quotes from a movie is from Jurassic Park, “The world has changed just so dramatically, we are all running to catch up.” This quote particularly applies to best practices in teaching. Help your school or your district or even a colleague catch up by asking questions and educating yourself.
- Educate, Educate, Educate
Be a participant in your professional growth. Seek out books, groups, social media and research that supports mathematics in schools, especially in the primary grades. This is where the foundation of math is built. Math is happening outside the classroom with, or, without the teacher . Help families see the connections of math concepts and help the students bridge math concepts to their lives giving them real world applications.
I believe that the foundation of all learning begins in the home and all students are "OUR" students.Not yours, not mine but OURS.