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Math: The New Way

September 20, 2012, 10:00 PM by Peggy Moyer

Math: The New Way
SIOUX FALLS, SD -

With education standards changing on the national level, you're probably not surprised to hear changes are coming to South Dakota classrooms as well.

While not every school district across the state has made the change yet, a new math curriculum is on the horizon with standard testing for it just a few years away.

What does the new curriculum involve?

Fourth-grade students at JFK Elementary School count raisins in their math lesson. Just like the boxes don't have the same number of raisins in all of them, not all of the students in the class count the raisins in the same way. Some use addition. Some use multiplication.

The new math curriculum being introduced helps kids take math to the next level and understand how and why they can apply mathematics to solve problems.

"The old testing would look like a question. They would go through and find an answer and move on to the next questions. The new type of testing will ask that same question, possibly in a different way, but then ask, 'How did you get that answer?' and, 'Can you explain another way to get that?'" South Dakota Counts math specialist Stacy Stefani said.

Kelly Grosdidier’s fourth graders were apprehensive about the new curriculum at first.

"I'm seeing their confidence level come up because they realize it's okay that my friend next to me uses 50s to get to her number but I'm only comfortable using multiples of ten to get to my number," Grosdidier said.

"I think it's a lot easier than last year because last year was a lot harder to understand because there was just one way that we could do it," JFK 4th grader Ella Yost said.

"You'll see kids solving with so many different strategies. They might be using an open number line. They might be jumping on that number line forward or backward. They may be counting up or down. Some kids are using arrays. There are just so many strategies kids can use," Stefani said.

The new math curriculum encourages students to use their own logic or way of thinking to present all of this data or the number of raisins involved in today's project.

"We think we're going to group the 32s and figure out how to do it and then we're going to present it," JFK 4th grader Mason Cox said.

Stefani says not all teachers were on board either, but research has provided the proof they needed to come on board.

"A lot of times elementary teachers will say, 'But we have good test scores,' or, 'It's working fine now,' but then they don't follow those kids through to middle school and high school.  And then they get to Algebra and Geometry, they're finding out they (students) don't have a true understanding or depth of meaning of mathematics so when they start solving those problems, they don't have this kind of bank of ideas that they can draw from to solve," Stefani said.

Grosdidier sees the growth in her students after only four weeks of using the new curriculum.

"So now that they know they can use what they know, they are understanding the number concept and why am I putting these numbers together, not just memorizing how they go together," Grosdidier said.

"We're preparing our kids right now for a world where we don't know the jobs that exist that they are going to have, but we do know that the jobs that we have are not requiring computation as much as they are problem solving," Stefani said.

So if your child's math homework looks a little different this year, you might rest a little easier knowing math the new way is preparing them for their futures.

The Sioux Falls school district implemented the new math curriculum this year because the national standards testing on this material will begin in the 2014-2015 school year.

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