Learning to succeed at math

MANISTEE — One of the many benefits of the Manistee Intermediate School District and Wexford Missaukee Intermediate School District sharing a superintendent is the ability to draw on each district’s educational resources.

Wexford Missaukee Intermediate School District math and science director Jodi Redman talks to the Manistee Intermediate School District Board of Education members on the Math Recovery Program that they are doing in Manistee County Schools.

Wexford Missaukee Intermediate School District math and science director Jodi Redman talks to the Manistee Intermediate School District Board of Education members on the Math Recovery Program that they are doing in Manistee County Schools.

General education staff members from Manistee and Wexford Missaukee have provided professional development to each other’s K-12 teaching staffs in math, science and English Language Arts over the past several years.

It is something that Manistee General Education director Kay Salyer says benefits both districts. On Tuesday afternoon Salyer had Wexford Missaukee ISD’s Jodi Redman do a presentation for the Manistee ISD board of education on the efforts taking place in Manistee County on the Add+Vantage Math Recovery programs.

“Jodi is our math science director and a math consultant we share with Wexford Missaukee, and we really appreciate her work here with our teachers on special development and curriculum around math,” said Salyer.

Redman said the Math Recovery program has been vital in getting the local K-5 grade teachers on track.

“One of the things that happened when we shifted to the Common Core was it isn’t just about getting the correct answer, but developing as problem solvers and thinkers of mathematics,” said Redman. “Do we really understand concepts versus just getting the right answer?”

Redman said the need for math recovery came about because of the proficiency scores in county were low.

“When Kay and I wrote a ($12,000) grant to the U.S. Math Recovery Council, Manistee ISD was one of the fifth lowest counties in the state for eighth grade math proficiency with only 15 percent of the students being proficient,” said Redman. “New data shows that we are now fifth lowest, but we have now increased to 18 percent. It shows there was a need for something to help in our math achievement in the county.”

She also pointed out that in third grade math the Manistee ISD is at 32 percent proficiency compared to the state’s 45 percent proficiency.

ISD superintendent Jeff Jennette stated that those numbers don’t really give a clear picture of Manistee County students. The Kids Count data includes students from the Michigan Great Lakes Virtual Academy which includes students from all over the state.

“Those numbers there are not all Manistee County children, as it includes the cyber\school kids,” said Jennette. However, the positive spin on that is we can use those lower data numbers when writing grants. It makes it better for us and other agencies to write grants even though it isn’t a true Manistee County number.”

Redman said the teachers from the Michigan Great Lakes Academy are also involved in the professional development efforts.

“The grant has been going on for three years and part of that is to get people like myself trained in math recovery and bring that to rural Michigan,” said Redman.

The data that has come out proves most teachers made a significant improvement in their math content knowledge after doing the Math Recovery. It went from 70.8 percent in the pre-test to 81.7 percent on the post test. She said it also changed content they were teaching or it was enhanced to help students succeed.

Redman said Add+Vantage has two courses providing the following skills to teach K-5 mathematics. Included in that are the following:

* Understanding how children develop early numeracy;

* Efficient, diagnostic and dynamic assessments;

* Tools to support data-driven instruction;

* Practice administering and analyzing assessments in collegial teams;

* Differentiated instructional activities for targeted needs;

* Strategies to deliberately engender more sophisticated strategies; and

* Reflective assessments and teaching practices.

A total of 64 teachers were trained under the first course with four days of training that was facilitated by Redman.

“Teachers learn about diagnostic assessments during the training and how to give those to the students,” said Redman. “They practice giving the assessments and then they learn how to code and score them. We then use that data from those assessments to design our instruction. So they learn where our students strengths and weaknesses are located, as well as what needs to be done to move them forward.”

Redman said all the teachers taking part in training receive a kit that costs $395 per teacher, so all of the $12,000 grant went to purchasing those kits to use in the first round of training.

“There were 64 teachers trained, as we started our work in August and finished course one in the fall,” said Redman. “Right now we are in the cycle of Course II, but that one didn’t get funded by a grant and it is being funded by local districts and the ISD.”

Course I takes the takes the teachers through addition and subtraction, numeral identification, sequencing numbers, structuring numbers. Course II is multiplication and division in sight value.

“Those are the main topics we focus on in the Math Recovery as we want a strong foundation for the students, otherwise getting through Algebra is difficult for them if that foundation isn’t there,” she said. “A lot of times that is a roadblock or an obstacle.”

She said the bottom line of what it means for the schools is increased teacher understanding, better assessments, informed instruction, shift in mathematics mindset, increased student understanding and increased student performance.

“Designing instruction around individual needs is very important and that is what this does,” she said. “We now know what they need and we can provide it for them, which is very important.”

Redman said they will continue to monitor how to provide support for next year and beyond so teachers will continue the course they are on.

“It has received a lot of positive feedback from the teachers,” she said. “Teachers are pretty excited about it.”

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Posted by Ken Grabowski

Ken is News Advocate’s education reporter. He coordinates coverage for all Manistee County schools and West Shore Community College. He can be reached by phone at (231) 398-3125 or by email at kgrabowski@pioneergroup.com.

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