Math Recovery making a difference with students in classroom

MANISTEE — Jodi Redman will be the first to admit the Math Recovery program sounds different than what it actually is.

She is the Wexford-Missaukee Intermediate School District instructional consultant, and Michigan Math and Science Leadership Network president.

Redman also works with teachers in the Manistee Intermediate School District under the shared services agreement through the dual superintendent position between the two districts; she said people often think the program is designed for students who have failed at math.

“I think with the name it implies that something is wrong and we got to fix it,” said Redman. “Math Recovery has a group of different professional learning opportunities for teachers and is based on two decades worth of research that came out of Australia and then came over the United States. It really is designed to help teachers make good decisions about what to do with students who may be missing some skills or have some gaps in their skills.”

Redman said it is designed like a learning continuum of how students progress through adding and subtracting.

“For a lot of the teachers it’s like ‘I see this in my students, but never had a name to go along with this learning progression,'” said Redman. “Then you can pick activities for the students right where theie needs are at more than a regular textbook would do.”

Jefferson Elementary School principal Julia Raddatz said she and her teachers are big fans of the Math Recovery Program and more importantly, of the results it is producing among their students.

“Math Recovery has helped out students understand concepts (example: the relationship between zero and positive numbers); the foundations they receive in Math Recovery help with more advanced number concepts for algebra and beyond,” said Raddatz. “Before Math Recovery, about 35 percent of our first grade students struggled with adding numbers less than 20. Now we have almost 90 percent of first graders at grade level and many more advancing into second grade standards.”

Redman said it is really designed for teachers to make good decisions around what to do instructionally for kids in the mathematics classroom.

“There is a Course I training which does addition and subtraction, numbers, numerals and numeral identification and Course II does multiplication and division and place values,” said Redman. “So it is really geared toward the K-5 grade levels. You can use it at other levels too, but then it becomes more of intervention support for kids who are really struggling and need more support.”

Many Manistee County teachers are taking advantage of the Math Recovery program through the Manistee Intermediate School District that is getting them better results in the classroom.

MAPS third grade teacher Leah Antal said that is exactly where her students benefit the most from it.

“First, I am able to pinpoint weaknesses my struggling students have and work with them on the exact concepts that need improvement,” said Antal. “Math Recovery provides them with concrete ways to understand concepts in math. It develops the students’ number sense and allows them to learn and understand mathematical basics.”

Antal said what makes the concept popular with her students is the way it is delivered to them.

“The best part is that most of the learning takes place through playing various games, so it is fun,” said Antal. “I am able to use Math Recovery with all of my third graders because the program includes  activities for my struggling students as well as activities that match our current curriculum goals.”

Antal said the majority of her class plays Math Recovery games related to their current concepts or skills such as multiplication or division.

“I then pull a small group of students to work on the skills with which they are struggling, and I have seen a lot of improvement in mathematical understanding in my third graders,” said Antal.

Redman said these are really the building blocks every student needs to have in place for their entire time in school.

“These are foundational skills in mathematics that are critical to them being successful in higher levels of mathematics,” said Redman. “So I tell people it is not an intervention program and is not intended to be used the same way in every classroom every day. It is professional learning for teachers to make decisions for their students.”

Jefferson Elementary teacher Deb Erdman agrees and feels the program is phenomenal.

“It has taught the teachers how to identify and analyze children’s knowledge, skills and strategies they are using,” said Erdman. “It provides great assessment tools and many resources to help with most math objectives.”

She uses it in her classroom by holding group lesson followed up by a math lab each day. The group lesson is for covering a new objective or working on common mistakes children are making, and then the math labs are for practicing those objectives.

“The funny thing is that the children think they are playing while working in the lab,” said Erdman. “They love this program and I do also. Any time you can get an entire classroom excited to work on math and increase their skills, you know you have something great.”

Redman said if that foundation is being built properly, when they get to the higher grade levels makes them struggle less when they get to the Algebra level classes.

Kennedy Elementary fifth grade teacher Jaclyn Trahan uses it on students on the higher end of the elementary school.

“I use it mainly during my intervention math time (Math 3D) to help students with their multiplication/division skills, since that is such an integral skill to have,” said Trahan. “Math Recovery helps students build different strategies to help come to a solution. Students really have to think about how they’re going to come to a solution and explain their thinking. I’ve used it to help students try to understand the connection between multiplication/division too.”

Redman said they brought it to the ISD and MAPS has all of their teachers trained in Course I and Course II and as new teachers come on board they train them as well. Each teacher gets a kit with the training that provides tools to  assist them in their putting the program to use. They also meeting monthly with Redman to go over how things are working in the classroom.

“They talk about how they can weave it into both their intervention time and their every day curriculum,” said Redman. “I think over time we will start seeing some changes in their M-STEP scores.”

She also works with the other districts around the county as well with Math Recovery and there are varied number of teachers at Onekama, Bear Lake and Brethren who are trained on it.

The MiSTEM Advisory Council, on behalf of the West Central STEM Region, recently received a $162,844 grant to assist with Math Recovery.

“That is going to help a lot as it covers four counties and provides money for the kits that the teachers use with Math Recovery,” said Redman.

She hopes the end result will be better math results for all the students.

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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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