In Kentucky, Madison County Schools Superintendent Elmer Thomas and district teachers are aiming to change that mentality with the launch of the Mathematics Task Force.
The task force is working to rally the district behind one motto: “Meaningful Math Matters,” said Jennifer Martin, a math interventionist at Kit Carson and Mayfield elementary schools.
The motto is intended to “create meaning in students, that they don’t see math as an isolated subject, that they see it for its career benefits and that they see it’s in the real world,” Martin said.
This initiative is not just for teachers and students, she said, but should be a community-wide belief that “Madison County students can truly be mathematically proficient from kindergarten all the way to college.”
When Thomas was hired to lead the district last year, he said in August that it would be important as superintendent to “cast that vision for math on day one.”
After the late Superintendent Mike Caudill said, “I want every kid in Madison County to be able to read,” Thomas said principals and teachers seemed to unify behind his vision.
Now, more than 80 percent of students are graduating at a proficient or distinguished reading level, he said.
But where students are making gains in testing for English, reading and science, they remain the same in math, he said.
The 18-member Mathematics Task Force was formed at the beginning of the school year and is comprised of a teacher from every school and every grade level. The group first sought teacher input to proceed with planning, said Madison Central High School math teacher Katie Ellis during a presentation to the school board Thursday.
The group was challenged to evaluate current math practices and develop a plan to improve students’ math performance district wide.
After collecting about 200 survey responses from math teachers, the group determined a revision of the district’s math standards document was necessary, she said.
The revised documents will not only include the Kentucky Core Academic Standards, but a pacing guide for presenting the curriculum, learning targets, a list of common misconceptions students may have about math, sample work items from students and a collection of common vocabulary that all math teachers can use.
“This will be very helpful for first-year teachers, but also for more seasoned teachers that need to become more familiar with the new standards,” said Brandy Beardsley, a math teacher at Silver Creek Elementary and a member of the task force who also presented Thursday.
Read about math teachers