New Math Resources to Address New Standards

Colorful numbersAs we begin a new school year we have transitioned to teaching new standards in Mathematics.  To better address the new standards we have moved away from our long standing relationship with Everyday Mathematics and elementary students are using the Stepping Stones Mathematics program and middle level students are using Digits.  Stepping Stones was introduced last school year in K-2nd grade and this year moves into 3rd – 5th grade.  Digits will serve students in grades 6-8.

btn_digitsWith the transition to Common Core and the digital landscape, we couldn’t afford to tie ourselves to a traditional textbook for five or six years, thus both Stepping Stones and Digits are web-based programs without traditional textbooks.  Because we worked most of the “bugs” out of Stepping Stones last school year the move into grades 3-5 has been fairly seamless. (It’s seamless from my view.  I’m sure some of our 3rd – 5th grade teachers may see it differently, but they’re so good it looks seamless.)  The move to Digits, not so much….it’s been a bit bumpy.  In talking with other school districts around Columbus they reported similar challenges in their first few months of implementing Digits and now they see great success.  We are confident in our choice and our direction.

Digits provides math curriculum and technology for individualized instruction. It uses an architecture called interACTIVE Learning Cycle, which allows for instruction based on students’ proficiency levels.

Important features of digits include:

  • Lessons are divided into on-level (which includes three parts), readiness (which is created when a majority of students show weakness in a particular areas), and intervention (for individual students, using diagrams, animations, and math models.)
  • Lessons are formatted for presentation on interactive whiteboards.
  • Assignments are targeted by proficiency level for each student.
  • A readiness assessment is designed to be taken by all students to determine their levels of proficiency. Each student will then receive his or her own study plan and assignments based on the results of the assessment.
  • There are three types of assessments and tests. Summative assessments include intervention mastery practice, mid-year and end-of-year tests, unit tests, and end-of-topic tests. Benchmark assessments look at students’ grade-level proficiency throughout the school year. State practice tests let teachers discover in which areas students need more preparation. Assessment and test results are automatically placed in the digits grade book.
  • Automatic grading of assignments and thus automatic feedback to students on their success or areas of needed improvement.

I was a young teacher in Worthington when Everyday Math became our textbook.  Parents and teachers alike were concerned about the spiral curriculum, the lack of drilling basic facts, and the allowance of multiple ways to multiply, divide, etc…  In the mid 90’s this program caused lots of concern.  Now, in 2013 when we move away from the program there is concern again.  Both teachers and parents wonder why we can’t continue to do what has been working.

We can’t continue, because what has been working, won’t work with new standards.  Our targets have stretched, and have changed, and thus, both our taught curriculum, and our teaching methods, must change and adapt if we are going to help students meet the new benchmarks.

A team of teachers and administrators reviewed the options for curriculum and determined that Stepping Stones and Digits would provide our students the best opportunity to succeed now and into the future.  With any massive change, we are finding areas that need supported, technology that needs adjusted, and parents and teachers that need help.  Over the next few weeks these issues will systematically be addressed and our belief is that over time these programs will help our teachers in helping every child learn and grow to their fullest potential.

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