The students in Eileen Healey's Bush Elementary School class can count by 10s.
They know the days of the week - in order. They'll tell you that 14 comes after 13. In the pattern of bear, bear, book, book, bear, they know that bear comes next. They know that they've been in school for 67 days - which is six 10s and seven ones. And, they can count consecutively to 40.
The students in Eileen Healy's class are in kindergarten.
Students in Elaine Healy’s kindergarten class use their fingers to count from one to 20 during a math lesson. Counting on their fingers makes math more personal to them.
P-J Photo by Liz Skoczylas
"I never thought that kindergarteners would understand the not equals sign, but they're wonderful with it," Ms. Healy said.
Her students know that they have 10 fingers, and they use them to count.
"For years, we were told not to count on our fingers. Now, we encourage using them. It's more personal to count on your fingers, the students are seeing math as a part of themselves," Miss Healey said.
Each morning, Miss Healey's students go through their morning routine, which includes math time. They are learning addition and subtraction at the kindergarten level as well.
"They really, really enjoy math time. If I have to end early, they get upset," Miss Healey said.
Kindergarten students also receive homework to work on with their parents. In Miss Healey's classroom, she will teach a lesson and then give a homework assignment a few days later on it, to allow time for the lesson to process with her students.
However, she says that homework is only returned about 80 percent of the time.
"We need parent involvement for homework," Miss Healey said, adding that the kids can explain assignments to their parents, because they've already learned and gone over the assignments inside the classroom.
IMPLEMENTING MATH EXPRESSIONS
Outside the classroom, teachers are constantly learning as well, through a variety of trainings.
Over the last four weeks, kindergarten through fifth grade teachers have been attending a series of workshops aimed at sharing knowledge about the math expressions program that the district adopted last year. The workshops were broken down into two day sessions for each teacher, and then divided by grade level as well.
The school district brought in Eileen Riley, consultant for Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, which is the book company that is used in the classroom, to work with teachers.
Jamestown Public Schools have adapted a new program for teaching math, called Math Expressions. They are currently in their second year of teaching under Math Expressions program. Part of coming together for the math workshops was to reflect on how they and others were working with the program.
Ms. Riley encouraged the teachers to work with one another as if they were teaching a lesson to their students. The teachers worked in small groups to demonstrate lessons to one another.
Denise Pusateri, coordinator of mathematics for Jamestown Public Schools, said such sessions give the teachers opportunities to see how others teach in relation to their own teaching. It provides the chance for teachers across the district to compare how their students are being taught at each grade level and adapt different practices that are in compliance with New York state common core standards.
Ms. Pusateri also said that a lot of the things that students are learning in school are very different from how their parents were taught.
"The communication with parents and teachers needs to be constant," Ms. Pusateri said.
Miss Healey has several suggestions on how parents can help their students to become more proficient in math, beginning with making lessons a part of their daily routine, rather than like work.
She recommends making math lessons as easy as counting stairs with children, or counting food at snack time.
"Parents can say, 'You have five grapes. Now, get three more. How many do you have?'" Miss Healey said.
Parents can also help their children be more aware of numbers when they are out, whether it be noticing numbers at the grocery store, or at the gas station.
"Talking about numbers helps kids recognize that there are numbers all around them," Miss Healey said.