May 12: Math Grant

Spotlight on Schools: Math Grant

May 12, 2017 — Hello Black River Falls Community! This is Dr. Shelly Severson with the School District of Black River Falls here to share this week’s installment of our Spotlight on Schools! I’d like to take today’s spotlight time to talk about an incredible math grant that we have had over twenty teachers participating in.

The University of Wisconsin-River Falls and UW-Eau Claire have partnered together and invited teachers from 13 area schools to participate in some incredibly high powered collaborative learning. We have a huge group of staff that have chosen to participate. They meet four Saturdays during the year at one of the two Universities, they meet monthly on a Wednesday evening in which one of the university professors comes to Black River Falls, and finally, these staff members give two weeks of their summer, one on each of the UW campuses and have been immersed in the content. This is a three year grant. By the time staff have completed it, they will have over 200 hours of professional development, just on teaching math!

The goals of the math grant are the following:

The first is to increase mathematical knowledge and the ability to use it in our teaching.

The second is to develop productive mathematical habits of mind and encourage and develop them in our students. Habits like the ability to be “uncomfortable” when you can’t figure something out and be willing to persevere through it to find a solution.

The third is to assist in developing an essential understanding within the areas of number and operation, fractions, algebraic thinking, ratio & proportion, functions, and statistics & probability. From these functions, all other math operations flow!

Fourth, they work to build the capacity to conduct productive discourse within our classrooms, and that it’s critical for people to participate in “math talk” to demonstrate their understanding of the concepts being taught.

The fifth is to develop and promote productive beliefs about teaching and learning mathematics. Too often we hear students, and their parents, proclaim that “They weren’t good at math either…” That does not promote a learning attitude in their child!

Sixth, to develop a more thorough understanding of the core progression of mathematics through the elementary, middle school, and high school levels. Too often teachers become masters of their “slice” of the curriculum. This really emphasizes the need for all math teachers to understand how critical the foundational skills are and how they all build together from second grade math, to calculus!

And finally, to develop a wide network of math educators across Western WI that assists with retention of these quality math teachers!

Our first data points are showing us that we are definitely moving in the right direction! Beyond the data points, I would say that we have heard excellent comments from staff members! They LOVE learning together with their colleagues and those from other area schools. They appreciate the coaching through their instruction, and the ability to learn something – go practice it – and then go back for more learning. When you consider that our elementary teachers are expected to be experts at ALL content areas, this deep pe into the understanding of math has really made an impact on their confidence and attitude toward math instruction. For our secondary staff that have always specialized in math, they too report huge growth! The fact that all those teaching math are using the same vocabulary and strategies is value added for our students. We couldn’t be more proud that this group of staff have self elected to embark on this learning journey! It’s one more example of staff really doing whatever it takes to ensure our students succeed! Pardon the corny pun…but in the end…all of this math professional learning PLUS great attitudes toward learning and teaching math EQUALS better outcomes for students!

In keeping with our routine this year of sharing some sunshine each week, I wanted to highlight a comment from our recent Graduate Survey that we administered. A graduate from 2009 had this to say when we asked “What do you appreciate most about the District?

“The best part was graduating knowing that I did the best I could and that I had the support of some great teachers/staff. I still keep up with them on Facebook-and that’s a great feeling because I know that hey want to see how I succeed.”

It feels like a perfect tribute as we just celebrated National Staff Appreciation Day!

As always, if you have any questions about this or anything else within the district, don’t hesitate to contact me. Thank you so much for your support of the School District of Black River Falls! Go Tigers!


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