"We all grew up with that math anxiety, but the truth is all students can learn mathematics. I've had many conferences where parents have said, 'Oh, I couldn't do math,' but then look at their kids and say they will be able to," Weiss said. "We want parents to know what their children are learning and give them a 'we can figure this out' message instead."
My Math is a McGraw-Hill math program the district decided to use to adapt to the new Utah CORE Standards that were put in place just last year. Weiss said an adoption committee spent the previous year looking at textbooks and piloting several different programs before teachers chose the My Math curriculum.
"It has a copyright of 2013, so it was written after the Utah CORE standards were put in place. That's why we chose it," said Weiss.
Trailside Elementary School Principal Kathleen Einhorn said there has been a whole standards move across the U.S., and Utah has its own, which are almost identical to the national standards. These standards are addressed at the beginning of each chapter in the curriculum so teachers can explain them to their students.
Benchmark assessments have been made, and Einhorn said they have discovered the students' strengths as well as areas they will need to improve in due to the new material. "Some of the skills that were taught in third grade are now being used in fourth grade, so third-graders coming in hadn't been taught some of the skills yet," she said.
For example, Weiss said, a new skill included in My Math is mathematical vocabulary, such as equation, factor and product, because the new common CORE mathematics requires students to both explain their reasoning and justify it.
They will have to do so at the end of the year when they take the new SAGE test: the Student Assessment of Growth and Education. Einhorn said it is completely new this year and very different from the CRTs students have taken previously.
Aside from the new material in SAGE, it will also be taken online. "It's on the computer, and it's computer adaptive. No two students' tests, theoretically, will be the same," Einhorn said.
In preparation for that, My Math has many interactive options, such as drag and drop manipulatives on the Promethean boards in the classrooms. Weiss said videos and interactive lessons are included in the curriculum so students will not enter into SAGE without having been exposed to it and not do well simply because of their computer skills.
She said they are also making sure students are not hampered due to a language barrier. Trailside is a French Dual Immersion school, and Einhorn said the students are being assessed in both French and English with the help of a different Pearson mathematics curriculum called Envision Math.
"The French teacher teaches the lesson in French, so on the English side, what that teacher does is reinforce the concepts in English and pay close attention to what is being taught by their grade-level peers and pulling material here and there from Envision to make sure they are in line," Einhorn said.
What they are looking for is students' performance in French versus students' performance in English. Einhorn said it is to make sure they are understanding the concepts in French enough to be able to respond accurately and then assessing them in English to see if they are keeping up with their English peers.
At McPolin and Parley's Park elementary schools, the dual immersion program is in Spanish. Weiss said the My Math curriculum comes in Spanish as well, so that is what they are using at those two schools.
"The vocabulary being taught in [My Math] is definitely supporting them," Weiss said. "Those two schools test the students in Spanish and then in English, the workbooks are in Spanish and there are parts in the curriculum that help teachers of ESL students."
The gap in math proficiency between Hispanic students and Caucasian students was addressed at the Park City School District Board of Education meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 19, and Einhorn said the gap has tightened every year at Trailside.
However, she said they want to continue to improve, and in order to do so, guides are offered to parents in the district to help their children at home.
On the Utah State Office of Education website, the parent guides that can be downloaded or printed to explain the three or four critical focus areas their children will be learning in each grade, kindergarten through sixth, and tips on how to help them.
Math teachers in the district also meet twice a month on Fridays for training in math instruction, both in the content and in their pedagogy, Einhorn said, and they have been doing so for the past two years.
"We don't believe in 'some people are math people and some aren't' anymore. All students can do mathematics," Weiss said. "We feel like everyone can learn and should be able to have access to great math education, which is what we are making available with My Math."
For more information on the My Math curriculum or to download a parent guide, visit www.schools.utah.gov/curr/mathelem/resources.aspx.