TORRINGTON – On April 12, the Goshen County School District (GCSD) approved adopting the Eureka Math Squared curriculum in its regularly scheduled meeting, which sparked questions about implementing the new curriculum by community members as well as what it would mean for students and teachers.
“This is a way to help our kids understand math at a much deeper level and understand concepts behind why mathematical algorithms work,” GCSD Director of Curriculum and Instruction Jeff Fuller said when asked what he would like to tell parents, teachers and students still on the fence about implementing Eureka Math Squared.
For a year, GCSD implemented Eureka Math Squared in its fourth-grade classrooms as a pilot program before the board voted to implement it for next school year in last month’s school board meeting.
“It’s not a new curriculum – it’s a new set of teaching material,” Fuller stated.
Although state standardized testing scores won’t be available until August, Fuller said that based on data and observations from two other Wyoming school districts who had already implemented Eureka Math, there was little to no effect on testing scores, or what’s known as implementation dips in student achievement scores.
“So, with us teaching and implementing new material, yes, there is a possibility that we could see lower testing scores, known as an implementation dip, after the first year,” Fuller explained. “However, after observing the other two Wyoming districts with Eureka math, we did not see that occur.”
“It (Eureka Math Squared) still teaches to Wyoming’s state standards and doesn’t eliminate math in the manner we all knew growing up – it just changes how it is taught so that students have a better understanding of why math works the way it does,” Fuller added.
Fuller said that during the course of the pilot program, the district listened to the pros and cons of implementing Eureka Math from its fourth-grade teachers and students.
“One of the major pros with this math program is that it has been proven in many school districts to greatly improve math testing scores which translated to other school subjects due to the literacy component incorporated into the program,” Fuller said.
However, one con Fuller said fourth graders and teachers overcame during the pilot program was, “it’s really a pro and a con, but that is that this program is very rigorous in terms of preparation for our teachers and it’s going to be a heavy lift for students and teachers because they’ve never been exposed to this sort of material.”
However, the curriculum was adopted to suit the district’s needs and to give administrators a buffer in teaching days.
“So, one thing Eureka Math Squared did for Goshen County is reduce the total instructional time,” Fuller said. “The instructional time for Eureka Math is 175 days – which we have 175 days in our school calendar year. With Eureka Math Squared, it reduces instructional time to 140 instructional days.”
Fuller explained the reduction of instructional time leaves school days allocated for field trips, school events and school holidays without leaving out vital teaching concepts or lessons.
“Change can be scary for many parents because the way math was taught when we were children looks a lot different than today’s math,” Great Minds Eureka Math Implementation Leader Carrie Thornton said.
Thornton said the curriculum, which she implemented into her classroom in Seattle, Washington when she was an elementary school educator, continues to progress and adapt to the needs of each district, school, teacher and student.
“This curriculum originates from New York and was called Engage New York,” Thornton said, “however, what was discovered with teachers nationwide wanting to implement it was that this curriculum was designed to be coherent and built on conceptual understanding for students.”
Conceptual learning in mathematics means focusing on teaching the math concepts, ideas and “why’s”, as in why it works the way it does, behind math in lieu of memorization of facts, methods or formulas.
Data provided by Great Minds from districts around the nation from 2015 through 2022, indicate that math scores have steadily increased every year following its initial introduction.
In the latest 2022 data report from Great Minds, The Pentucket Regional School District, West Newbury, Massachusetts which introduced Eureka Math in 2015, showed students’ scores improved on average by 28 points in the 2020-2021 school year over the 2018-2019 school year. This change was most notable among sixth graders.
In addition to improving math scores, the curriculum directly impacted ELA and literacy scores in the same time frame by nearly 14%, most notable among first graders, because it’s rooted in a literacy-first approach.
Thornton added that data collected from the other two Wyoming school districts as well as the GCSD pilot program for the 2021-2022 school year wouldn’t be available until late fall 2022.
“There’s a story we are telling through math from pre-K all the way through twelfth grade with how math is interconnected to everything around us with everyday life,” Thornton explained, adding, “so, with Eureka Math, students are developing this really rich conceptual understanding of what it is they are doing and why they are doing it, which is really the foundation of all math, the universal language.”
Thornton also said that even though Eureka math was initially a free online curriculum, the curriculum developers at Great Minds are, “constantly getting feedback from districts, school administrators, teachers, students and even parents to continue to develop it into this rich content based on the evolving needs of students and teachers.”
The board approved the purchase of Eureka Math as the district elementary math curriculum, to be implemented in the 2022-2023 school year, managed by Great Minds, for $52,695.24 out of the district’s general fund allocated for curriculum. The board also approved an additional $192,600 in professional development and training for elementary teachers during the upcoming school year to be provided through Great Minds out of the ESSER II/ARP funds. Additionally, $24,459.60 was approved to purchase math manipulatives and $12,500.00 for access to Zearn online intervention and supplemental programs through Eureka Math, also out of the general fund allocated for curriculum.
In August, Great Minds curriculum leaders will be on-site at each school during the professional development time prior to the start of school, to work with school administrators and teachers on best practices for implementation of Eureka Math Squared as part of the approved budget provisions.
“We are really excited to get new school administrators and teachers excited about Eureka math when we show up to do the professional development with their schools,” Thornton said, “which in turn translates to getting students excited about math, and other STEM or STEAM related subjects.”
Thornton also added that a core concept of Eureka Math is not only preparing students to build better math skills and foundations, but to ignite passions in all students for future careers in STEM or STEAM related fields.
Prior to being presented to and approved by the board, the district allowed input from parents, teachers, administrators and the Curriculum Coordinating Council (CCC) to discuss implementation. At the April 12 school board meeting, Superintendent Ryan Kramer stated he was pleased with the discussions that lead up to the adoption of Eureka Math Squared for the Goshen County School District. Other board members, like Kerry Bullington, a member of CCC, were satisfied with the board ruling.
According to the district, 38 out of 43 elementary teachers, or roughly 88%, were in favor of adopting Eureka Math Squared for the next school year.
“We really suspect that the school administrators, teachers and guardians who were still on the fence about Eureka Math prior to last month’s curriculum approval, will really embrace it and love it once it’s implemented fully,” Fuller stated.
Thornton added, “The unknown is scary; however, our data consistently shows that teachers, students and parents embrace and love conceptual math teaching almost right away and the benefits are paving a path for long-term success for the students.”
Both Fuller and Thornton said there will be take-home sheets for students to show parents what they are learning and online resources will be available for teachers, students and parents.