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Educators show off new common-core math curriculum

Published 8:59am Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Committee chooses textbooks following year-long process

After an intense year-long search, a committee of educators at Dowagiac Union Schools has decided on the new mathematic textbooks and course materials for the district’s elementary and middle school students.

Deputy Superintendent Dawn Connor, Dowagiac Middle School Principal Matt Severin, Patrick Hamilton Principal Heather Nash and a handful of other teachers presented the new material to the Board of Education and the public on Monday night as part of the committee’s annual curriculum update. The teachers announced their selection of the following programs, which will be used starting next fall:

• “Bridges in Mathematics,” from the The Math Learning Center for the district’s kindergarten through second-grade classes.

• “GO Math!” from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for third through fifth-grade classes.

• “Big Ideas Math,” from Ron Larson and Laurie Boswell for seventh and eighth grade classes.

Their selections are common core materials, the first such materials the district has had for these particular grade levels, Connor said. The Michigan Board of Education adopted the shared education standards for the state’s mathematic and English materials in 2010.

“When you adopt the common core, 15 percent of what is in that you get to decide, so it’s a local curriculum,” Connor said. “We spent the year developing Dowagiac’s curriculum in mathematics. We spent time going through and deconstructing standards, which means understanding them so we know how to teach them well.”

Around 50 different people were involved in the selection process at various points throughout the year, Connor said. The committee compressed what is typically a two- to three-year procedure into only 12 months due to the fact the district hadn’t updated it material for a number of years.

“The teachers have done an amazing job in adapting what they had to in the new curriculum, but it was hard. It was a lot of extra work,” Connor said. “The material wasn’t lining up with the methodology of the new curriculum.”

The committee met with representatives from five different programs during the search process. They also visited classrooms throughout the region to get a first-hand look at how students and staff used their potential selections.

Among the strengths of the common core materials include a focus on student-based problem solving and the use of technology for lessons.

The middle school had conducted a pilot-run of the new material for its sixth-grade math students this year, which Principal Severin said has worked out tremendously.

“What really stands out when I go into those classrooms is that I see the students doing all of the thinking,” Severin said. “It’s not just the teachers presenting the material and doing all the thinking while the students copy it. It’s a really big shift in the way we teach math, and I’m really excited to see how it’s going to play out for us.”

The estimated cost to purchase the new teaching material is $180,000, an 80 percent increase over last year, Connor said. These materials include not only textbooks but also supplies for hands-on exercises.

“We’re trying to be fair with our tax payer’s money, but also trying to meet our students’ needs,” she said.

During the presentation, Connor thanked not only Severin and Nash for their support throughout the entire selection process, but also the other teachers who contributed their time and energy over the last several months.

“We’re really proud of all the hard work and all the dedication our staff put into this process,” Connor said.


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