At the beginning of the school year a committee was formed to conduct research and analyze new math programs for the Lower School, which is a common practice during an accreditation year. I wanted my colleagues and I to take a close look at other math programs and compare them to Everyday Math, which we have used and liked for many years. Through reading Dr. Jo Boaler's
work, Stanford math professor and co-founder of SanFrancisco Math, and participating in some powerful math professional development to improve our practice, we wanted to do more to meet the needs of our students. Six years had passed since we last purchased the latest edition of Everyday Math, and it was time for us to make sure we had the best math program for our students.
The search committee for a new math program was composed of educators who teach kindergarten through fifth grade students – Joanne Minke (K), Christine Oman (1st & 2nd), Jennifer Hobbs (3rd), Colette Husenitza (4th), Sarah Palazzolo (LS Curriculum Dean), Mandy Howell (5th) and myself. Together we went through a process of determining strengths and weaknesses of our current program, documenting what we wanted in a math curriculum, researching the best programs that align with our criteria, and closely examining online resources and the kindergarten through fifth grade curriculum.
I reached out to the Florida Council of Independent School Lower School Heads and Math coordinators/staff developers on my list-serve and exchanged many emails. Teachers belonging to math groups, surveyed educators from around the nation. We looked at the research that compared programs. We made a list of the top math programs that aligned with our child-centered, constructivist philosophy of teaching and learning and began researching the programs. We set up meetings with program representatives, ordered hard copies, spoke to heads of schools, and used some of the materials with our students. After many months, we reduced our selection to our top five programs. We made these programs available to faculty to examine and kept them in the loop.
We continued the process, having many discussions until we got our list down to our top three. Once we had agreed, we set up opportunities to have members of the committee go to three independent schools using the programs we liked so we could see them in action, talk to teachers and school leaders (find out the pros and cons). Each visit taught many lessons.
There are many good math programs and they all come with different strengths. Some are more workbook heavy and others allow for more hands-on, differentiated learning. The one program that resonated with every teacher on our committee from kindergarten to fifth grade, and the one we thought was the best for our school, was Bridges in Mathematics
Bridges in Mathematics is a comprehensive math program “designed to implement the principles and standards for school mathematics from the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics.”
Two weeks ago we shared the final decision with the faculty, and began to plan our professional development for the summer and school year. Teachers will have access to the program materials throughout the summer and our professional development next year will be focused on this work. The search committee will engage in summer professional development with Sarah and together become our Math Support Team.
Here is what Sarah Palazzolo, the Lower School Dean of Curriculum, has to say about Bridges:
“Aside from being highly recommended by math teachers across the country and internationally and being among the highest rated programs according to EdReports, Bridges is both rigorous and engaging for students. The Bridges curriculum teaches students that math requires perseverance, collaboration, and is social. Our young mathematicians are sure to develop key skills needed to solve complex and novel problems using visual models and manipulatives. Activities within and across grade levels are carefully sequenced to account for how elementary students make sense of and connect mathematical ideas and processes. This, along with the intentional combination of direct instruction, structured investigation, and open exploration, will result in a robust and deep understanding of mathematical concepts. Even more, our most proficient math students are sure to be challenged, a key factor our committee considered when making the decision to select Bridges in Mathematics.”
We know the children will love this new math program and develop into strong mathematical thinkers. You’ll hear more about the program at Back to School Night, but the Math Support Team and I plan to present an overview of Bridges in Mathematics for the Lower School community on September 15, 2022.