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NYC Helpline: How To: Develop as a Professional

Everyday Mathematics (K-6) in a Workshop Model: Making the Paradigm Shift for Effective Instruction Theresa London Cooper

Recommended Book of the Month: Math: Facing an American Phobia By Marilyn Burns

"Even in the face of widespread failure in learning mathematics, we seem to want to cling to educational methods with a nostalgia for them that has long outlasted their usefulness and has perpetuated failure."   Marilyn Burns

For the first time, many teachers and students are using the Everyday Mathematics Program in the New York City elementary schools. After approximately four months, what have we learned about this program? What type of thinking must we possess in order to effectively implement the program? How does it fit into the workshop model? Answers to these questions will be the focus of this article.

Part of my role as a professional developer is to support classroom teachers as they implement new programs to improve student achievement. Support may take the form of a study group, one-to-one conferencing, demonstration lessons, and/or co-teaching. As the Mathematics Coach, teachers at my site, and I collaborate to implement Everyday Mathematics, we have made some discoveries together. I will share them with you.

Everyday Mathematics is not a traditional program. It encourages divergent thinking and problem solving, hands-on experiences, small-group activities, and a strong home-school connection. Professional development is critical to understanding how to use each component appropriately. One of the challenges in implementing the program is for teachers to find the time to examine and becoming familiar with each component: the teacher's lesson guide, math masters, teacher's reference manual, assessment handbook, the mathematics planning book for their specific grade, the home connection handbook, student math journals, student reference book, student skills links, student study links, math steps, minute math, and content by strand poster. Unlike most of the mathematics programs I have used, Everyday Mathematics includes a Teacher's Reference Manual, which provides a background of mathematical concepts and management tips to facilitate the use of the program. Therefore, it supports teachers who may not have a strong mathematical background.

Both time and ongoing professional development that allows teachers to engage in a cycle of questioning, studying, discussing and teaching, are essential if teachers are to become comfortable using the program to teach students effectively. The philosophy of Everyday Mathematics requires teachers to make a paradigm shift in their thinking, from the traditional type of thinking which underlies traditional mathematics programs. For example, if students don't master all mathematical skills and concepts during their initial encounters, teachers are expected to move on to the next topic.

This is a difficult concept for teachers to accept because we want our students to master what we teach when it is initially presented. Everyday Mathematics is a spiraling program that characterizes various skills as beginning, developing, and secure. When a concept is labeled as beginning (noted in the teacher's learning guide section entitled "learning goals in perspective" and the teacher's assessment manual), the teacher introduces it with the understanding that the student may not master the concept at this time, but will revisit the concept at another time until it becomes secure. With this in mind, the teacher continues to move on to the next topic after a couple of days. This is indeed a different way of thinking for many of us!

Another difficult concept for many of us is to wrap our minds around is the role "games" play in Everyday Mathematics. Games are not optional, but an integral component of the program that helps children develop and maintain good fact power and other mathematical skills. It is an alternative to the "drill and kill" of math facts. Additionally, the games are for all students, especially for slower achieving students, not just the accelerated students.

Because the Everyday Mathematics Program promotes cooperative learning and group experiences, literature connections, mathematical communications and discussions, and practice through games, the workshop model works very well. Region 5 teachers use the workshop model to structure their lessons. See Everyday Mathematics Prototype for Grade 4 below:

Getting Started routines are introduced (15 minutes):

  • Mental Math and Reflexes

  • Math Message

  • Study Link follow-up


Teaching the lesson (Whole Class Instruction 20 minutes)

  • Mini lesson---------------------------------------------------------------I do, you watch.

  • Read Aloud

  • Guided practice--------------------------------------------------------I do, you help.

  • Student math journal

  • Interactive Word Wall vocabulary development

  • Introduction to playing a game


Ongoing Learning and Practice (25 minutes)
Small Group/Partner--------------------------------------------You do, I help.
Independent-------------------------------------------------------You do, I watch.

  • Review/Practice

  • Playing a Game

  • Math Boxes

  • Student Journal

  • Mixed Review

  • Small Independent Practice

Option for Differentiated Instruction

  • Enrichment

  • Extra Practice

  • Re-teaching

  • Language Diversity

  • Math Steps


Lesson Summary (Whole Group 10 Minutes)

  • Share Out

Student Link (5 minutes)

  • Home Connection

It is important to note that assessment is ongoing, informal and embedded in teachers' practice while they observe students during their independent, small group and / or partnership work. At this time, teachers may conference with students.

I think it is important to reiterate that Everyday Mathematics is a spiraling program which helps teachers scaffold student learning through the whole-small-whole framework. It supports teachers in their own learning by providing very explicit descriptions of each component and its purpose. It addresses the needs of various types of learners and encourages several ways to assess student progress. With the proper support, I believe teachers can make the paradigm shift necessary to implement the program successfully.

Traditional programs have outlived their usefulness, as stated by Marilyn Burns. We are living in the twenty-first century, which is technologically sophisticated and requires well-developed problem solving skills in order for its citizens to excel. If we are to prepare our students for the world of tomorrow, we must embrace the type of thinking that supports divergent thinking, collaborative partnerships, and keen problem solving ability. To that end, the Everyday Mathematics program helps students develop sound mathematical thinking and provides teachers with an interactive structure that will energize their classrooms.

Do you have a comment or question about this article?  E-mail Theresa.


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