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Students See Themselves as Mathematicians in SLP's math and enrichment program

Over the past three years, teachers and leaders from across the district have been part of a curricular review process in mathematics studying the best ways to empower students to see themselves authentically as mathematicians, problem solvers, and be competent and confident in their math work and knowledge. Through their efforts based in St. Louis Park Math Frameworks, we adopted a new elementary math curriculum called Bridges, removing many remedial math classes so that more students have access to grade-level standards. While still in the first years of implementation, we’re already seeing positive results for teachers and students. 

“I'm getting answers from almost every single student and ideas from everybody! I feel like as I learn the curriculum I can see students getting more deeply engaged in math and feeling more success,” said 5th-grade teacher Mr. Stenross of Aquila Elementary School about teaching math in new ways.  

How students feel about math is just as important as their abilities. 
One student said, “the teacher helped me figure out I’m good at math!” Not only that but students like math. When asked what their favorite activities at school were, math was the most popular answer. You may or may not guess that art, Talent Development, Recess, and Science (in that order) were the next most popular answers. 

Speaking of the third most popular activity (Talent Development), did you know that all students in K-5 receive Talent Development enrichment classes? Students like Talent Development, science, coding, brain development, art, slime, music, and fun! But let's get back to the most popular subject, math!

Teachers are now in the second year of implementing the new math and enrichment program. Here’s what they’re saying about it.

  • “As a third-grade teacher, I was thrilled with the first year of implementation where I discovered that the curriculum focused on strategies rather than traditional algorithms. As the year progressed, I saw engagement and learning, and thinking that was missing from our previous math curriculum. I see daily growth and am impressed by the opportunities to meet student needs, wherever they may be. This second year of implementation I have been amazed at the number sense and retention of mathematical thinking that students are bringing from the previous year! I cannot stress enough the value of Number Corner. For me, it is the most valuable and important 20 minutes of teaching each day!” - Tricia Ziegle, 3rd Grade Teacher from Park Spanish Immersion
  • “Bridges is the best curriculum that I’ve ever used! I can see my students really making connections. I think it's just really powerful for all of my students, from those receiving math specialized services participating and being engaged in my class, just like my students who are constantly asking me for additional math homework and at the 90th percentile in math. Students now have a deeper understanding of number theory and problem-solving. I think the problem strings are a fantastic way for all my students to see how they can go from solving simpler problems to more complex problems.”  - William Stenross, 5th-grade teacher, Aquila
  • “The Number Corner aspect of Bridges is amazing because it provides many different ways for kids to see addition and subtraction and it has a theme, like in October we are working with pumpkins and zucchini. My students are enjoying the games and multiple ways of learning math. - Ingrid Brown, 1st Grade Teacher from Park Spanish Immersion

What is the data telling us about how well teachers are teaching math?
We understand the importance of using data to better understand how teachers can improve their instruction. Our data is moving in the right direction!

  • Math Proficiency: Unlike the rest of the state which saw a drop in math proficiency in 2022, SLP elementary math proficiency was over 16% higher than the state average. Three years in a row, nearly all SLP elementary schools exceeded the state average on the MCAs. 
  • Math Growth: 73.3% of elementary grade-level teams, grades 2-5, have increased the percentage of student growth based on fall to winter NWEA MAP data (2021-2022). This assessment helps us measure how students are growing academically and if they are growing at an expected pace, regardless of where a student started. It also helps inform teacher lesson planning and evaluate how well classroom teaching is leading to student growth.

More about the math and enrichment program
The new math and enrichment program is a rigorous curriculum, meaning, it helps students have a deep understanding of mathematics and the ability to connect and use multiple ways to solve problems. It emphasizes deep understanding for all students versus the surface-level acquisition of knowledge and isolated skills found in the previous math challenge and 5+ options. 

How can students get accelerated math support?
Acceleration is appropriate when no new learning is taking place, after demonstrating understanding of grade level concepts. As mathematics continues to be transformed in our district, the most important thing is that each individual sees themselves as a mathematician, one who is ready to take on new mathematics problems with confidence! When learning and deeper understanding slows, that is when differentiation is appropriate. Fortunately, the Bridges curriculum is structured in a way that supports deepening mathematical understanding for all students. 

Read how teachers help students extend knowledge and skills while simultaneously stretching their thinking:

  • “Some kids are ready to let go of the concrete things sooner and some kids need it longer and that's allowed and it's fine and it's part of the whole system. Within the Bridges curriculum, Work Places offers the students opportunities to stretch and extend their math thinking.” - Reid Bordson-Nolle, 2nd Grade Teacher, Susan Lindgren
  • “I’m seeing less of a need for differentiation because lessons allow so many different on-ramps for my students to be able to engage and talk and think. I think about how differentiation was seen as the panacea for math instruction and in some ways it feels like that just becomes ability grouping and that is a problem. With Bridges I'm getting answers from almost every single student and ideas from everybody even when we're talking about things like adding and subtracting fractions with unlike denominators.” -William Stenross, 5th Grade Teacher, Aquila
  • “When we slow down rather than speed up, giving highly capable students time to dig into projects that incorporate the eight math practices, they build a deeper understanding of the mathematical concept. They become truly engaged, and math is challenging and satisfying.” - Andy Bishop, ‘Working with Gifted Learners: Acceleration vs. Application’, Bridges Blog, March 2018

Math acceleration in middle and high school
As students move into Pre-Algebra I in 6th grade, they will have the opportunity to experience both depths of understanding and breadth of knowledge/skills by participating in the problem-solving lessons designed for all students and the differentiated practice lessons created to meet students where they are at and move them to the next level.

The best time to accelerate a grade level in mathematics is after 6th grade or successful completion of Pre-Algebra I. We have found that this is the most successful time for students to accelerate because the content and standards are closely related. If a grade level acceleration is of interest to a family, they should begin by sharing their intent with their student’s 6th-grade math teacher and request more information about acceleration during class registration. 

Did you know that all high school students will have access to one or more college level math classes?
We believe that students taking a college level math class, like Advanced Placement (AP) Statistics, AP Calculus, Statway, and Standard Level and High Level International Baccalaureate (IB) classes, in high school will better prepare students for success in their post-secondary classes.

Math Framework E-12 - Click to view larger image