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Viewpoint: Students learning math in new ways, with better results

It's not the math you remember from your childhood, and it's not even the same math our teachers were teaching two years ago.

The District 834 brand new elementary math curriculum, revealed in classrooms at the start of the school year, is much more rigorous and has students performing higher-levels of math at earlier ages. It is also designed to be engaging with lessons to challenge learners at all levels.

Students are still learning to add, subtract, multiply and divide, but the way they reach answers to math problems may not look the same as you remember. Brain research has shown us that children learn in a variety of ways. The new math curriculum allows students to learn to solve math problems in multiple ways, allowing them to find a method that works best for their learning style.

Our new program is very different than what people are used to, and that difference is good. Stillwater is leading the way in terms of what our teachers are doing in mathematics. Knowing the state's math standards were changing, and an entirely new state test (Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment-III) was in development, Stillwater educators took the lead to overhaul our math curriculum in order to better prepare students.

Our teachers, paraprofessionals, and building administrators have gone through comprehensive training to enhance their own math skills and gain confidence using the new materials. Parents have also had the opportunity to learn about the curriculum during Math Nights at all of our elementary schools.

The new math curriculum ensures consistency between all of our schools, is based on sound research, and incorporates the most current and effective instructional strategies. It's also aligned with state standards, which will help ensure our students develop the skills necessary for success.

The new materials and instructional methods will allow students to be better prepared for the more rigorous state tests, but more importantly, it will allow them to gain confidence and skill in the study of mathematics.

What parents can expect from our new math curriculum:

• Increased communication:

• Letters will be sent home explaining new concepts and informing parents of work taking place in the classroom.

• Classroom teachers are always willing to answer questions, and will work with parents to help explain the curriculum and math concepts.

• More resources: Parents and students have access at home to a wide variety of online resources - from tips and practice problems, to online videos of instructors teaching concepts in depth.

• More homework: The homework is an essential part of the curriculum because it connects what students do at school with home. This program increases communication with parents and ensures everyone - student, teacher, and parents - are involved and engaged in the student's learning.

• More rigor: Students are being asked to learn concepts earlier than you will remember. New state standards require 8th grade students to master Algebra 1; a class most students in the past have not taken until high school. We know our students are up to this challenge, and we believe this revised K-7 math program will provide the foundation students need to be successful.

Keith Rykoski is the superintendent for District 834 in Stillwater.

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