MARTINS FERRY The Martins Ferry City School District welcomed a new math coach this school year. For the past six weeks, Donna Joseph has worked with fourth and fifth grade math teachers, with more grades levels as the program progresses.
Curriculum Specialist Sue Ferelli noted the district had struggled to some degree with the common core. This will be the final year pupils take the Ohio Achievement Assessment. She noted the standards will be more inquiry-based and demand engagement and investigative work from the pupils.
"We wanted to hire a math coach to work with our middle school staff," she said. "We needed to bring our scores up in general and also prepare them for the common core and the Park assessments."
She added that when pupils take the Park assessments next year, one component is performance-based testing. The district explored the Ohio State Math Coaching Program. The program is grant funded and pays for a coach's professional development. The district was responsible for finding a coach.
Joseph said the goal was comprehension and for the pupils to understand how and why of mathematics rather than only the correct answer. She said the program draws on 10 years of ongoing research.
"A lot of this is data-driven. It's not things they are speculating will work," she said. "It has proven to be successful."
She said the method is different from traditional instruction. Pupils are encouraged to explain the processes they used in order to reach an answer.
"We're making the kids not just give an answer, but really understand where that answer came from, and that is the kind of thing the core curriculum are really stressing," Joseph said.
Joseph added that she has made inroads with the fifth grade class.
"The kids are kind of learning to think outside the box," she said. "I think the kids have really liked it."
There is one fifth grade math teacher. She and Joseph work closely together in formulating strategies.
The fourth grade level includes four self-contained classrooms. Joseph is working with one of the fourth grade classes so far.
In the future, she will worth with the eighth grade math teacher and another fourth grade teacher.
She added that different grades will require different strategies, particularly dealing with self contained classes and changing classes.
She noted one goal is to engage the pupils by demonstrating the usefulness of math in their lives.
"All kids can learn, it just has to be done maybe a little differently than has been done in the past, and that's what our objective is," she said. "We're trying to change the way that a kid looks at a math class and mathematics in general."
Joseph said this approach would serve pupils well on the new tests.
"They don't want just an answer and sometimes they don't just want one strategy, they want multiple strategies," she said.
Joseph spends two days per month in Columbus working on professional development which she shares with the teachers in the classrooms. She also attends professional development in Akron.
"I think it's very worthwhile and I've been able to come back and share a lot of what I've learned," she said. Ferrelli added that this saves time that would be taken up in teacher workshops.
Joseph brings 30 years of experience in the field of teaching mathematics.
The math coach program is a joint effort between the Ohio Department of Education and Ohio State University
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