May 4, 2022 | Sarah Heinonen
LONGMEADOW – After more than a year of investigation and program piloting, Longmeadow Public Schools recommended the School Committee adopt Bridges to Mathematics as the new math curriculum for elementary schools in the district.
At the April 26 School Committee meeting, Chelsea Barry, a math specialist at Blueberry Hill School, and Nancy Moriarty, a Grade 4 teacher at Wolf Swamp Road School, addressed the committee to review the findings of the seven teachers who reviewed available math programs.
The group began with 12 programs and reviewed each, making sure they met the state’s educational standards, as well as “looking at the teaching practices,” involved in each. Barry said the group used the Vision of the Graduate, which focuses on the skills students will need in the real world, such as accountability, independence, problem-solving, critical thinking, collaboration and communication. She said that overlaps with the Standards for Mathematics Practice and the Effective Mathematic Teaching Practices, which are state and professional standards.
“It all just came together so perfectly,” Barry said.
After comparing the various curricula, the programs were narrowed down to three, Illustrative Math, Investigation and Bridges in Mathematics. Investigations was then eliminated, and Bridges in Mathematics and Illustrative Math were chosen to be piloted by 38 educators in the district.
Barry said the pilot process was not without challenges, including only using one or two units of the program, no math specialists familiar with the systems in the district and an inability to present that material in the intended order. She also said the 60 minutes provided for math in the schedule was not enough to complete the lessons. Piloting the programs during the coronavirus pandemic created some specific issues, such as a higher than usual number of absences and a lack of math readiness and social-emotional skills resulting from the previous, interrupted year.
Despite the challenges, the educators received enough data to choose Bridges in Mathematics. Barry said the program was developed by the Math Learning Center and is highly rated by Ed Reports, a third party.
Barry described the curriculum as complex with novel problems, and supportive of visual and language skills. Group work is an essential part of Bridges in Mathematics, and it emphasizes that there is usually more than one way to solve a problem.
According to the presentation, Bridges in Mathematics, “makes connections between math and the real world,” integrates tools and technology to learn, “prioritizes fluency” rather than memorization and develops “coherent learning progressions.”
There are also assessments and standards built into the instruction and grading system, so students are not left behind if they do not understand something.
Superintendent Martin O’Shea said the review process was “thorough.” The program will cost about $103,450 with an annual fee of about $11,000. Assistant Superintendent for Learning Susan Bertrand said the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) may be considering some reimbursement funding via a grant for the program.
School Committee member Susan Bell said she was a “big fan” of Bridges in Mathematics and that it was used in a district in which she worked. “It really is amazing,” she said.
Fellow School Committee member Mary Keane described the program as “cohesive,” and praised its focus on “building positive math identities,” and confidence in kids.
School Committee member Gianna Allentuck said teachers become frustrated when curriculum programs are changed every year or two. She asked what it was about this program that would make the district stick with it. Barry said Bridges in Mathematics was built putting students first and that makes it a “strong” program.
The School Committee will vote on the recommendation at its next meeting. The district hopes to implement the new curriculum in the fall and said professional development would be needed to train teachers on the program before the August start of school.