Ten years ago, Jeffco sought to improve student learning in math by implementing the
Math Investigations curriculum. Investigations, with a lot more writing, was supposed to get
students to higher levels of math quickly. It moved away from learning math facts and
attempted to teach math concepts. In fact, the first versions of the program didn’t have math fact resources. The program was selected during the years that Jill Fellman, now a school
board member, ran the math curriculum department.
Parents were left flat footed as students brought home work using the new methods to
solve problems. Students were told they could not just use familiar math algorithms; they had
to use the new methods. Many parents didn’t know there were resources available to help.
Many schools held “parent universities” to explain the new expectations. Also, teachers
completed many hours of professional development in order to learn the associated
techniques. Since the district paid for all of the resources, most schools moved to the new
After a decade, math scores have not grown as expected. In December 2013, the new Jeffco board unanimously set higher achievement goals. Among the areas addressed, the board set the expectation that 180 more Jeffco fourth graders should be proficient or advanced in math each year. Last year 77 percent of fourth graders were proficient or above; the new board goal is 80 percent.
District staff under the direction of Chief Academic Officer Heather Beck told the board a change in curriculum would be necessary to achieve the goal. After having evaluated a number of options, the staff recommended Math Expressions.
The board allocated millions to purchase the resources and professional development for teachers to use the recommended new program. Many teachers spent time in class over the summer to learn the new resources. Unlike 10 years ago, this time the board gave each school the authority to choose whether to move to the new curriculum. Every Accountability Committee should have been involved in the decision process at each school. Conversations should have occurred about how to communicate with parents and whether the new math curriculum would help their students.
We have heard from many moms that Math Expressions assignments are coming home, without any notice given to parents. There may be an answer to the growing frustration. The publisher of Math Expressions has a website designed just for parents. It includes resources for homework help, brain teasers and more: http://www.eduplace.com/parents/math.jsp.
If you have any concerns, contact your School Accountability Committee (SAC), another
good resource and a place to provide feedback. SACs can help plan events to disseminate
information, or even to go through lessons so you are equipped to help your child effectively
with his or her new homework.