Parents get look at new math courses

To help the United States catch up to countries like China and India, where students traditionally score higher on tests, many departments of education, including Ohio, have begun to adopt new common core standards to help students’ critical thinking skills. Trying to stay ahead of the curve, Fairfield City Schools have begun piloting some of the new programs before the deadline of the 2014-2015 school year.

“At the beginning some teachers got a little scared, saying, ‘Can our kids really do this?’ Now, they’re saying, ‘Look what our kids can do,’” said Lani Wildow, the district’s curriculum coordinator.

Debi Freimuth, an instructional specialist for the district, said an example of the new instruction is that the fourth grade year would be devoted largely to learning fractions.

“Instead of one unit, teachers are looking at half the year looking at fractions. That’s what they mean by going deeper. It’s learning something, learning it to mastery, and then building on that,” she said.

The standards apply for grades kindergarten through eight, and all of the programs have a technology component for home use, Freimuth said.

For grades kindergarten through five, the programs are called Investigations, Go Math and Math in Focus. Grades six through eight have Math in Focus, Big Ideas and digits, which is mostly online.

While she doesn’t believe the “perfect program” exists, Freimuth said Fairfield will be willing to use a mix of techniques if any particular program does not produce results.

On the whole, parents were appreciative of the new curriculum.

“I came out because I have girls just starting school. I wanted to see what they would be learning,” said parent Hezekiah Samples.

Kim Cline, another parent, said, “I wanted to make sure I knew what was going on so I can best help my child. Teachers have a hard job trying to do it all, so I want to be involved.”

Carol Cornwell had two reasons to be interested. She has a granddaughter in third grade, and she is a retired teacher from the Sycamore Community Schools in Hamilton County.

“I’m drawn to the Singapore math,” she said, referring to the Math in Focus program. “Those countries, they excel, they’re doing something right. If they’ve gone throughout the world and drawn from other countries that are excelling, that’s what I’m interested in.”

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