RSF School board hears benefits of new math programs at R. Roger Rowe

Students work together on an Everyday Math task.

The Rancho Santa Fe School District is six months into the new math curriculum at R. Roger Rowe Elementary and Middle Schools. According to Superintendent Donna Tripi, the new programs allow students to have a deeper understanding of key math concepts as they have to think and justify their answers with mathematical reasoning. Many of the math tasks are related to real-world problems, “Kids see the relevance and are motivated to do the work,” Tripi said.

The board received a detailed update on the new curriculums at its Feb. 6 meeting. A math workshop for parents to learn more about the programs is scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 25 after morning drop-off, around 8:15 a.m.

The last review of the Rancho Santa Fe School District’s math curriculum was in 2009. Last June, the board adopted Everyday Mathematics for the elementary school, Open Up Resources for the middle school after an 18-month process that included every math teacher at the school, and a review by math experts and consultants at the San Diego County Office of Education.

With the new curriculums, Tripi said they were looking for a more focused and structured curriculum that is robust with high quality tasks and professional development and resources for the staff to ensure an “exemplary” classroom experience.

“We’re really proud of the work we’ve done in math,” Tripi said. “We’ve come a long way.”

At the elementary school level, students start each day with a math message and mental math exercises. Students work through open response questions Students learn using games, math boxes and open-ended questions with multiple solutions using multiple strategies like number lines and grids that helps promote extended thinking. The program uses a “spiral” approach in which lessons are spread out over time rather than concentrated in shorter periods, allowing students to master concepts throughout the year.

In the middle school level, Tripi said the level of student engagement has been “astounding” and the students really like the Open Up materials. Students work on classroom activities and tasks, independently and in groups, followed by lesson synthesis where teachers further explain concepts learned in the task.

Tools like end of unit assessments, quizzes and iReady, an online diagnostic assessment and personalized learning platform, help inform teachers on which students might need extra work on particular concepts.

Board members Sarah Neal and Tyler Seltzer said they have heard some concerns from parents about Everyday Math, such as that is not rigorous or challenging enough, that it can be “onerous” for students to explain multiple different ways of how to get an answer and concerns that it is structured to bring struggling students up and not pushing high achievers.

Tripi said she believes that the curriculum incorporates the best practices in math education—she said there is a lot of room for differentiation within the program, the high cognitive demand tasks lead to better conceptual understanding and students are building the habits of a productive mathematical thinker.

“We feel that it is challenging for kids,” Tripi said.