BCSC looks at new math curriculum

Adopting a new math curriculum for grade school students will be recommended next month by the Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp.’s Elementary Mathematics Adoption Committee.

If approved by the BCSC school board, the Eureka Math curriculum developed by the Great Minds/EM2 company will likely begin during the next school year for students in grades K-6, and remain in place for at least the next six years. Great Minds has offices in Richmond, Virginia; Washington D.C and Farmington Hills, Michigan.

Curriculum specialist Gail Koors and 32-year educator Amy Elsbury of Rockcreek Elementary made the initial presentation regarding Eureka Math. Koors and Elsbury spoke on behalf of the committee, which consists of 12 individuals in leadership roles. Their work is later evaluated by a 27-member resource review team, Koors said.

Those on the review committee include parents, classroom representatives, teachers, English as second language personnel, education technology specials and administrators, Elsbury said. Collectively, the group has put in about 428 hours of work into the selection process, she said.

The committee began examining grade school math curriculums offered by 20 vendors, Koors said. That list was eventually whittled down to three: Big Ideas/Cengage; Houghton, Mifflin, Harcourt; and Great Minds/EM2.

Eureka Math includes print and digital materials as well as math manipulatives to provide students with varying learning opportunities, Elsbury said. She adds it also provides a consistent use of models, coherent lessons that build over modules and levels, as well as a digital experience intended to provide students with “more moments of discovery.”

When compared to the other two vendors, the adoption committee rated Eureka Math highest in nine of 11 categories: recruiting interest; sustaining effort and persistence; self-regulation; language, expressions and symbols; comprehension/understanding; physical action; expression and communication; executive function and equitable teaching practices.

In both perception and project pricing of materials, Eureka Math received a middle rating. The cost of acquiring the math curriculum for kindergarten through sixth grade is $1.325 million, Koors said.

But the curriculum specialist and Elsbury say they believe it’s worth the cost.

“We want to use materials and instructional practices that will help develop not only the ‘how’ of math education, but also the ‘why’,” Elsbury said. “We can compute, but can we justify our answer?”

Providing students with this ability will improve reasoning and critical thinking skills that should not only better prepare young students for higher-level courses, but to also solve real world problems later in life, Koors said.

Eureka Math offers educational resources not only for students and teachers, but also for parents who want to help their child understand the concepts, Elsbury said.

One reason for seeking a new elementary curriculum is the 40.4% mathematics proficiency within BCSC grade schools.

“We are still above the state, but 40.4% is not OK in my book,” Koors said.

When all BCSC schools are considered, the corporation has a mathematics proficiency of 49%, school board member Jason Major said.

Committee members have talked with other school corporations that have recently switched to this new math curriculum. Their representatives told the local committee they are very pleased with the resulting student math discourse, Koors said.

A formal vote on the adoption of the Eureka Math curriculum is expected during the next regular school board meeting on April 3.