School to get additional math materials

Published 12:51 pm Monday, September 22, 2008

Greystone Elementary students will soon get additional math materials to try to offset the school’s dropping math standardized test scores.

“This is my fourth year, so that’s how long I’ve been looking at them,” said Greystone Principal Dr. Maurine Black. “There’s been a small decline every year since I’ve been here.”

Some parents attribute that decline to the school’s lack of math textbooks.

Five years ago, the Hoover school system replaced the math textbooks in all the system schools. The teachers at Greystone Elementary didn’t like working with the new textbook, called Trailblazers, and requested to purchase other math materials.

The math materials the faculty selected, called Investigations, focus on problem-solving instead of computational math and gives the students workbooks and activity books.

The test scores reflect that focus, with problem-solving scores actually going up but computational scores dropping.

“I believe that the school needs to have a balanced program,” Black said. “We’re practicing thinking mathematically. That part has improved, but it has not improved to such a degree that it counters the algorithm scores. We have really good materials for problem-solving, but at the same time, we need better materials for algorithms.”

Parents are concerned because their children aren’t gaining proficiency in algorithm-based math, Black said.

“Right now, their biggest concern is they want something to help their child improve in math as they work with their child at home. They want something specific they can look at and see the (math) sequence and how it’s been built upon itself,” she said.

Because problem-solving is practiced in the classroom, it can be hard for parents to help their children do it at home. The way that today’s students solve math problems is very different than the way their parents may have learned, Black said.

On Sept. 18, the school held a meeting for concerned parents to hear plans to shore up math education.

The school has put together a math textbook team to examine different materials that the school has ordered and select the textbook that’s best for Greystone Elementary.

The team will ask parents and students for their input, Black said.

School administrators hope to have the process completed and the textbooks in the school by the end of December.

“We’re trying to find out what the root cause of the falling math scores is,” Black told parents. “It’s all about everybody’s input.”

PTA President Niki Hovanec said parents want to reinforce what teachers are showing their children.

“When there’s a question at home, we can go back and help our kids develop,” she said. I think the main thing is that we have this communication between parents and teachers.”