TWIN FALLS — Your child’s math homework may look different this school year.
Across the Twin Falls School District, kindergarten through eighth-grade teachers are trying out new math textbooks with their classes.
The materials align with the more rigorous Common Core Standards, which Idaho adopted in 2011.
One of the biggest changes: more emphasis on using different strategies to solve problems. Students aren’t just learning algorithms. They must explain how they arrived at their answer and make real-world connections.
“It really requires a much deeper understanding of the math,” secondary programs director L.T. Erickson said.
A school district math review committee looked at options for new materials and decided on programs to pilot at elementary and middle schools.
School officials will decide in late May or early June which programs to fully implement across the school district during the 2017-18 school year.
Erickson said his daughter — an eighth-grader at Robert Stuart Middle School — complains about writing sentences explaining how she arrives at her answers to math problems.
But it leads to a deeper level of understanding for students, he said.
If students have a good understanding of the concepts behind the math, Erickson said, they’ll have a solid foundation for the future.
Middle schools are trying out two new programs: Connected Mathematics and Ready Mathematics. All 13 middle school math teachers are trying out one of the programs.
Math teacher Peggy Hoy told school trustees Monday night she didn’t get new math textbooks until this Friday.
She’s using the Connected Mathematics program with her sixth-grade classes at Vera C. O’Leary Middle School.
Hoy, who’s co-president of the teachers union, said it’s a good program and she’s enjoying it.
It’s challenging to try out something new, she said. And it’s the first time she has piloted a new textbook.
But changes in math instruction are needed to help sixth-graders do well with the new standards, Hoy said.
Parents are also noticing changes when they’re helping their children with homework, she said. “I’ve never had so many emails from parents that ‘this new math is hard.’”
Across the school district’s nine elementary schools, 21 teachers are trying out two new programs: Eureka Math and Bridges in Mathematics. At each school, there’s at least one teacher using each program.
“Both programs I think would get us to where we need to be in math,” elementary programs director Teresa Jones said.
The school district asked for teachers to volunteer for the pilot project. There were more volunteers than the available 21 slots.
Teachers are showing enthusiasm about changing math instruction, Jones said, and many have volunteered to participate in training after school.
Instructional coaches at each school also received training over the summer. Now, they’re supporting teachers who are making the transition to the new math materials, Jones said.
She hasn’t heard any feedback from parents about the changes. Parents received information before school started.
Many parents learned math algorithms in school, Erickson said, but not the reasoning behind why they’re used.
The school district is holding off on updating high school math materials — at least for two or three years.
One reason: There aren’t a lot of materials to choose from that mesh with Common Core Standards.
Twin Falls middle schools last adopted new math textbooks about 10 years ago and it has been at least seven years for elementary schools.
Less than 50 percent of the content in old middle school textbooks align with Common Core, Erickson said. As a result, those materials aren’t being used anymore.
The new math materials look a lot different, Jones said, but noted it’s beneficial for students. She encourages parents who have questions to contact their child’s teacher.