Maija McManus

Boston Herald: New solutions eyed for eighth-graders’ math problems

Maija McManus
Boston Herald: New solutions eyed for eighth-graders’ math problems

With two-thirds of Boston Public School eighth-graders not proficient in math, a team of Boston schoolteachers are working to create new lessons and partnerships with the city’s corporate community to get students to see how their math problems in school apply to real world business.

The effort, led by EdVestors, a Boston nonprofit focused on improving city schools, is part of the “Zeroing in on Math” initiative with BPS focused on getting kids up to speed and training teachers — many of whom are experts in literacy and not math — to teach the subject better.

“Currently, only one-third of eighth-graders are proficient in math by the end of the year,” EdVestors President and CEO Laura Perille told the Herald. “Nobody seems to be aware of how much of a challenge it is.”

Math proficiency can have a domino effect, Perille said. If a student falls behind in middle school, they may not be able to take pre-calculus or algebra in high school, both of which are important for college success.

“We have shut the door to lots of children ... by eighth grade,” Perille said, especially minority students.

EdVestors targeted math three years ago, working with 160 teachers in some 16 schools — including the Gardner, McKay, Mildred Avenue and Dearborn STEM, which use a blended learning model so kids with different skill levels can work on problems at their own pace.

Since then, 16 teachers a year have become fellows to zero in on problems and share solutions with the rest of the school community.

At the Curtis Guild Elementary School in East Boston, Principal Karen McCarthy says the partnership has transformed her school and made kids excited about math.

Rather than rote memorization and plugging in formulas, math has become more focused on critical thinking, logic and problem-solving.

“Kids are loving math,” McCarthy told the Herald.

“They are changing that tide. Math is about thinking.”

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