Implementing a new math curriculum in five schools is no small task. For those of you who have the responsibility of rolling out a new program, I know the job can seem daunting. Three years into our implementation of Eureka Math, however, I’ve seen the power of embracing a new program and creating an ongoing professional learning structure that allows the curriculum to guide each step of the process.
Two years ago, my district, Stonington Public Schools in Connecticut, implemented Eureka Math. After several teachers, myself included, piloted a module in grades six and seven, we realized that Eureka had the components that our current program was lacking: alignment to the Shifts in the Common Core as well as to the standards themselves.
Step One: Learn More
Once the decision to adopt Eureka was finalized, my role was to plan the rollout of Eureka where I would lead the professional learning sessions as well as support teachers throughout the implementation process. I, along with several teachers, attended a two-day Eureka training in New Hampshire. The focus of the training was “Launching Eureka Math” and “Understanding the Major Work of a Grade Band.” With this new information, we designed several professional learning meetings in the summer for teachers to become familiar with the materials. In these sessions, teachers focused on teaching components of a Eureka lesson as well as customizing a lesson to meet the needs of the students in their classrooms. In addition, teachers “did the math” in each lesson to identify foundational standards necessary for success as well as possible student misconceptions.
Step Two: Train Your Leaders
As the year progressed, I continued to attend as many professional development opportunities offered by Eureka as possible. My district administration was supportive and also allowed our math teacher leaders as well as classroom teachers to attend. This was imperative to the success of implementing the program in classrooms, and allowed certain teachers to become curriculum experts and support their colleagues. While I was meeting on a regular basis with all teachers during planning times during the day, two of the math teacher leaders became our “resident elementary experts” with a focus on the fluency component of the program. I believe the key to having teachers “buy-in” to using the program was the fact the teacher leaders and I were also teaching the program in our classrooms.
As I received more training from Eureka, I was better able to bring back the new knowledge to my teachers and design the professional learning meetings around the specific components of Eureka such as the components of fluency in Eureka and the role of Exit Tickets in planning and preparing for the next day’s lesson. In addition, I was able to assist teachers in modeling lessons and differentiating instruction.
Step 3: Gather Teacher Feedback and Create Personalized Implementation Plans
In order to properly plan professional learning sessions for teachers during year two of implementation, I created a survey for teachers to gather information about their specific needs. I do not adhere to the “one size fits all” approach when it comes to professional learning opportunities for teachers. While there were some instances where we all came together to discuss assessments and scoring, etc., I created the agenda for individual team meetings based on the survey data and conversations I had with teachers via e-mail.
Step 4: Look for Support Across District Lines
The implementation process is a task that entails a great deal of collaboration and communication amongst teachers, administrators, and coaches. As the K-8 math coordinator in my district, I realized that we were in need of a professional learning community that extended beyond our own district. Having the opportunity for teachers to collaborate across school districts would not only “lighten the load” for all involved, but also give teachers the opportunity to share ideas and strategies. With the assistance of our regional education service center, I reached out to other area districts using Eureka or thinking of using Eureka. Over the course of the second year, we built a learning community consisting of six districts and over forty members. We meet on a monthly basis and collaborate to create interventions, share resources, and support one another as we navigate the components of the program.
Step 5: Continue the Learning Opportunities
We continue to offer other voluntary math learning opportunities to enrich the program for our teachers in the form of professional learning communities. Several of our most effective PLC topics focused on the work of Jo Boaler’s Mathematical Mindsets, Cathy Humphreys’ and Ruth Parker’s Number Talks and Susan O’Connell’s and John SanGiovanni’s Putting the Practices into Action. In addition to face-to-face meetings, we use Google Classroom as a platform to have virtual PLCs, share information, support one another, and offer tips and suggestions to improve our instruction.
As we approached year three, we conducted a similar survey as we did to prepare for year two. Based on survey data, our teachers are working on honing their focus of the lesson to address the standard and connect the entire lesson back to a learning target. In addition, we are using a workshop approach in our K-4 classrooms to differentiate instruction, and provide opportunities for targeted small group instruction and partner work as we begin to use task-based learning in partnership with Eureka.
Many believe that Eureka is a scripted math program. In Stonington, we prefer to think of Eureka as our foundation or launching pad for aligned, coherent, and rigorous math teaching. Teachers have expressed that through the use of the Eureka math program and our professional learning opportunities, they have a stronger mathematical content background, better understand the math in a conceptual manner, and have more confidence as a math teacher. Effective teacher learning has led to success with our students in the classroom.