I love teaching elementary school math. I started my career in Miami where I taught for eleven years, five of which included teaching math to the entire fifth grade. I used a variety of basal math programs designated by the school districts where I taught, and I worked with students at a wide range of instructional levels.
When I moved to New York City and joined Manhattan Charter School as a fourth grade teacher in 2012, they were in the process of looking for a Common Core-aligned math program. In the fall of 2013, Johns Hopkins University chose our school to assist the New York City Department of Education in investigating the potential impact of JUMP Math, a new Common Core-aligned program from Canada. Our fourth graders were chosen to participate in the study and I was thrilled to have access to a complete program based on the latest research in cognitive science and teaching strategies.
At the end of the first year of implementation, our fourth graders had the highest increase in state math test scores in the entire city. What I saw in those scores wasn’t even the full picture. Something special was happening in my classroom. Each day, my students could not wait to begin math. Even my lowest-achieving students were jumping out of their seats to answer questions. I will never forget one student in particular who cried at the beginning of the school year because math was so difficult for her. She quickly got on board with JUMP Math and received a four (the highest rating) on the New York State Test that same year. Thinking of her achievement still brings tears to my eyes.
One of the things I love most about JUMP Math is how it promotes a growth mindset that enables children to enjoy the process of learning. For my students, the fact that each lesson is broken down into simple steps and scaffolded to match their developmental abilities helped them be successful with the content. The step-by-step “guided discovery” approach kept my students engaged, provided many opportunities for review before moving forward, and instilled a sense of confidence through small successes that build on each other.
I’ve found that JUMP Math takes the pressure off of teachers who are not comfortable with math because the lesson plans are so detailed, and comprehensively address the requirements of the Common Core standards (curriculum correlations let teachers quickly find where each standard is covered). Some of the components that I’ve found particularly helpful are:
- Corresponding SMART Board slides that serve as visual aids for students and helpful prompts for teachers
- Numerous blackline masters to assist with or reinforce lessons
- Tests/quizzes with answer keys
- Two student Assessment & Practice books
The JUMP Math website includes all these components plus professional development opportunities, including webinars to assist with implementation.
As with any curricular program, I have had to modify and adapt a little bit to meet the unique needs of my students and setting. I haven’t had to alter the content but have, in some cases, rearranged the order in which it is taught to allow for more time and attention on skills weighed more heavily on my state’s assessments. (I was careful not to leave out lessons that were required for subsequent ones.) I’ve also incorporated daily fluency practice at the start of each lesson to increase my students’ knowledge of their basic facts. I supplement the lessons with teacher-created games that incorporate a variety of skills taught throughout the year to keep knowledge fresh in my students’ minds. For more advanced learners, bonus and extension questions are included in each lesson, but I often create others by simply adding more digits to a multiplication problem or increasing the denominator of a fraction. Finally, JUMP Math’s blackline masters can be used as manipulatives but if you are looking for something more tangible, you will need to purchase them separately.
I’ve benefited from having access to a team of mathematicians who are constantly working to refine the JUMP Math curriculum based on teacher feedback. The founder, John Mighton, has personally responded to me by creating additional problem-solving questions aligned to each standard, and specific test reviews that could be used to assess mastery.
JUMP Math plays a huge role in my successful teaching of mathematics. I feel confident that the students in my class leave prepared for fifth grade work, and have developed a sense of intellectual curiosity and confidence that will serve them well in college and beyond. JUMP Math intentionally avoids the use of pictures and color yet I have never seen a program that generates more student engagement. It is all about the joy of learning.