By ZACK SHIVELY
Teachers at Poland Union Elementary School notice a significant raise in awareness because of the Bridges math program.
The program expanded the time dedicated to math to an hour each day, including a 20 minute lesson at the start of each day and another 40 minute math period during the day.
“If we had continued to do what we have done in the past, we still would have been successful because of the quality of our community,“ said principal Michael Masucci. He continued to praise the children and teachers that come to Poland schools.
He said that the school switched to Bridges because of the condensing of Poland schools to Union and Dobbins Elementary schools. The teachers came to Union Elementary with different styles of teaching and they and Masucci believed it would be beneficial to have all the teachers working together and doing similar things within the classroom.
Starting this school year, the teachers all have a standards based instruction from the Bridges program. The teachers all teach math at the same time and try to stay on the same lesson. Second-grade teacher Suzanne James said that if one class falls behind, they will go slower to help the class catch up. Masucci said that the teachers can still let their style of teaching and personality shine through with the program, despite the detailed plans Bridges supplies.
The teachers all meet with each other to discuss their lessons and the program. They have also met with teachers from Canfield, Austintown and Struthers who also use Bridges. The teachers also visited Struthers schools during the school year to view the program after they had began implementing it in their classrooms.
The school also works with math consultant Mike Klacik, an elementary supervisor with the Mahoning County Educational Service Center. The teachers have sat done with him and planned out future instruction and have had professional conversations.
Masucci said the Bridges math differs from their traditional instruction in that the program uses learning groups and a lot of hands-on activities with manipulatives, physical objects used in instruction such as blocks or dice, The children make use of the manipulatives for instruction and to show their understanding of the material beyond pencil and paper.
The children also break into learning groups where they learn on their own. James said her students work together to problem solve on a high level of thinking. The students learn from each other as opposed to a teacher instructing them for an hour.
“[The students] are definitely more excited about math now,“ James said. The group workplaces have fun activities for the students, sometimes including games that the students enjoy playing.
The combination of the number corner and the instruction has added to a deeper, more in-depth understanding of mathematics while also delivering more information than the students previously received. James said the topics often “spiral” because they might have something come up during the number corner that will be more emphasized in a later lesson or vice versa.
The new style of instruction has led to the school assessing progress differently as well. As opposed to giving a letter grade to a student, they give a detailed report of where students succeed and struggle. This allows parents, students and teachers to know where a child needs to improve.
With change often comes apprehension. Masucci has commended his teachers for working closely with parents to ease those worries. He said he is proud of the dialogue that has opened between the families, teachers, students and staff. He also had an open house where he explained the Bridges program to parents in each grade level.
James said that she also had some worries coming into the program. She initially had nervousness with letting second-grade students work so much in groups and independently. However, she said the level thinking is evident. The students have a higher understanding of math concepts and can explain them well. She said the program is great because it has instruction for all learners.
Masucci plans to get the families of the students involved in Bridges as well with math nights in the future. These math nights will show the families of the students how the Bridges instruction works and what the students do in class.