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Math intervention aims to reach every student

Morning Math focuses intensively on building strong foundation

First graders considered: six turtles joined others in the sand. Ten are now in the sand. How many were there at first? 

Brendan Richmond realized he could take six turtles away from the group to find out how many were originally there. He did so using counters. “I like that,” said teacher Jamie Johnson who led the group with help from a paraprofessional. “Can I show the other students how you did this?”

First grader Grace Bultema works on a story problem

She walked through the math strategy with three other students in the small group intervention session for students to revisit kindergarten standards. “You can reverse an addition problem to turn it into a subtraction problem,” she said.

Students busied themselves on the floor with markers, white boards and counters. They were relearning concepts so they can then move forward, filling in gaps from the math they didn’t quite master in kindergarten. 

The new Morning Math at Brown Elementary aims to focus on helping students build and maintain a strong foundation of math skills so they get to grade level and stretch beyond. The program involves five paraprofessionals, an academic support interventionist and teachers — all  working together to make sure every child is learning the math they need to.

 “They have extra time to go back and do things we’ve already gone past that they missed. It’s been very helpful,” said Johnson. “It’s been great for them to have that small group time.”

Brendan Richmond uses subtraction to figure out a math problem

A Focus on All Students

Here’s the big picture: Last school year, 90 percent of fourth-graders at Brown Elementary were advanced or proficient on the M-STEP. Of those, 69.1 percent were advanced. Despite achieving that level of success,  Principal Jack Gitler and staff still recognized a need.

“We had no good system for third graders who didn’t learn what they should in second grade,” Gitler said, using that grade level as an example. “We could say, ‘Well we are here; there’s nothing wrong with what we are doing.’ But maybe we can connect with a student on a personal level so they feel better about school. You just don’t want any student to be left behind. There’s that opportunity to give that extra support and meet with a small group, so why not give them that chance?”

Teachers meet weekly to determine which students need the support based on data from their classroom curriculum and MAP testing, so different students may be in groups weekly, depending on what standards they have met.

Kindergartners work on foundational math like counting, number recognition and shapes.

In the first grade group, Violet Cook said she likes learning to add things up. “I like plusses because you get to solve them.”

Older students often focus on deeper-level math, story problems involving fractions and geometry. “It’s having students really think through and revisit some of those areas and find success,” Gitler said.

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Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese is associate managing editor and reporter, covering Byron Center, Kentwood, Wyoming and Grand Rapids Community College. She was one of the original SNN staff writers, helping launch the site in 2013 and enjoys fulfilling the mission of sharing the stories of public education. She has worked as a journalist in the Grand Rapids area since 2000. A graduate of Central Michigan University, she has written for The Grand Rapids Press, Advance Newspapers, On-the-Town Magazine and Group Tour Media. Read Erin's full bio or email Erin.

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