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an engineer or computer scientist, I have to problem solve and have that full package.” Jackie Coomes, a math professor at Eastern Washington University, agrees. She points out that the goal of Common Core was to make students more college ready. She says it’s important that students can think through a problem by themselves or with a team; that they become “interdependent and independent learners.” “That’s more important than what they have memorized,” Coomes says. Coomes says she wants her students to be fluent with the facts. They should know basic formulas and equations. But they should also have strategies to figure out the answer if they don’t know right away. Coomes recently led a three-year project training teachers and aspiring teachers on Common Core. The goal, she says, was to improve the teaching of math so it’s “more coherent.” It’s gotten results: The students who were taught by those Spokane-area teachers achieved higher marks than other students in the state. Finding a middle ground in the math wars is critical, she says. Teachers shouldn’t always refuse to tell students the answer to a problem, she says. They need to use their best judgment on when that’s appropriate. “That’s why teachers need really good instructional strategies,” she says. “Most students really like math more when it makes sense.” Still, some students are bound to struggle more than others. Spokane schools have been training teachers to recognize that in their students. Since 2012, the district conducted a program to train teachers to become “Math Recovery Intervention Specialists” and learn how to intervene when a student is struggling in math. Years later, however, the schools that implemented the program did not show gains in math scores compared to other schools. It’s an example of the difficulty in teaching math. The Math Recovery program was research-based, Gessele says. Teachers who have been trained in Math Recovery have loved it. But it LETTERS hasn’t been proven to work for Send comments to kids in Spokane. “I don’t think we can say any one thing is making or breaking the system,” Gessele says. Coomes says there’s a common “implementation dip” when new curriculum arrives in schools. It takes a few years for students to see results. Teachers need time to learn it, too. For teachers O’Regan and Nessen, however, the proof the curriculum works can be found in the classroom, where all of the students are actively engaging with the lesson. Every kid feels like they can do math, and they work together to solve a problem, to ask the right question. “If they don’t know how to question or clarify,” O’Regan says, “then kids won’t move forward.” n

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