There’s much more to math classes at Mansfield Middle School this year than simply finding correct answers. Students are understanding how they found the answers.
“We’re pushing them to think: Why is that correct? Why did that work?” said Angela Wolboldt, math teacher leader at the middle school.
Wolboldt completed required training in conjunction with Ohio State University-Mansfield to help lead the district’s Math Literacy Collaborative instruction. The district has implemented math literacy concepts in kindergarten through eighth grade, working closely with Terri Bucci, an OSU-M mathematician and associate professor of education, and Lee McEwan, professor of mathematics. “Math literacy is about thinking, about developing a deeper understanding of mathematics,” she said. “Kids talk about math, share their thoughts and work individually, in pairs or in groups. They take greater ownership of their work because they develop the process that solves problems.”
Problem solving is the focus of math literacy instruction and students are required to justify their solutions, strategies and answers. Teachers are facilitators who use questions rather than lectures to move students toward a deeper understanding.
Stephen Rizzo, district director of curriculum, said the math literacy concept will be used in conjunction with new middle school math textbooks approved by the board of education last month. “This is an important element in our focus on student achievement,” he said. “Teachers will utilize effective math questions and techniques to create a classroom culture that fosters achievement.”
Wolboldt and her fellow math teachers lead the instruction but stimulate students “to see themselves as mathematicians.” As math teacher leader, Wolboldt teaches two math classes each day, then spends two periods working with seventh-grade teachers and two periods working with eighth-grade teachers on techniques to implement math literacy strategies.
Wolboldt said the math literacy approach creates an environment where students feel safe to take risks and learn from mistakes. “It prepares students with the skills and understanding to build upon for their next level of learning,” she said. “We’re seeing results. Kids are gaining a better understanding of math. It’s exciting.”