Mt Pleasant News

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Neighbors Growing Together | Jul 23, 2018

Mt. Pleasant Middle School adopts new math curriculum, aligns with common core

Sep 11, 2017
Photo by: Grace King Sixth graders in Sydni Foecke’s class at Mt. Pleasant Middle School begin class every day by turning on their school-provided laptops and going to the assignment written on the board. The middle school switched to the online Open Up Resources curriculum this year.

By Grace King, Mt. Pleasant News


The students of Mt. Pleasant Middle School are coming into the classroom “talking math,” sixth grade math teacher Sydni Foecke said.

With the adoption of a new curriculum, Open Up Resources, teachers of sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders say they are already seeing an improvement in student math comprehension just three weeks into the school year. Although it was first introduced as a trial run in the Mt. Pleasant School District, Foecke said the curriculum is “exactly what we want.”

Open Up Resources is stepping in to over 20 school districts across Iowa this year after it was tested by 175 teachers in 13 states last year, Mathematics Consultant at the Iowa Department of Education April Pforts said. It was created by the writers of Common Core, state standards for students, parents, teachers and other educators for what students are expected to learn at every grade level.

This means that there is no more worrying over whether or not what students are learning in math class aligns with Core or if it’s up to the “rigor” of Core, Foecke said.

Concerns over whether the middle school math program aligned with Core was already on the forefront of teachers concerns last year as they began looking into their own ways to meet Core expectations. That was when Pforts, who is also a former Mt. Pleasant School District teacher, brought the Open Up Resources curriculum to the attention of the school district.

Open Up Resources is free to the school district, having raising $10 million in investments from supporting philanthropic organizations, Pforts said.

Foecke is especially a fan of the all-online aspect of Open Up Resources. This is the third year the middle school has provided each student with a computer, and she felt like she as a math teacher never was able to give students the opportunity to use the computers to their fullest potential.

In a way it’s way more hands on, Foecke said. “They’re able to cut and paste on the computer. They’re able to use different programs where students can plot points and make different shapes and angles. Now it’s very precise,” she said.

Switching curricula hasn’t put seventh- and eighth-grade students behind either. The same concepts are still being taught, there is just a deeper exploration and understanding of those math concepts. Foecke said the only learning curve for seventh- and eighth-graders was learning math on a computer instead of in a textbook.

As for the sixth-graders in Foecke’s class, they walk into her classroom, open up their computer to the lesson plan she has written on the board, and are ready to begin class before she can even walk into the classroom.

For students who don’t have wifi at home, teachers do keep printed copies of the lessons; however, they’re still saving trees, only printing off a few copies a day instead of copies for 100-some students.

Overall, teachers see their students more engaged in the lessons they’re teaching. Students are able to better investigate, explore and work with each other to solve a problem instead of a teacher standing at the board explaining the concepts. After students work on the lesson with each other for a while, Foecke then brings her class together to share strategies and discuss the problems they came across.

“Our classroom has turned more student-centered than teacher-directed,” Foecke said. “We’re so happy this curriculum lends itself so well to that.”

The online program also has parent resources that make it a little less intimidating for parents to lend math help to their child. The family materials section gives an overview of the homework and what is being taught in the classroom.

“It has a deeper amount of support for students with … varying disabilities,” Director of Instruction for Mt. Pleasant Community Schools Katie Gavin said. “Those are just some great advantages this program provides.”

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