This Is Not Your Parents’ Math

It was fifteen years ago that a group of sixteen individuals were in heavy study and debate over a topic which had more than a century old question.

How can we best mathematically prepare our students for the future?

After eighteen months of meeting, discussing, consulting, comparing notes, preparing drafts and editing each other’s work the committee released a 454 page report regarding math education in kindergarten through eighth grade. The report was released in January of 2001 and titled Adding + It Up: Helping Children Learn Mathematics. In it’s Executive Summary it stated,

“The mathematics students need to learn today is not the same mathematics that their parents and grandparents needed to learn. When today’s students become adults, they will face new demands for mathematical proficiency that school mathematics should attempt to anticipate. Moreover, mathematics is a realm no longer restricted to a select few. All young Americans must learn to think mathematically, and they must think mathematically to learn.”qlemath1Ask anyone who is familiar with the work being done at Quitman School District to describe to you what is happening within the halls and classrooms, and they will most likely list for you many ways that the school has become known for early learning and reading. Quitman Lower Elementary Principal Amanda Allen wants to make sure everyone understands that huge leaps in mathematics are taking place, as well. She explains,

Primary math is so important. It’s the real understanding. If our children don’t have that foundation they are not going to be able to do the advanced math later. Solving problems is no longer the goal. It’s how you got there, the explanation and justification. When we were taught math we learned it by pounding facts and memorizing procedures like carry and borrow, but now our children are learning why we would do those things.”


Quitman Lower Elementary students are learning how numbers are related through number bonds and games, such as Sparkle. First grade teacher, Mrs. Brown, explains,

“This year has been a huge change in math, but it’s a good one. It’s really making sure our children understand that a number is not just a number. It is a quantity. We are showing them how numbers relate, and my classes are really enjoying it. Their grades are already better this year. When we play Sparkle I get them to talk the ‘math way’. Rather than saying twenty-two when they see the number 22, they say, ‘Ten plus ten plus two.’ Not only are they learning how to understand the number they see, they love playing the game.”
QLE students are being taught multiple ways to find a solution in the hopes they will find one which works best for them. One may assume that teachers would be frustrated with an increased workload in a curriculum where the focus is more on how a child learns than if he or she got the correct answer in the first grade, but Brown smiles and says,

“I’m here for them, not for me. Some of them need it in a different way. Now that we’re starting them so young they are going to understand mathematics better later.”

qlemath3Latasha Shaw is an Algebra I and Foundations of Algebra teacher at Quitman High School. She is in her tenth year of teaching and has a daughter enrolled in the first grade at Quitman Lower Elementary. When asked what she thinks about the math she is discovering, Shaw smiles when she says,

“When I look at my girl’s homework I think about how far she is going to be able to go. I am in awe, and I tell her, ‘You’re going to go so much further than me.’ My child is doing something that was not offered to me.”

For those parents without a background in teaching or a specialization in mathematics, the change can be at least disconcerting. Those wanting to better understand how and why their children are learning math differently than they did can attend a Parent Academy at Quitman Lower Elementary on October 20th at 6:00 p.m.

What Principal Allen wants every parent to know, whether they attend the Parent Academy or not, is that they should not have to help their child with any work that is going home at night,  “Homework is a review of concepts which have been covered in class. If our children are not able to independently do their work at home we need to be notified because we can help that child in the classroom.”

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