Cornelia Elementary re-imagines math instruction

Fifth grade teacher Jon Zetah reviews mixed fractions with his students on Feb. 13 at Cornelia Elementary. The school has created smaller math classes to allow for more intense instruction. (Sun staff photo by Lisa Kaczke)

Fifth grade teacher Jon Zetah reviews mixed fractions with his students on Feb. 13 at Cornelia Elementary. The school has created smaller math classes to allow for more intense instruction. (Sun staff photo by Lisa Kaczke)

Fifth graders were playing the game “Fraction Capture” in a group of five students and two teachers. Down the hall, nine fifth graders were sitting on the floor around their teacher reviewing mixed fractions. And in a conference room, six second graders were subtracting from double-digit numbers with their teacher.

All the activities are the result of Cornelia Elementary staff overhauling its math instruction with the thought that smaller is better.

Math scores on the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment have been below reading scores throughout the district, although Edina’s scores are above the state average. The district is trying to refocus on math to increase the math test proficiency rates in the district, Cornelia Principal Chris Holden said.

The Edina School Board allocated one-time funding to all schools in October as a part of its Close The Gap Now initiative. The additional funding was specifically earmarked for math instruction in recognition that the district needs an increased focus on math.

At Cornelia, that funding went toward more staff, which in turn allowed classes to be broken into small groups of students for math instruction.

Staff, with the help of district specialists, took a comprehensive look at Cornelia’s math instruction during the fall in an effort to be proactive, Holden said.

They considered the state math standards to ensure they were being covered in the curriculum and are also trying to be proactive by ensuring that material on annual assessment tests is being taught in the classroom, he said.

The objective was to consider where the needs of the students are compared to the school’s math instruction, he said. They found students with additional needs needed more math support.

Creating the smaller group sizes increases the intensity of math instruction for students, he said.

In addition to the additional staff, math instruction was increased to 75 minutes for grades three through five with the idea that more practice will increase a student’s math proficiency, he said.

They also have additional time before and during school for students who need more help with math, he said. Students who are at their grade level are kept moving along in the curriculum, and students who are ahead of their grade level are further challenged.

They’ve also been monitoring the progress since the fall of students who were below their grade level in math. They’ve seen a significant decrease in the number of students who are behind their grade level, he said. Those who still are below grade level are making positive growth so they will be at their grade level by the end of the school year.

In the past year, Cornelia’s math proficiency rates on the state standardized test dropped from 73.1 percent in 2011 to 69.6 percent of students being proficient in 2012. Although Cornelia’s proficiency rate is lower than other Edina schools, it’s above the state average of 62.1 percent in 2012.

However,

only 2011 and 2012 results from the state test can be compared and Holden said he was leery of only one year of trend data from the state test. He said they believe there were some anomalies in the 2012 math scores.

Rather than focusing on only the grades that take the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment test to increase test scores, Cornelia staff are making it a comprehensive, all-school focus.

Since the changes in math at Cornelia, Holden said he’s been hearing its a positive experience for students and teachers. Students are feeling more confident about math and feel they’re better able to meet the challenges, he said.

 

Contact Lisa Kaczke at lisa.kaczke@ecm-inc.com

up arrow