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District implements math strategies for elementary students

Elementary school students at Albert Lea Area Schools are learning math in a positive atmosphere.

Albert Lea math specialist Chris Quisley said the district implemented Number Talks at the elementary level since her arrival at the district three years ago as a way for students to show and explain their strategies solving math problems.

Quisley said she wants routines to be established during math courses at the elementary level, during which Number Talks and guidance established by Stanford University math professor Jo Boaler, as well as practice standards established by state and national mathematics councils, are embedded to establish a positive environment for learning.

She said the district has expectations about how elementary students will learn together throughout the year, including the following:

• Everyone is a mathematician and able to be a part of the learning.

• Mistakes are acceptable and are the first steps to understanding.

• Questions are important.

• Math is about creativity and making sense, making connections and communicating.

Students are also encouraged to represent math in different forms, such as through words, pictures, graphs and equations, and they are given more personal direction in correcting their mistakes.

Students are advised to think slowly and deeply to solve a problem, and are taught that math class is about learning, not performing.

The elementary math team — responsible for implementing the positive math learning environment in the district — consists of Quisley, classroom teachers, interventionist and instructional coaches.

“This team collaborates to make sure all students are understanding the Minnesota math standards and focusing on all students being able to engage in mathematics with success,” Quisley said, and added that National Council of Teachers of Mathematics standards play a role in student learning.

“The NCTM practices are an additional resource that is tied to our textbook as well as other resources that we are using to implement the Minnesota math standards,” Quisley said. “These practices help to support math as an active learning process, in which each student builds upon his or her own knowledge with feedback from peers, teachers, other adults, as well as themselves.”

She said the district wants to create a welcoming learning environment to help elementary school students learn math.

“The district is striving to create a climate of safety, warmth and caring so that community, critical thinking, collaboration and creativity can flourish within our math learning structure,” she said.

As a math specialist, Quisley assists teachers with implementation, answering math questions and assisting instructional coaches and students.

She said districts across the state are trending toward incorporating a more positive math learning environment, noting she wants to expand that philosophy into other grade levels.

“We’re on the right path,” she said.

About Sam Wilmes

Sam Wilmes covers crime, courts and government for the Albert Lea Tribune.

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