Arizona’s adoption of new, more rigorous math standards in 2012 provided a unique opportunity to change the way math is taught for all students, especially those in high-needs schools. Building upon MAC-Ro’s foundations and recognizing that teachers are the key, Math 20/20 sought to go both deeper and wider.
It recognized that elementary school teachers are not immune to the ailment that afflicts our society generally – they too, suffer from math anxiety and sometimes lack confidence in their own math ability – beliefs that prevent effective teaching. Math 20/20 also recognized that the way young children learn math, how mathematical content develops and how it can best be taught are not concepts typically emphasized in teacher preparation programs.
So, Math 20/20 went deep, providing 50 hours of grade-specific teacher training over the course of the school year. It went wide by asking superintendents to establish Math 20/20 as a district-wide initiative. The commitment was not just to improve an individual classroom or even a school, but to improve the entire district. Success required a system-wide focus with strong leadership at the top building an engaged coalition of teachers, instructional coaches, principals and families, all of whom were committed not only to improving math scores but also to changing the culture around math in the school and in the community.
One of the biggest challenges teachers reported from the implementation of Arizona’s College and Career Ready Standards was the difficulty parents had when trying to help their children with math homework. So, in addition to helping teachers become more effective at teaching math, Rodel also took on the challenge of helping parents and families understand the new standards.
The result was Math Power a book produced in English and Spanish that covered math concepts introduced in first grade all the way through sixth grade. It helped family members understand different terminology and appreciate that the new standards didn’t change the way math works but they did encourage students to think of multiple ways to solve problems. This could be frustrating for those used to thinking that math had only one right answer and only one way to get it! Math Power was used in conjunction with the Math 20/20 program and made available to the general public to purchase as a book or digitally as an app.