Mathematics at MOC-Floyd Valley

by Superintendent, Russ Adams

“Oh, I tell him he comes by it naturally – I was never any good at math either.”  This is a phrase I have heard from parents numerous times in my 28 years as a school administrator.  Math is an essential subject for our students, and the thinking and reasoning that are developed through math grow in importance as we navigate our complex, data-saturated, ever-changing world.  Understanding that we aren’t naturally “good” or “bad” at math is important.  As persistent learners, we can become good at things in which we persist – math included.  That is precisely why we continue our journey to provide our students with the best mathematical learning opportunities possible.

Math instructional coach, Dave Pfaffle is leading the district in researching, and eventually adopting an aligned K-12 mathematics curriculum that adheres to the standards for mathematical practice as outlined by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics.  The standards are:

  1. Make sense of problems and persevere in solving them.
  2. Reason abstractly and quantitatively.
  3. Construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others.
  4. Model with mathematics.
  5. Use appropriate tools strategically.
  6. Attend to precision.
  7. Look for and make use of structure.
  8. Look for and express regularity in repeated reasoning. 

In the book, 1Principles to Actions:  Ensuring Mathematical Success for All, the authors articulate the following classroom-based indicators of success for our students:

  • Students are engaged in the tasks and do not give up.  The teacher supports students when they are stuck but does so in a way that keeps the thinking and reasoning at a high level. (Productive Struggle)
  • Students explain how they solved a task and provide mathematical justifications for their reasoning.
  • Students question and critique the reasoning of their peers and reflect on their own understanding.
  • Students can use tools to solve tasks that they cannot solve without them.
  • Students explain their thinking about a task to their peers and the teacher.  The teacher asks probing questions based on students’ thinking. 

We are very fortunate to have knowledgeable, dedicated math teachers at all levels, and our students’ math scores are typically very good.  Beyond good scores, we want to ensure that we are producing students who are great math thinkers and problem-solvers who can apply their knowledge to relevant situations throughout their lives.  

As we proceed with our task of aligning our K-12 curriculum around the research-based teaching and learning, we are seeking to . . .

  1. Provide our teachers with the best instructional materials and training possible for teaching mathematical thinking and problem solving.
  2. Place a high priority on materials and curriculum that emphasize conceptual understanding that is transferrable.
  3. Place a high priority on materials that make our curriculum focus sustainable and effective, even as staff members exit and enter the MOC-Floyd Valley system.

These efforts by Mr. Pfaffle, Mr. Bundt, our principals, and our K-12 Math teachers are timely, and important.  I am very thankful for their willingness to embrace the productive struggle to find, adopt and implement an aligned K-12 math curriculum that creates great math thinkers and problem-solvers, and I appreciate their commitment to fulfilling our mission of fostering learning, excellence, and civic responsibility!

The national Council of Teachers of Mathematics.  (2015).  Principles to actions:  Ensuring mathematical success for all