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ASD's new math curriculum mixes old, new ideas

Michelle Theriault Boots
Amiah Novotney, left, rushes to greet her friend Izabelle Green as the third graders arrive for the first day of classes at Campbell Elementary School on Wednesday morning, August 21, 2013, in south Anchorage. Anchorage School District classes began Wednesday for most students, with Kindergartners and first graders reporting a week later on August 28.
Erik Hill
Students check class lists as they arrive for the first day of school at Campbell Elementary School on Wednesday morning, August 21, 2013, in south Anchorage.
Erik Hill
Second graders Tipatipa Mulu, left, and Lili Henry greet Principal Michelle Johansen as they arrive for the first day of classes at Campbell Elementary School on Wednesday morning, August 21, 2013, in south Anchorage. Anchorage School District classes began Wednesday for most students, with Kindergartners and first graders reporting a week later on August 28.
Erik Hill
Second grader Myah Reichert prepares to decorate her desktop name tag on the first day of classes at Campbell Elementary School on Wednesday morning, August 21, 2013, in south Anchorage.
Erik Hill
Mom Jerry Green fixes the hair of third-grade daughter Izabelle Green before doors open for the first day of classes at Campbell Elementary School on Wednesday morning, August 21, 2013, in south Anchorage.
Erik Hill
Second-grade teacher Lindsay Pustina prepares to make a good first impression at her new school before students arrive for the first day of classes at Campbell Elementary School on Wednesday morning, August 21, 2013, in south Anchorage.
Erik Hill
Second grader Aidan Ray agrees to pose for a photo for dad Gary Ray, "but not inside!," as he arrives for the first day of classes at Campbell Elementary School on Wednesday morning, August 21, 2013, in south Anchorage.
Erik Hill
Third-grade teacher Bill Shea gets to know his charges on the first day of classes at Campbell Elementary School on Wednesday morning, August 21, 2013, in south Anchorage.
Erik Hill
Teacher Lindsay Pustina calls for quiet as she explains how her second graders will create name tags for their desks on the first day of classes at Campbell Elementary School on Wednesday morning, August 21, 2013, in south Anchorage.
Erik Hill
Families check class lists Wednesday, Aug. 21, 2013, on the first day of class at Campbell Elementary School in Anchorage.
ERIK HILL
Inspirational messages await students following the United Way of Anchorage Chalk the Walk event held midday Tuesday, August 20, 2013, at Lake Hood Elementary School. Volunteers spent an hour creating positive messages for students returning to classrooms Wednesday. United Way planned a similar event across town at Susitna Elementary School, and other schools have joined in as well, said president Michele Brown. United Way of Anchorage sponsors pilot programs at Susitna Elementary and Lake Hood Elementary to provide extra help with homework, mentoring or other services needed by children at those schools.
Erik Hill
From left teachers Kira Page, Melanie Albertson and Michelle Greer place an inspirational message in a hallway prior to Wednesday's first day of school Tuesday, August 20, 2013 at Clark Middle School.
Erik Hill
Chelsie of STAR (Standing Together Against Rape) creates a message at the United Way of Anchorage Chalk the Walk event held midday Tuesday, August 20, 2013, at Lake Hood Elementary School. Volunteers spent an hour creating positive messages for students returning to classrooms Wednesday. United Way planned a similar event across town at Susitna Elementary School, and other schools have joined in as well, said president Michele Brown. United Way of Anchorage sponsors pilot programs at Susitna Elementary and Lake Hood Elementary to provide extra help with homework, mentoring or other services needed by children at those schools.
Erik Hill
Language Arts teacher Marissa Smith prepares for the Wednesday arrival of her eighth-grade students Tuesday morning, August 20, 2013, at Clark Middle School. Anchorage School District classes begin Wednesday for most students, with Kindergartners and first graders reporting a week later on August 28. Smith teaches academic writing to prepare her students for high school and college even though English may be a second language for some. "Look at me! I'm bilingual," she said. "I come from the Philippines. I'm a teacher. You can do it!"
Erik Hill
Sixth grader Tiras Holliness joins in at the United Way of Anchorage Chalk the Walk event held midday Tuesday, August 20, 2013, at Lake Hood Elementary School. Volunteers spent an hour creating positive messages for students returning to classrooms Wednesday. United Way planned a similar event across town at Susitna Elementary School, and other schools have joined in as well, said president Michele Brown. United Way of Anchorage sponsors pilot programs at Susitna Elementary and Lake Hood Elementary to provide extra help with homework, mentoring or other services needed by children at those schools.
Erik Hill
Jermey Becker unpacks a CPR dummy while preparing his pre-med academy classroom for Wednesday's first day of school on Tuesday morning, August 20, 2013, at Clark Middle School.
Erik Hill
Devon of STAR (Standing Together Against Rape) puts her artistic skills to use at the United Way of Anchorage Chalk the Walk event held midday Tuesday, August 20, 2013, at Lake Hood Elementary School. Volunteers spent an hour creating positive messages for students returning to classrooms Wednesday. United Way planned a similar event across town at Susitna Elementary School, and other schools have joined in as well, said president Michele Brown. United Way of Anchorage sponsors pilot programs at Susitna Elementary and Lake Hood Elementary to provide extra help with homework, mentoring or other services needed by children at those schools.
Erik Hill
Principal Cessilye Williams pauses to take a call in the pre-med academy classroom Tuesday, August 20, 2013 at Clark Middle School.
Erik Hill
Danielle Morrow of Girls Scouts of Alaska adds an artistic message at the United Way of Anchorage Chalk the Walk event held midday Tuesday, August 20, 2013, at Lake Hood Elementary School. Volunteers spent an hour creating positive messages for students returning to classrooms Wednesday. United Way planned a similar event across town at Susitna Elementary School, and other schools have joined in as well, said president Michele Brown. United Way of Anchorage sponsors pilot programs at Susitna Elementary and Lake Hood Elementary to provide extra help with homework, mentoring or other services needed by children at those schools.
Erik Hill
Amiah Novotney, left, rushes to greet her friend Izabelle Green as the third graders arrive for the first day of classes at Campbell Elementary School on Wednesday morning, August 21, 2013, in south Anchorage. Anchorage School District classes began Wednesday for most students, with Kindergartners and first graders reporting a week later on August 28.
Erik Hill
Students check class lists as they arrive for the first day of school at Campbell Elementary School on Wednesday morning, August 21, 2013, in south Anchorage.
Erik Hill
Second graders Tipatipa Mulu, left, and Lili Henry greet Principal Michelle Johansen as they arrive for the first day of classes at Campbell Elementary School on Wednesday morning, August 21, 2013, in south Anchorage. Anchorage School District classes began Wednesday for most students, with Kindergartners and first graders reporting a week later on August 28.
Erik Hill
Second grader Myah Reichert prepares to decorate her desktop name tag on the first day of classes at Campbell Elementary School on Wednesday morning, August 21, 2013, in south Anchorage.
Erik Hill
Mom Jerry Green fixes the hair of third-grade daughter Izabelle Green before doors open for the first day of classes at Campbell Elementary School on Wednesday morning, August 21, 2013, in south Anchorage.
Erik Hill
Second-grade teacher Lindsay Pustina prepares to make a good first impression at her new school before students arrive for the first day of classes at Campbell Elementary School on Wednesday morning, August 21, 2013, in south Anchorage.
Erik Hill
Second grader Aidan Ray agrees to pose for a photo for dad Gary Ray, "but not inside!," as he arrives for the first day of classes at Campbell Elementary School on Wednesday morning, August 21, 2013, in south Anchorage.
Erik Hill
Third-grade teacher Bill Shea gets to know his charges on the first day of classes at Campbell Elementary School on Wednesday morning, August 21, 2013, in south Anchorage.
Erik Hill
Teacher Lindsay Pustina calls for quiet as she explains how her second graders will create name tags for their desks on the first day of classes at Campbell Elementary School on Wednesday morning, August 21, 2013, in south Anchorage.
Erik Hill
Families check class lists Wednesday, Aug. 21, 2013, on the first day of class at Campbell Elementary School in Anchorage.
ERIK HILL
Inspirational messages await students following the United Way of Anchorage Chalk the Walk event held midday Tuesday, August 20, 2013, at Lake Hood Elementary School. Volunteers spent an hour creating positive messages for students returning to classrooms Wednesday. United Way planned a similar event across town at Susitna Elementary School, and other schools have joined in as well, said president Michele Brown. United Way of Anchorage sponsors pilot programs at Susitna Elementary and Lake Hood Elementary to provide extra help with homework, mentoring or other services needed by children at those schools.
Erik Hill
From left teachers Kira Page, Melanie Albertson and Michelle Greer place an inspirational message in a hallway prior to Wednesday's first day of school Tuesday, August 20, 2013 at Clark Middle School.
Erik Hill
Chelsie of STAR (Standing Together Against Rape) creates a message at the United Way of Anchorage Chalk the Walk event held midday Tuesday, August 20, 2013, at Lake Hood Elementary School. Volunteers spent an hour creating positive messages for students returning to classrooms Wednesday. United Way planned a similar event across town at Susitna Elementary School, and other schools have joined in as well, said president Michele Brown. United Way of Anchorage sponsors pilot programs at Susitna Elementary and Lake Hood Elementary to provide extra help with homework, mentoring or other services needed by children at those schools.
Erik Hill
Language Arts teacher Marissa Smith prepares for the Wednesday arrival of her eighth-grade students Tuesday morning, August 20, 2013, at Clark Middle School. Anchorage School District classes begin Wednesday for most students, with Kindergartners and first graders reporting a week later on August 28. Smith teaches academic writing to prepare her students for high school and college even though English may be a second language for some. "Look at me! I'm bilingual," she said. "I come from the Philippines. I'm a teacher. You can do it!"
Erik Hill
Sixth grader Tiras Holliness joins in at the United Way of Anchorage Chalk the Walk event held midday Tuesday, August 20, 2013, at Lake Hood Elementary School. Volunteers spent an hour creating positive messages for students returning to classrooms Wednesday. United Way planned a similar event across town at Susitna Elementary School, and other schools have joined in as well, said president Michele Brown. United Way of Anchorage sponsors pilot programs at Susitna Elementary and Lake Hood Elementary to provide extra help with homework, mentoring or other services needed by children at those schools.
Erik Hill
Jermey Becker unpacks a CPR dummy while preparing his pre-med academy classroom for Wednesday's first day of school on Tuesday morning, August 20, 2013, at Clark Middle School.
Erik Hill
Devon of STAR (Standing Together Against Rape) puts her artistic skills to use at the United Way of Anchorage Chalk the Walk event held midday Tuesday, August 20, 2013, at Lake Hood Elementary School. Volunteers spent an hour creating positive messages for students returning to classrooms Wednesday. United Way planned a similar event across town at Susitna Elementary School, and other schools have joined in as well, said president Michele Brown. United Way of Anchorage sponsors pilot programs at Susitna Elementary and Lake Hood Elementary to provide extra help with homework, mentoring or other services needed by children at those schools.
Erik Hill
Principal Cessilye Williams pauses to take a call in the pre-med academy classroom Tuesday, August 20, 2013 at Clark Middle School.
Erik Hill
Danielle Morrow of Girls Scouts of Alaska adds an artistic message at the United Way of Anchorage Chalk the Walk event held midday Tuesday, August 20, 2013, at Lake Hood Elementary School. Volunteers spent an hour creating positive messages for students returning to classrooms Wednesday. United Way planned a similar event across town at Susitna Elementary School, and other schools have joined in as well, said president Michele Brown. United Way of Anchorage sponsors pilot programs at Susitna Elementary and Lake Hood Elementary to provide extra help with homework, mentoring or other services needed by children at those schools.
Erik Hill
Amiah Novotney, left, rushes to greet her friend Izabelle Green as the third graders arrive for the first day of classes at Campbell Elementary School on Wednesday morning, August 21, 2013, in south Anchorage. Anchorage School District classes began Wednesday for most students, with Kindergartners and first graders reporting a week later on August 28.
Erik Hill
Students check class lists as they arrive for the first day of school at Campbell Elementary School on Wednesday morning, August 21, 2013, in south Anchorage.
Erik Hill
Second graders Tipatipa Mulu, left, and Lili Henry greet Principal Michelle Johansen as they arrive for the first day of classes at Campbell Elementary School on Wednesday morning, August 21, 2013, in south Anchorage. Anchorage School District classes began Wednesday for most students, with Kindergartners and first graders reporting a week later on August 28.
Erik Hill
Second grader Myah Reichert prepares to decorate her desktop name tag on the first day of classes at Campbell Elementary School on Wednesday morning, August 21, 2013, in south Anchorage.
Erik Hill
Mom Jerry Green fixes the hair of third-grade daughter Izabelle Green before doors open for the first day of classes at Campbell Elementary School on Wednesday morning, August 21, 2013, in south Anchorage.
Erik Hill
Second-grade teacher Lindsay Pustina prepares to make a good first impression at her new school before students arrive for the first day of classes at Campbell Elementary School on Wednesday morning, August 21, 2013, in south Anchorage.
Erik Hill
Second grader Aidan Ray agrees to pose for a photo for dad Gary Ray, "but not inside!," as he arrives for the first day of classes at Campbell Elementary School on Wednesday morning, August 21, 2013, in south Anchorage.
Erik Hill
Third-grade teacher Bill Shea gets to know his charges on the first day of classes at Campbell Elementary School on Wednesday morning, August 21, 2013, in south Anchorage.
Erik Hill
Teacher Lindsay Pustina calls for quiet as she explains how her second graders will create name tags for their desks on the first day of classes at Campbell Elementary School on Wednesday morning, August 21, 2013, in south Anchorage.
Erik Hill
Families check class lists Wednesday, Aug. 21, 2013, on the first day of class at Campbell Elementary School in Anchorage.
ERIK HILL
Inspirational messages await students following the United Way of Anchorage Chalk the Walk event held midday Tuesday, August 20, 2013, at Lake Hood Elementary School. Volunteers spent an hour creating positive messages for students returning to classrooms Wednesday. United Way planned a similar event across town at Susitna Elementary School, and other schools have joined in as well, said president Michele Brown. United Way of Anchorage sponsors pilot programs at Susitna Elementary and Lake Hood Elementary to provide extra help with homework, mentoring or other services needed by children at those schools.
Erik Hill
From left teachers Kira Page, Melanie Albertson and Michelle Greer place an inspirational message in a hallway prior to Wednesday's first day of school Tuesday, August 20, 2013 at Clark Middle School.
Erik Hill
Chelsie of STAR (Standing Together Against Rape) creates a message at the United Way of Anchorage Chalk the Walk event held midday Tuesday, August 20, 2013, at Lake Hood Elementary School. Volunteers spent an hour creating positive messages for students returning to classrooms Wednesday. United Way planned a similar event across town at Susitna Elementary School, and other schools have joined in as well, said president Michele Brown. United Way of Anchorage sponsors pilot programs at Susitna Elementary and Lake Hood Elementary to provide extra help with homework, mentoring or other services needed by children at those schools.
Erik Hill
Language Arts teacher Marissa Smith prepares for the Wednesday arrival of her eighth-grade students Tuesday morning, August 20, 2013, at Clark Middle School. Anchorage School District classes begin Wednesday for most students, with Kindergartners and first graders reporting a week later on August 28. Smith teaches academic writing to prepare her students for high school and college even though English may be a second language for some. "Look at me! I'm bilingual," she said. "I come from the Philippines. I'm a teacher. You can do it!"
Erik Hill
Sixth grader Tiras Holliness joins in at the United Way of Anchorage Chalk the Walk event held midday Tuesday, August 20, 2013, at Lake Hood Elementary School. Volunteers spent an hour creating positive messages for students returning to classrooms Wednesday. United Way planned a similar event across town at Susitna Elementary School, and other schools have joined in as well, said president Michele Brown. United Way of Anchorage sponsors pilot programs at Susitna Elementary and Lake Hood Elementary to provide extra help with homework, mentoring or other services needed by children at those schools.
Erik Hill
Jermey Becker unpacks a CPR dummy while preparing his pre-med academy classroom for Wednesday's first day of school on Tuesday morning, August 20, 2013, at Clark Middle School.
Erik Hill
Devon of STAR (Standing Together Against Rape) puts her artistic skills to use at the United Way of Anchorage Chalk the Walk event held midday Tuesday, August 20, 2013, at Lake Hood Elementary School. Volunteers spent an hour creating positive messages for students returning to classrooms Wednesday. United Way planned a similar event across town at Susitna Elementary School, and other schools have joined in as well, said president Michele Brown. United Way of Anchorage sponsors pilot programs at Susitna Elementary and Lake Hood Elementary to provide extra help with homework, mentoring or other services needed by children at those schools.
Erik Hill
Principal Cessilye Williams pauses to take a call in the pre-med academy classroom Tuesday, August 20, 2013 at Clark Middle School.
Erik Hill
Danielle Morrow of Girls Scouts of Alaska adds an artistic message at the United Way of Anchorage Chalk the Walk event held midday Tuesday, August 20, 2013, at Lake Hood Elementary School. Volunteers spent an hour creating positive messages for students returning to classrooms Wednesday. United Way planned a similar event across town at Susitna Elementary School, and other schools have joined in as well, said president Michele Brown. United Way of Anchorage sponsors pilot programs at Susitna Elementary and Lake Hood Elementary to provide extra help with homework, mentoring or other services needed by children at those schools.
Erik Hill

Anchorage elementary and middle school students will start the school year with a new, more traditional math curriculum that emphasizes learning addition, subtraction and other basic math skills one at a time.

It's the first major overhaul of the district's math curriculum in a generation.

The new textbooks, "Go Math!" for elementary school students and "Big Ideas" for middle-schoolers, try to strike a Goldilocks-like balance between teaching math through old-school skill drills and new-school conceptual problem solving, said Bobbi Jo Erb, a district math curriculum coordinator.

The textbooks will feel more familiar to parents than the much-maligned Everyday Math, first piloted in 1995.

"Parents will see pages come home that look a lot more like what they were used to seeing in school," Erb said.

The new math curriculum is part of a broader move to "Common Core Standards."

The idea is to do away with a patchwork of education standards that vary by state and replace them with consistent benchmarks that spell out what children all over the country should learn in math and reading at each grade level.

For example, a first grader should learn to group numbers into tens and ones and add and subtract up through 20, according to the standards.

Critics, including some in Alaska, say Common Core Standards amount to a sneaky federal takeover of education.

Some 45 states have adopted the standards. Alaska has not adopted them, but the Anchorage district voted to in 2012.

The new textbooks teach to the Common Core Standards, which changes not only the approach but how long teachers spend on skills and when they are introduced, said Erb.

In the past, teachers would touch on addition, subtraction, multiplication and division every year.

Now, "the Common Core has us teaching fewer topics more in-depth," Erb said.

In grades K-2 the focus will be on addition and subtraction. Multiplication and fractions won't come until grades 3-5.

"We want students to learn it backwards and forwards, so they are fluent," she said.

It's a departure from "Everyday Math," first piloted in 1995, which emphasized word-problem heavy conceptual math. Parents complained that they didn't get it and couldn't help their kids with homework.

Kids were "discombobulated" by the approach, said Karla Scherbaum, who has been teaching math in the district for 19 years and currently teaches sixth grade math at Begich Middle School. But it was creative and fun to teach.

The new textbooks, which she has been reviewing since spring, strike her as a "good combination of numbers and problem solving."

The district began looking for a new math textbook after a 2011 review of K-8 math recommended ditching Everyday Math.

A committee made up of teachers and community members selected the new textbooks from a field of six finalists in the spring of 2013.

The district earmarked $5 million to buy the materials and train teachers. So far $3.5 million has been spent, Erb said.

The new textbooks come from educational publishing giant Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Much of the material will be available online, though it's up to individual teachers to decide whether they want to use actual paper or not, Erb said.

"Go Math!" is being used in districts both small and as large as New York City, which announced in May that it would teach its 1.1 million students with the curriculum.

Adjusting to a new way of teaching math is going to take time, said sixth-grade teacher Scherbaum.

"Be patient with us," she said.

Reach Michelle Theriault Boots at mtheriault@adn.com or 257-4344.

FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL WEDNESDAY

Wednesday is the first day of school for grades 2-12. Kindergartners and first graders start on Aug. 28.

Things you should know:

•This year an elementary school lunch costs $3.35, a middle school lunch costs $3.75 and a high school lunch costs $4.20.

• Families of students who are absent from school can expect a robocall from the district, no matter what the child's grade level is.

• The ASD is phasing in a new "Bring Your Own Device" policy at East, Chugiak and Eagle River high schools and Romig Middle School that allows students to bring smartphones and other electronic devices to school for educational purposes. The district's current policies on smartphones and other electronics still apply at all other schools.

GO MATH! AND BIG IDEAS VS. EVERYDAY MATH

Everyday Math:

• Relied heavily on conceptual approach

• Lots of word problems

• Emphasized different ways to get to an answer

Go Math! and Big Ideas:

• A mix of traditional and non-traditional methods

• Looks more like a traditional math textbook with fewer words on the page and more number drills

 


By MICHELLE THERIAULT BOOTS
mtheriault@adn.com