OPINION

Self-paced math at Central

Joel Fey

In the attempt to improve student learning at Central, we have made an attempt to individualize learning for our 3rd and 4th grade students in the area of math. For years we have leveled and individualized learning in the area of reading through guided reading and our Just Right Reading groups. After much research and development, Self Paced Math started with the beginning of the 2015-16 school year.

In the fall of 2014, a group of teachers and administrators visited Taylor County Schools in Campbellsville, Kentucky, www.taylor.kyschools.us. Taylor County School was labeled as a District of Innovation based on their work with Performance Based Education. During our visit we were able to observe a self-paced curriculum in reading and math. In each setting, the students spent a portion of their day in a pacing guide that met their individual needs. We noticed students that were engaged and motivated, self-directed, collaborators and teachers that were passionate about the process. They believed that the self-paced program allowed them to truly teach toward the mission of The Taylor County School District……..Provide an equal opportunity for all children to reach their maximum potential.

Our teachers spent the remainder of the school year preparing for the implementation of self-paced math for all third and fourth grader students for the 2015-16 school year. This was not a small endeavor. Teams of two took a curricular area and revamped it to meet the needs of our new program. The district invested in new iPads for each third and fourth grader, teachers created new lessons, activities and assessments, schedules were changed and because of all of this, new doors have been opened for our students.

The work our teachers have put into self-paced math have allowed our students to progress at a rate that is appropriate for each of them, it is truly individualized. During a typical 90-minute math block you will see many components of self-paced math. In most instances, you will see some type of large group lesson, a Bell Ringer. This is typically a concept that might be new to the class, an area of review or the teacher felt that a concept just needed to be retaught based on the assessment that was given. Next, you will see the students with their pacing guides. Each student has one of these guides to help them remember what they have completed and what needs to happen next for them. During this time, the teachers will also gather small groups of students with similar needs. This allows the teacher to re-teach certain concepts to small groups. A lot of great learning takes place here. We are targeting specific skills to specific learners.

The purpose of self-paced math is not to ‘rush’ students through math, it is really just the opposite. It allows individuals to spend more time on concepts that they struggle in, coach and collaborate with peers and also advance when they are ready, not the class.

It has been a wonderful learning experience for both our students and staff. We believe our students enjoy math more, are more engaged and motivated to do their best, while creating classrooms that encourage both individual and collaborative work.

Joel T. Fey is Assistant Principal at Central Elementary.