Math at EVCS

Dear EVCS Family,

Every day, within our walls and out in our community, our kids are learning to do so much! And whether your child is in Pre-K or in 5th grade – or anywhere in between – one thing they’re doing is exploring numbers and mathematical concepts each and every day. As adults, we work with math so often we often don’t even realize it: From paying the bills to modifying a recipe, from figuring out whether a new chair will fit in the room to figuring out the change at the deli, we all are mathematicians. So often I hear from parents, though, that they don’t understand how we are teaching math – that it’s not how they learned math as children. And it’s true! It’s certainly not how I learned math growing up, but our kids are thinking flexibly about numbers in ways high above what was expected of us years ago. The work is messier now than it once was – we value conceptual understanding of big ideas over computational fluency, and we prefer incorrect answers with high-level thinking over rote completion of an algorithm. You may not hear our teachers instructing students to “carry the one” – but it’s rich and meaningful work happening across our school.

Just today I visited one of our second grade classrooms. Students were working in pairs to solve addition and subtraction problems. These kids could talk about their mathematical thinking in such an impressive way. But their work didn’t look anything like how I learned to solve problems! I’d like to share these problems and solutions with you to highlight the sort of ways our kids are thinking about math and how it might not be the way you feel prepared to help support your kids. In a few days we’ll be having a workshop for parents and kids to talk about just that!

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Here, a child used what she knew about place value to break the number 180 into three parts: 100 + 60 + 20. Doing so made the addition problem easier for her. She started with 440 + 100 which she mentally knew was 540. She then added 60 mentally to get to 600. And then she added the final 20 to get to the sum of 620. She did this math all mentally before recording her work here as she explained it to me.

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Here, the two kids said that they thought it would be easier if every column in their place value chart could be subtracted without borrowing. So they used their understanding of constant difference by subtracting 1 from both 440 and 236 to find the difference between 439 and 235. They knew the difference between those two numbers was the same as between 440 and 236, but would be able to do the math mentally with friendlier numbers. They then quickly did 400-200, 30-30, and 9-5 to find the total difference of 204. Again, all in their heads!

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The last group I sat with used a “number bond” to show their thinking. They knew that 400 could be broken into parts that would help them solve a problem mentally. So they broke it into 20 and 420. They knew 180+20 was 200 and then could add the remaining 420 to that 200 to find a total sum of 620.

On Tuesday, March 27th we will be having a math workshop for parents and kids. Parents will first be invited to the auditorium while your children play. You’ll have a chance to hear from our teachers, Bradley and myself about our approach to teaching math and see how each year builds on the next here at EVCS. After that, we’ll all come together to do some math in grade-level groups. You’ll sit with teachers and your child to explore the math they’re doing right now, using the materials and manipulatives as well as the models we use to help kids make sense of the math. We hope you can join us on Tuesday, March 27th!


All the best,

Liz Wanttaja
Assistant Principal