Spring 2004
Beyond Rhetoric
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Drawing on extensive research about the teaching and learning of mathematics,
Center X and LAUSD officials worked with the UCLA Department of Mathematics
to develop a curriculum intended to enhance mathematics subject knowledge
among kindergarten, first and secondgrade teachers and familiarize
them with the state's newly approved math textbooks.
"It's hard to teach what you don't understand well,"
says Priselac, who heads the professionaldevelopment program in
mathematics instruction in Center X.
The curriculum also aims to make teachers better aware of how children
learn math. It encourages teachers to implement new teaching methods,
such as asking questions in a particular way that generates discourse,
while carefully listening to students' responses for clues on how
to reach them. "When you understand that as a teacher, you
understand how to push (students) to the next level," Priselac
says.
Teachers, for example, are encouraged to use number sentences to
gauge student learning. A sample question might read: 8 + 4 = ___
+ 5. How a student responds "tells us what they understand
about the 'equals' sign . . . a key piece of understanding mathematics,"
and a key guidepost for additional learning, Priselac says. If a
student responds "12," the teacher knows he or she incorrectly
believes that a correct answer always follows the equals sign. When
a student responds "7," he or she "understands that
the equals sign means 'the same as,' " Priselac says.
More than 6,400 LAUSD kindergarten, first and secondgrade teachers
have completed the program since April 2001 — approximately
twothirds of all LAUSD K2 teachers, according to the district.
The keys to the success of LUCIMATH, Priselac says, are the program's
foundation in extensive research, its comprehensiveness and the
interaction it promotes among teachers to improve their skills.
These concepts have been applied to other continuingeducation collaborations
between UCLA and other school districts and in other grade levels,
as UCLA attempts to build on the improvements seen in LAUSD secondgrade
math scores.
"We still have a lot of work to do," Priselac says. "This
is where we needed to begin; this is not where it ends. We saw gains
(in math scores), and we want to continue to see gains."
—Phil
Hampton
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