Focus on Math Curriculum at Paul Penna DJDS

October 12, 2018

One of Paul Penna Downtown Jewish Day School’s current Strategic Priority Areas and Goals is to improve the educational program of the school so that Academics are on par with the current values of community and social action.  

Specified in this goal is a commitment to improve math, science and French within the core curricular program of the school.  Earlier in September, we communicated about our new French program and the instructional changes it will create in the classroom.  The purpose of this communication is to explain more about the changes to the math program. Over the coming months, more communications of this sort will be shared about other core curricular areas, Jewish Studies and Social Action elements of our program.  

For the past six  years, students at Paul Penna DJDS have used the JUMP math program as the cornerstone of their math learning.  JUMP math was developed by Dr. John Mighton in response to instruction that he saw as contributing to math anxiety in children.  One of the many strengths of the JUMP math program is the way it breaks down mathematical concepts and algorithms into very small parts and guides students to master math using small steps.  In addition, the teacher guides have provided our faculty with support and clear direction in math instruction. Despite the many strengths of the JUMP math program, following an assessment done by administration in consultation with Dr. Marian Small, a math education consultant,  it was found that JUMP math alone was not sufficient to meet the needs of all of our learners.

Last year, our Grades 4 and 5 teachers piloted a slightly different approach to math. They designed lessons based on mathematical understandings that allowed students to explore concepts in depth. They supplemented this instruction with both teacher generated materials inspired by the work of Marian Small and portions of the JUMP workbook.  This approach of reduced JUMP math, increased conceptual math problem solving and an intentional focus on mastery of basic arithmetic skills (addition/subtraction facts to 20 and multiplication/division facts to 144) created a balanced approach to math.

This year, our school year started with two days of professional development delivered by Marian Small.  These sessions allowed our full core faculty to learn about math instructional methods and materials that were new to them. We deconstructed provincial curricular expectations and began to build lessons to teach these concepts.  We will continue this work, as a faculty, during our PD days in November and February. In addition, we have purchased a licence to Marian Small’s new program, “Math Up”. This online resource provides our teachers with short instructional videos for their own growth and learning, grade level rich math task problems, and follow-up student work that incorporates the best of what Marian has created over the past decades.   It is designed to be used in conjunction with additional materials – which is what we are doing.

This conceptual approach to math is being coupled with math skill development based on the more advanced grade level JUMP workbook and teacher created mastery lessons and assessments.  

We believe this blended approach to math, using an assortment of well-developed resources, will offer all of our students an opportunity to enrich their math thinking skills while, at the same time, master arithmetic and algorithmic math skills.

Kate, in her role as Director of Core Curriculum, meets with each teacher weekly.  On their weekly agenda is math lessons, units and instructional strategies. This level of teacher support is a key part of our strategy to ensure our math instruction and our students’ learning is rich and is preparing them for the next step in their formal education.