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It’s the one resource I wouldn’t be without.
With the implementation of the new Math TEKS looming in 2014, Mansfield ISD’s math coordinators made the decision to do away with textbooks altogether. Toni Clarkson, the district’s elementary math coordinator, remembers their old math textbook, recalling that “most people weren’t using it much anyway, because it didn’t really fit with the standards any longer.” To replace the outdated books, Mrs. Clarkson and her secondary counterpart, Elise Buchhorn, set out to build their own custom math curriculum, collaborating closely with teachers at each grade level to build lessons and find resources perfectly aligned to the TEKS and Mansfield ISD’s own scope and sequence.
'We can’t reproduce the same kind of practice that this gives us.'
During this phase of research and discovery, the math coordinators evaluated resources with a critical eye and used the opportunity to train their teachers to do the same. “We really took a lot of time and effort to calibrate the lessons and make sure the resources we considered purchasing really fit what the TEKS said they should do,” Mrs. Clarkson explains. Teachers were now equipped to look at a lesson on decimals, for example, and say, “I don’t think this matches fifth-grade student expectations very well,” and then opt not to use it.
As they evaluated numerous supplemental curricula and resources, Mrs. Clarkson asked teachers: “What can’t you reproduce on your own?” Although they could create the practice provided by many resources themselves, when they combed through Total Motivation Math, they said, “We can’t reproduce the same kind of practice that this gives us.” The teachers saw how Total Motivation applied the standards throughout lessons at varying levels of rigor to reveal whether students had really mastered the content.
In the end, elementary teachers voted unanimously to use Total Motivation Math starting in 2014–2015 because it was “by far the closest aligned to the TEKS.” Teachers also liked that the problems “look much like what you might be expected to answer on a state assessment,” Mrs. Clarkson says. Total Motivation Math’s thorough, process-oriented approach to teaching students how to understand math concepts—rather than focusing on the final solution—was also a big plus. After seeing successful implementation in elementary grades, Mrs. Buchhorn, the secondary math coordinator, worked with middle school teachers to implement the resource in grades 7 and 8 starting in 2015–2016.
Total Motivation Math fits well with Mansfield ISD’S approach to a customized curriculum, allowing the educators to piece together math lessons from multiple sources like a puzzle. Mrs. Buchhorn points to how the resource is so well organized around student expectations. “It takes the teacher from the very start to the very end,” she says, referencing the numerous unit components that support instruction from introduction to intervention, and everything in between.
Both math coordinators value Total Motivation Math’s flexible format that empowers teachers to pick and choose activities to support student needs rather than locking them into a lesson sequence. “You can look and see how much of each unit you need,” Mrs. Clarkson says, explaining that her teachers sometimes utilize an entire unit in a series of lessons but more often bookmark certain activities to save for spiral review. And because of its close alignment to the TEKS, the teachers trust that every activity supports their instructional goals. As Mrs. Buchhorn says, Total Motivation Math “has already done the work for you” by building each activity around the student expectation.
The intervention and assessment components have proven particularly useful for Mansfield ISD, which is a big proponent of ongoing, formative assessment to identify learning gaps. Each unit in Total Motivation Math offers strategies for identifying learning gaps and suggestions for addressing them. Mrs. Buchhorn says that this has provided “something quick and easy to help evaluate student performance” on a daily basis.
'The Teacher Edition doesn’t tell you how to do the math, it tells you how to teach the skill.'
The bottom line—and one of the primary reasons that Mansfield ISD chose the resource in the first place—is that Total Motivation Math “isn’t just a student workbook with answers. It really is a teacher support, a How-to-Do-This piece,” says Mrs. Buchhorn. “The Teacher Edition doesn’t tell you how to do the math, it tells you how to teach the skill, and I love that about the book.”
Training has been key to getting all Mansfield ISD teachers on the same page. “It is challenging,” Mrs. Clarkson says of Total Motivation Math, and it “takes a little bit of work” for teachers to see how growth can come through the struggle. Once they see this though, they’re believers. One teacher was near tears (of joy) when she realized that each one of her students would receive their own copy of Total Motivation Math because she believed so much in the resource.
“In real life,” Mrs. Clarkson explains, “no one’s ever going to just hand you a math worksheet with computation on it and say, ‘Can you figure this out?’ They will say, ‘Here is the problem. What are we going to do about it?’ And you’ve got to sort through the problem and figure out how to solve it.”
Mrs. Buchhorn points to this emphasis on problem solving and critical thinking in Total Motivation Math when discussing a trend she’s seen with middle school students since the implementation began: there’s been an uptick in student engagement and collaborative learning. “Students are able to talk about the math,” she explains. Learning gaps are starting to close, and Total Motivation Math continues to play a role in taking student learning to a deeper level.
Total Motivation Math continues to play a role in taking student learning to a deeper level.
The impact on teachers has been significant, too, especially at the secondary level. Mrs. Buchhorn explains that many of the district’s middle school teachers are generalists or may be brand new to a certain grade level’s math TEKS. Total Motivation Math provides significant support to those teachers as they’re becoming familiar with the content or teaching multiple math classes and levels of students.
The math coordinators are watching the data closely, too, which has been encouraging. For the 2015–2016 school year, over half of the district’s elementary schools were awarded distinction designations in mathematics. Looking to the future, they expect to see more consistent and positive results. “It will make it easier for every grade level of teacher to get to that level of depth and complexity because the students before them were taught to that level,” Mrs. Clarkson explains. “We think our scores are going to go up every year.”
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