Math strategies and programs at Phantom Lake are encouraging students to take risks in math, including raising their hand to answer a tough math problem, or challenging classmates as to how they arrived at their answer for a particular math problem. The intervention programs and supports have been evolving for several years.
Three years ago, Principal Erin King and Math Interventionist & Facilitator Laura Gaylord set out to make math fun at Phantom Lake in a way that would also provide appropriate additional support to students who were falling behind, and to those who also needed an extra challenge.
With this goal, Gaylord took the lead to restructure the school’s Jumpstart program, implement Math Olympiad and put other math interventions in place. The changes have resulted in gains on state assessments, as well as schoolwide assessments.
Jumpstart is a morning math program that currently serves fourth and fifth graders. Students are selected at staff team meetings that include the school’s principal, ITCL, math specialist, grade level teacher bands, reading specialists, and an English Language Learner specialist. These meetings take place about every eight weeks, and data is reviewed including the history of STAR tests to determine which students would most benefit from additional support.
Students are then invited to attend Jumpstart, a before-school program, for two to three days a week where they pre-learn concepts before the math units are taught in their classroom.
“I learn a lot of stuff that will help me in my STAR test,” said Myshayla Williams, a fourth grade Jumpstart student. “We learn a lot of fractions because we’re learning those in school, but at Jumpstart they started us ahead so we were ready for it.”
Williams attends Jumpstart nearly every day it’s offered and recognizes how the program is helping her.
She is able to readily answer math problems, as well as know how she arrived at her answer. Williams credits this knowledge in part to her work at Jumpstart. She is also able to help her classmates with how to solve math problems.
Classmate Anthony Martin is also benefiting from Jumpstart.
“Jumpstart is fun. I like how it helps me get better at school,” said Martin. “It’s kind of in the name Jumpstart. It gets you a jump start in a certain unit. Now that we’re in fractions, I’m doing really good in school.”
Judy Takahashi-Hunsberger, an Instructional Assistant who is called Ms. Judy by her students, has seen the program evolve over the years.
“It started as a homework support program, but then we decided to be more intentional about who to invite and what to focus on,” she said. “We try to look at what students are working on, and then give them the support they need.”
Ms. Judy encourages students to take risks when answering math problems, even if it is challenging. If students make a mistake, she coaches them to look at key words in the problem, and the steps they took to determine where they went wrong. Understanding the language is just as important as understanding the math computation part of the problem, she said.
As students’ proficiency increases they may be exited from Jumpstart, to allow other students who need additional support into the program, said Ms. Judy.
Matthew Pennewell, the school’s ELL Facilitator also helps with the Jumpstart program. He sees that students are gaining confidence as they learn the new concepts, and understand how to work through the problems.
“This is a very unique program,” said Pennewell, who is new to the district this year, but has been teaching ELL since 2001. “This is the first time I’ve seen this kind of program. I really like the motivation from the students. They show up at 7:25 in the morning and they are here, motivated to do math. Even though I’m tired, it motivates me to do math too.”
The school is in its second year of Math Olympiad, after taking a year off last year. Gaylord set out to shape Math Olympiad in a very intentional way, and welcomes all students to participate. Students in the program work together in teams to solve math problems. They participate in local contests where they compete with other students in the region.
“I knew that I wanted the students to have fun with math, gain new math skills, develop perseverance, be social, see the beauty and also feel a sense of wonder for math during this time,” said Gaylord.
With this vision, she used the traditional Math Olympiad problems as a foundation, and has expanded students’ knowledge by also teaching them math magic tricks, number patterns, how to solve three dimensional puzzles and how to fold origami.
Students in Math Olympiad are excited for the opportunity to learn more math.
Naomi Khoo, a fifth grade student, said that “Math Olympiad is fun because you get to work with friends on challenging problems.”
Parents and community members are also supporting Math Olympiad.
Bill Dougherty, a community volunteer has been helping Gaylord facilitate the program and support her and the students.
Dougherty says he helps out because, “if there are kids that want to learn extra math, and I can teach it to them – I mean they’re volunteering too in a sense. This isn’t part of their school activity. How do you say no to that?”
A parent volunteer, Nancy Yusaf, has two students at the school and appreciates that the problems in Math Olympiad challenge students to think for themselves, instead of just following a format, since there is more than one way to solve the problem.
Yusaf said she volunteers because “I enjoy math a lot and I enjoy encouraging the kids because I know how important it is to have a good attitude about math and not be afraid of it.”
At the beginning of May, the school’s Math Olympiad team went to the Washington State Math Olympiad competition and earned four “excellents” (the highest award possible) in the areas of Number Systems, Ratio & Proportional Relationships, Expressions & Equations, and Statistics & Probability.
Other Math Interventions
Math interventions in the school are starting as early as Kindergarten for students who need extra support.
Kindergarten Instructional Assistant Jorgina Kyvik, whose position is funded through a Bellevue Schools Foundation Project Readiness grant, has four different strategies she uses to determine students proficiency. These include: oral counting, number ID, quantity discrimination and missing numbers. She tests students three times per year and marks each students’ progress.
This year students oral counting went from 69 percent of students on or above the benchmark in the fall, to 77 percent of students on or above the benchmark in the winter.
“We make it fun for students so when we pull them out to test their skills, they don’t think it’s work – they think it’s just a game,” said Kyvik.
Gains on State Assessments
Gaylord’s role has been instrumental in the school’s gains in math test scores. Principal King recognizes Gaylord’s ability to foster this growth.
“She is able to plan and facilitate multiple tiers of math programs and supports for our whole school community such as Math Olympiad, Jumpstart, and “Lunch Bunch” groups, which are focused on developing computation skills, co-teaching lessons with classroom teachers, and planning math focused evening events,” said King. “What makes her special is that she makes these math programs fun! She is always looking for new and innovative ways to inspire kids to be curious about numbers and her enthusiasm, and knowledge, has translated into great gains for our kids.”
Gaylord’s strategies have helped students be successful, and the school has made strides on the state assessments.
Over the past three years, the school has seen an eight point increase on the STAR test.
Students at Phantom Lake took the Smarter Balanced Assessment (SBA) for the first time last year. While many schools across Washington state saw a drop in scores on the SBA in comparison to scores from 2013-14 Measurement of Student Progress (MSP), 11.8 percent decline on average, fourth grade and fifth grade cohorts at Phantom Lake both saw increases in SBA test scores, 0.2 percent and 0.8 percent, respectively.
The school has received the Washington Achievement Award in the area of “High Progress” for the last three years. This year they also received the “School of Distinction Award,” given to only five percent of schools statewide, for five years of consecutive progress in both math and literacy.