PITTSBURG — This semester Pittsburg High School launched a new teaching style for mathematics, a style which focuses on application and collaboration.
There was a parent and faculty meeting about the new math delivery program on September 27 where parents expressed their concerns about the new style.
The parents were concerned with teachers not helping students in class, failing grades, teachers relying on peer instruction instead of teacher-led instruction, ACT preparedness and more.
Concerned parents told the Morning Sun the meeting was on short notice and some left dissatisfied with the answers provided by the principal and faculty.
PHS Principal Phil Bressler said Wednesday the school wanted to promptly address the parents concerns, which the number of concerns increased after the first math tests.
“We didn’t want to wait for parent conferences to address their concerns,” he said. “We wanted to have the opportunity to visit with parents and get the word out and open door for conversation … our goal was not to leave parents happy, but to leave them with additional knowledge.”
One of the parents’ concerns was students were not receiving help from the instructor.
Bressler said the teachers walk around the room and stop by each group and give them information from the teacher as needed, adding struggles are expected with this learning experience.
“When a kid says ‘I need help,’ it is called a productive struggle, like writers block … some kids need to struggle and think ‘what do I already know,’ they need to tie to the how and look up resources,” he said. “Teachers have always been the resource, but so can the textbook and the internet.”
Bressler said the students are expected to not rely solely on the teacher's response as they did in previous math programs.
“(With CPM) They are not relying on the teacher’s response as the reason the answer is right,” he said. “They can look at their textbook, online and collaborate with their group.”
Another concern was students had failing grades on the first test. Bressler said most of these were algebra 2 students.
“Most are beginning to struggle with math for the first time,” he said. “Not only is the class getting harder the process encourages them to struggle more than before.
“At the end of the day they learn to reason deeply mathematically.”
Bressler said the goal of the program is not just to help high school students get into college but provide all students problem solving skills transferable to all aspects of learning regardless of what career they choose.
“Not all kids go to college,”he said. “We want to prepare them to problem solve and think through solutions.”
Bressler said some schools have not been successful because they may have stepped back too much and expected the students to learn completely on their own.
The teaching style is part of College Preparatory Mathematics, known as CPM Educational Program, which is a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation that began over 25 years ago.
They offer educational curriculum and textbooks for instructors. The PHS math teachers were trained in the new teaching style this past summer.
In a previous article on CPM, Bressler and Math Teacher Rhonda Willis said the program is to engage students through problem solving, reasoning and communication rather than listening to an instructor at the front of the room for an hour.
According to Willis in a previous article, students are put in groups together. Students don’t receive group grades, but they are grouped together for the learning processes and they all have goals and tasks such as task manager, resource manager and recorder, reporter, facilitator.
Bressler said the method is what is different in the classroom, the curriculum has not changed.