Fort Frye board hears about new way to teach math

LOWER SALEM -In a brief meeting at Salem-Liberty Elementary School, the Fort Frye Board of Education heard a presentation Thursday from district math teachers about the recently implemented OSU Mathematics Coaching Program and proceeded to discuss how it will improve the education of Fort Frye students.

Beverly-Center Elementary math teacher Elizabeth Curry and Salem-Liberty Elementary math teacher Amy Rinard serve as coaches for the MCP program, which was implemented at the beginning of the school year. Bruce Lanning serves as the coach for Fort Frye High School.

The program, which has recently reached out to Appalachian and more rural school districts, trains representative educators in Columbus who then take their training to their respective schools where they work with other teachers to weave the new teaching methods into normal curriculum.

MCP is a contrasting way of teaching math, and by extension any subject, from the traditional lecture style that many adults knew growing up.

“The focus is less on the teacher and more on the students, allowing them to lead the class,” Rinard said. The concept encourages teachers to instead let students explore math problems and tap into their own individual thought processes, instead of imposing strict memorization tactics that often make it hard for children to apply to real life uses.

“If we can tap into their way of thinking, and validate that way of thinking, math isn’t scary, and it can be accessible to everybody,” Curry said.

Where in a traditional elementary math class, students would be given a plain problem that says “2+2=4” without any real explanation other than that it must be memorized, MCP concentrates on real world concepts, like money or the idea of real tangible items that can be taken away or added.

“They will eventually learn the actual algorithm, but if we push it too fast, children become frustrated and shut down,” Curry said, explaining that the idea is to make math something that any child can do. She and Rinard work a rotation in other classrooms to work with teachers and find ways to adjust the way the teach math, with an emphasis on retraining without “stepping on toes.”

Board President Charlie Schilling, who has two children in grade school, hailed the new program, which has existed for nine years out of Ohio State but has just not made its way to Washington County.

“My kids would always get frustrated at not being able to express themselves, so this is a good thing,” he said.

Superintendent Stephanie Starcher, along with other board members, spoke favorably about the program, which comes at no cost to the district via grant money.

“We want to be consistent across our elementary schools to make sure they’re learning at the same pace,” Starcher said.

Also in the interest of advancements in education and changing the way classes are taught, the board approved the recommendation to receive four new iPad Airs from the ACT company by donation after several core sophomore teachers completed a field test. The school is trying to implement iPads and other new technologies into classrooms already.

“We are moving forward; it’s what education has come to,” Schilling said.

In addition, the board also approved the retirement of three teachers-Amanda VonKennell, Deborah Moles and Teresa Griffith-at the end of the school year, as well as the sale of an old band utility trailer. Starcher said the profit made from the sale will go toward purchasing new uniforms.

Fort Frye students can also make up for credit lost through the school’s purchasing of 25 seats in the A+ Learning program. The online system allows students to take courses online, administered by a high school teacher, to receive credit for classes that were failed or dropped out of. To discourage students from failing classes, the first course costs $100 and any additional ones cost $50.