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‘Struggle’ A Good Thing, Parents Learn In Math Night

'Struggle' A Good Thing, Parents Learn During Math Night

For many who came Wednesday night to Lower Pottsgrove Elementary School, learning math turned out to be a family affair

'Struggle' A Good Thing, Parents Learn In Math Night

Many teachers were enthusiastic in explaining their lessons

POTTSTOWN PA – Talks Wednesday night (March 5, 2014) by teachers and administrators for two Pottsgrove School District elementary schools were about keeping students “challenged” in math. Parents, in turn, discussed their own challenges in trying to help children complete math homework. And the kids themselves did what kids usually do best: they played.

A crowd of about 70 people, many of them as families, filed into the Lower Pottsgrove Elementary cafeteria for a 75-minute review of mathematics programs used there and in Ringing Rocks Elementary. The district invested more than $309,000 last year to update math textbooks and teaching materials. Sessions like Wednesday’s are intended to both explain how the programs work and show interested taxpayers what their money bought.

Called “Everyday Math” at the elementary level, with accompanying programs known by different labels in the middle and high schools, the range of K-12 courses encourages what teachers describe as “productive struggle.” In theory, they create scenarios in which students must dig deeper and use more brainpower to arrive at answers to math problems.

'Struggle' A Good Thing, Parents Learn In Math Night

Helping students in their “productive struggles” with math took both patience and encouraging smiles

That stimulates more creative thinking in problem-solving, teachers added, which later helps students better understand concepts in algebra and trigonometry.

The programs have their share of detractors in Pottsgrove. Parents and others on social media forums have decried them as being overly complicated or unnecessarily difficult, and claimed teaching them places their students at a competitive disadvantage when results and scores are compared to neighboring districts.

There was no public mention of those criticisms Wednesday. Parents in attendance seemed eager to get a better handle on what and how their youngsters were learning, not why. In separate classroom sessions, teachers from various grades reviewed tools, charts and lessons they rely upon almost daily in making math understood.

'Struggle' A Good Thing, Parents Learn In Math Night

Rows of cafeteria tables were filled with games meant to help bring math concepts to life

Inside the cafeteria is where many participants ended up, with their children pulling them along, to enjoy math games that are also part of the curriculum. Playing cards, dice, brightly colored plastic chips and other items that could be added, subtracted, multiplied, divided or otherwise analyzed were the objects of games like “Name That Number” and “Knock Out.”

Parents were given booklets with instructions on duplicating the games at home. As they left the building, several students checked to ensure their families had copies in hand.

'Struggle' A Good Thing, Parents Learn In Math Night

A crowd of about 70 people from both Lower Pottsgrove and Ringing Rocks elementaries attended

'Struggle' A Good Thing, Parents Learn During Math Night

Parents also chatted about homework and other problems they faced

'Struggle' A Good Thing, Parents Learn During Math Night

And some not yet facing the rigors of Everyday Math found entertainment in games of another type … on a cell phone

Photos for The Post Publications by Joe Zlomek

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