Program helps MP middle schoolers with math

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Beginning Jan. 14, approximately one-third of the sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders at Madison-Plains will begin participation in “Mathematics Navigator,” a math intervention program.

“This is an opportunity for students to fill the gaps in their math skills,” said Karen Muska, Madison-Plains curriculum director.

Each of the program’s six modules lasts four weeks. Students are pre-tested for each module. If they test out of one module, they automatically go on to the next one. The instruction will take place during students’ study halls and in some cases, in place of choir class.

The criteria used to select students for inclusion in the program included previous math achievement test scores, classroom math grades, and a screening test that took place in December. Middle School Principal John Woodason said approximately 115 students were tapped for the program.

The purpose of the intervention is to provide students with more time and new  ways to learn various math concepts. Unlike other programs, Mathematics Navigator does not rehash material covered in the classroom or rely on endless repetition, said Interim Superintendent Bernie Hall.

The program is designed to equip students with “a tool kit of strategies” to help them make the transition to the more abstract math they will face in high school, Muska said.

Urgency and Funding

Hall said the need for a new intervention program became clear after grades came out for the first grading period of the school year.

“We saw that several of our sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders were not having the level of success in math that we want them to,” he said.

With input from teachers, Hall and Muska decided to scrap the existing after-school intervention program, which they determined wasn’t reaching the students who needed help. Some participants in the after-school sessions were merely passing time between the end of the school day and sports practices, Hall said, while others were already achieving fairly good grades but were looking to boost themselves into the A-range.

The new in-school math intervention not only identifies students who have skill gaps to fill, but also is more structured than previous intervention programs. Students are tested at the end of each four-week module. Once they test out of the modules that pertain to their needs, they return to study hall.

The cost of the program, $8,700 for materials and teacher training, is covered by a state CORE grant. Hall said that by implementing “Mathematics Navigator,” the district will be making better use of the funds it receives for student tutoring.

The Madison-Plains Board of Education asked Hall and Muska to report on the start of the program at the Feb. 19 board meeting. The board supports the intervention program as a whole, but some members expressed concerns about the logistics of incorporating it into the course of what is an already busy school day for students and teachers alike.

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