PORTLAND — Using a new model of math instruction, Rowe Elementary School is seeing not only improvement in academic achievement, but also in student receptiveness.

“Kids (now) enjoy math and are engaging like we’ve never seen before,” said Bianca Winship, the school’s math coach.

Rowe is using the Math Routines model, which focuses more on a conceptual understanding of how mathematics works, rather than the more traditional, step-by-step equation-solving technique.

One new routine that students especially enjoy is called Math Yapper, Winship said. She said Math Yapper allows students to pair up and give each other clues to define a mathematical term, equation, or number through verbal definitions or using their bodies.

“I think kids love it because it’s fast-paced and low stress,” Winship said. “It specifically targets vocabulary and flexibility to build conceptualization of the (math) terms and skills” needed at each grade level.

With Math Routines, and especially Math Yapper, she said Rowe is making “great headway in flipping how we teach math on its head. With this model, we’ve seen a tremendous change in our math culture.”

What Winship especially likes about Math Yapper is that it “hooks kids at the onset of math instruction and increases participation, making students more receptive to the rest of math class.”

Since introducing the Math Routines model, she said Rowe Elementary has “seen great improvement in engagement and our local test scores show a mastery of skills.” With that foundation, Winship said Rowe should begin to see better standardized test scores in the next few years.

“Engagement is the first step to learning,” Winship said. “If students aren’t engaging, then they simply are not participating in the learning process. Engagement is paramount and learning is impossible without it.”

Through Math Routines, and especially Math Yapper, she said students are learning “how to be flexible in their math thinking.”

“People who work in math-related fields, or even an everyday person, often use a variety of strategies to (solve math) problems. The more flexible students are, and the more they have access to multiple strategies, the better they will be at making sense of (and ultimately solving) problems,” Winship said.

And Math Routines is not just good for the students, she said. “When learning is fun and fruitful for kids, it’s fun for teachers,” too.

The introduction of Math Routines, such as Math Yapper, is also making it easier for families to incorporate math fluency and learning at home, according to Winship.

“Parents sitting their kids down to memorize facts is (just) so painful for students and parents alike, so we want to give them new strategies to support their kids’ learning,” especially when it comes to math concepts.

Overall, Winship said, students at Rowe feel that using Math Routines, especially Math Yapper, is a fun and challenging way to learn math.

Put simply, “it’s a fun way to do math,” while also being “a cool way to learn other people’s (problem-solving) strategies,” according to a couple of fifth-graders at the school.

Kate Irish Collins can be reached at 780-9097 or [email protected]. Follow Kate on Twitter: @KIrishCollins.

A new model for teaching helps Rowe Elementary School students in Portland better conceptualize math problems.

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