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Curriculum Insights • Math program review and implementation

Michelle Donahoe, Math Enrichment Coordinator

We believe that all PBS students are strong mathematicians. We want them to love math and develop a strong intuition for problem-solving. It’s important for students to experience developmentally appropriate challenge as well as targeted support when they need it. We acknowledge that it’s difficult to execute all this perfectly because our young students are learning at different paces in the same classroom.

Over the summer, we conducted a formal curriculum review to evaluate the math program, augment our teaching practices, and improve student learning outcomes. With the support of an outside expert, we reviewed current research, data, and best practices. We finalized our new daily schedule to support more math instruction time. We also wanted to support the faculty’s capacity to implement the resources in our Bridges in Mathematics program.

It is also important for us to partner with you in support of your children’s math learning and give you a window into the PBS math classroom. With that in mind, we’ve developed a four-part series on math that culminates in a virtual parent education session on October 5. Our goal in this series is to communicate what we’re doing currently, program priorities, and progress we’re making. We’re using an FAQ format so you can easily see the bolded headlines as well as review the details if you want.

How does the new daily schedule optimize math instruction?

  • More instruction time: Additional teaching time allows for increased math instruction and stronger alignment with program best practices. We’ve replaced CONNECT Friday with classroom time.
  • Focus on computational fluency and automaticity: Being fully on campus with a streamlined school day allows us to prioritize Number Corner. This is a 20-minute calendar-based routine designed to support effective development of computational fluency and automaticity. It also introduces, reinforces, and extends critical content areas at each grade level.
  • More teachers supporting differentiation: Updated COVID guidelines allow Michelle Donahoe to use a push-in model supporting all K-5 classes. Lea Rice, Amy Torre, and Michelle have coordinated their schedules to support differentiated instruction and lead small group work.

What is Bridges in Mathematics?

  • Data-based: Bridges in Mathematics is the foundation of our K-5 math curriculum. It was selected for its research-based, data-oriented, and comprehensive approach to balancing teacher-guided instruction and student-directed inquiry.
  • Skill- and strategy-based: Math class often begins with a mini-lesson centered around a problem, task, or number string to introduce specific strategies. Students then apply these skills. Small groups participate in structured investigations. Manipulatives and math tools support open-ended explorations. Workplace activities allow for daily practice and reinforcement of skills.
  • Externally normed assessments: Bridges includes many comprehensive assessment tools that are externally normed and aligned with national norms and standards. This allows teachers to make data-driven instructional choices and our students to engage with authentic feedback and opportunities for self-reflection.

What were the key outcomes of the math curriculum review?

  • Faculty training: With a full on-campus program to start the year, we have an opportunity to realign around clear and consistent instructional and assessment practices. The two-day training period in August provided an energizing opportunity to recenter around math teaching, both for new teachers and for veteran teachers returning to a more typical school year. We will build on this shared learning experience with ongoing training, mentorship, and collaboration on program development.
  • Better program assessment: We refined assessment plans and record keeping practices. This provides data for individual classroom teachers to quickly respond to student learning needs unit-by-unit. It also better organizes data to measure program outcomes and evaluate the math program over time.
  • Updated PBS progress report: We wanted to ensure that achievement indicators and the mastery level for each learning outcome would better reflect our research-based program. The result is a revised set of achievement indicators that are sequential, cohesive, and clear. We also made sure that fluency benchmarks are evident, and we incorporated math practice standards across all grade levels.
  • Support for curriculum planning: We outlined protocols to support teaching teams during weekly planning. This includes unit planning, content deep dives, instructional pacing, reviewing student work, analyzing assessment data, and differentiating instruction.
  • Leadership from our math enrichment coordinator: Michelle Donahoe attended the Bridges Leadership Institute. During this three-day conference, she participated in sessions on culturally responsive teaching; empowering math identity; advancing equitable outcomes by elevating rich tasks; promoting fluency development, differentiation, and assessment; algebraic reasoning in Number Corner; and more. She also attended an NCTM conference on “Supporting Students’ Productive Struggle.” She feels inspired and excited to share what she learned with her colleagues!

How are we partnering with you?

  • Transparency: Throughout the curriculum review process, our team remained committed to ensuring that progress reports are as useful and clear as possible. We also made plans to return to pre-pandemic practices to strengthen our partnership with families. Families can expect to receive unit overviews at the beginning of each new math unit, as well as summative assessment results in 1st-5th grade.
  • In-house resources: You can expect to learn more about differentiation, fluency, assessment, and new features on the Family Math Portal. A deliverable from our curriculum review is a new section of the portal designed to promote greater transparency on learning outcomes, which we plan to share in early October.
  • More communications: Over the next few weeks, we look forward to sharing more about key priorities related to math instruction. Here’s what’s next:
    • September 21: Article on differentiation
    • September 28: Article on fluency
    • October 5: Article on assessment
    • October 5: Parent education at 8:00 p.m.


Thank you for supporting our math program objectives!

Scott Erickson, Jon Fulk, and Michelle Donahoe
Head of School, Head of Academic Programs, and Math Enrichment Coordinator

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