Paper, pencils and playing cards

Kevin Reinthal, Lucas Schools, explains a game he created to other Math Teacher Leaders during a professional development session.

A life-long love of teaching has led to some innovative ways to reach and engage children. Kevin Reinthal taught in a fourth-grade classroom in the Lucas school district for 25 years. He now serves as a Math Teacher Leader for the school district.

Reinthal spends half of his time in a kindergarten classroom, and the remainder working with teachers to develop activities that engage the students in the math concepts they are studying.  These games are used to introduce new concepts to students, and reinforce those that they have already seen.  Reinthal has developed half a dozen games already by looking for common activities that can be adapted to fit the needs of the classroom.

“One of the teachers had brought in a gameboard with a circle,” he said. “I immediately thought, ‘we can make that into a place value activity where we change the number of sections in each circle to have base four, base six, or base ten, and you could work with the primary kids just by playing that game.’ It reinforces the idea that the value of a digit is different according to where it is in the number.”

Reinthal’s games have ranged from supporting primary students in their understanding of place value, to approaching fourth-grade division with the use of low-tech, easy to find items, such as playing cards and paper and cardstock instead of tradition manipulative materials such as base ten blocks. Not only are these games helpful to the students in learning the math content, but they also make math an enjoyable subject for them to learn. They provide a way for the students to be actively involved in their own learning, and they can be modified to use in many different grades.

Reinthal’s most recent work is being done with subtraction using a number line. Rather than approaching subtraction with the common removal method, the number line is used to compare the distance between two numbers.  These games that Reinthal creates provide exciting new ways of looking at and learning math concepts in the classroom, and many other teachers in the MLI cohorts are beginning to use them in their district schools too.

Teacher voice: Amy Bradley

“I struggled with mathematics my entire life.  I did not enjoy teaching it because I lacked confidence in my own knowledge and skills. In 2012, I began participating in the Math Literacy Initiative. At first, I was skeptical.  It was so different than any other methodology for mathematics.

Under the guidance of Dr. Terri Bucci and Dr. Lee McEwan, I not only have become a better teacher of mathematics, but a better mathematician. Yes, I actually consider myself a mathematician.  I no longer shy away from attempting mathematical problems and I love teaching math to my students.

Now, I am a Math Teacher Leader in my school building and I’m working toward my Doctorate in Leadership studies with a cognate focused on math education and pre-service teaching, all thanks to the Math Literacy Initiative and the collaborative efforts of Mansfield City Schools and The Ohio State University at Mansfield.”

Amy Bradley, K-1 grade teacher
Mansfield City School District

Teachers and students learn at CAMP

Nearly 50 teachers from 5 local school districts spent the summer honing their mathematics and teaching skills during Mathematics Literacy Initiative professional development classes.  The classes are part of a year-long professional development program based on the nationally renowned Algebra Project. Ohio State Mansfield’s initiative is the only K-8 PD program of its kind in the nation.

The Algebra Project targets high school students in the lowest quartile of performance who can benefit the most from this different approach to mathematics.

Terri Bucci, Associate Professor of Math Education and Lee McEwan, Mathematics Professor Emeritus, at The Ohio State University at Mansfield spread the concepts of Algebra Project to lower grade levels.

“What makes it unique from other Algebra Project programs is that it’s K-8,” Bucci said. “The teachers use the same structures vertically in their districts.”

The initiative implements the Algebra Project five-step process in the classroom. This innovative process uses a shared interactive activity to learn a new math concept, pictorial representations and writing to describe their experience, along with discussion to come up with a symbolic representation of their work.

“I have found that students who don’t usually get a chance to shine in math with a test get to show their work, which allows them to shine in the area they’re good at,” said Christy Walters, second grade teacher at Crestview.

Teachers take either a 3- or 4- day course for credit at the Ohio State University at Mansfield which can be used to obtain a graduate degree, Ohio Math Endorsement or continuing education credit. Teachers then spend two days creating a math lesson, which is then taught at a district math camp.

The Collaborative Application of Mathematics Pedagogy is where the teachers observe the teaching of their new lesson. The opportunity to see students’ reactions is where the uniqueness of the initiative shines.

“Lesson Study is where teachers design lessons and then watch other teachers teach the lesson that the group of them designed,” Bucci said. “It’s a really powerful process. These teachers are actually changing the way Mathematics is taught.”

Teachers report that their students are more attentive, enthusiastic, and involved in classroom activities following their participation in MLI professional development, and the teachers, themselves, are more excited about teaching math. Teachers in a recent program survey also agreed that the quality of their students’ work was noticeably improved.

The future for the MLI as is filled with growth. An Ohio Mathematics Alliance is in the works, as well as national collaborations.

“Right now our goal is to grow the number of districts we’re working with so that we can have even more collaborations with districts in the region,” Bucci said.

As co-directors, Bucci and McEwan are only a part of the initiative. Teachers, principals, and superintendents have come together as change sponsors and agents in an alliance to advance professionalism in mathematics education.

“Terri and I are sort of the figureheads of this work, but lots of people have worked hard,” McEwan said. “I think the important thing is that the teachers themselves see the need for it, and they’re the ones who are going to carry this out.”