Joy in Learning Math: School Committee Adopts Bridges Program for Elementary Students

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A new core mathematics instruction approved by the School Committee last week will align the system used by students at Lane School with their younger cohort at Davis School.

The Bridges program will replace Envision, which is not aligned with Massachusetts educational frameworks for Grades 3-5, according to Annie Pumphrey, mathematics specialist for the elementary grades in Bedford.

Before the pandemic arrived, plans called for a year-long pilot program with certain classes. Rather than push everything back a year, Pumphrey said, there will be a three-year staggered implementation, beginning with Grade 3, which will ensure a smooth transition from Davis School.

Lane School Principal Rob Ackerman said professional development opportunities at each grade level, totaling 35 staff members, will support the timetable. Although it is not ideal, the one-grade-per-year schedule maximizes support for teachers and students.

The price tag is less than $16,000 for 2021-2022.

Currently, Pumphrey explained, Lane School teachers have to select the Envision units aligned with the state standards. “It’s really challenging to use a core product that isn’t meeting all the standards you need to teach,” she said.

Bridges features a “really strong focus on conceptual understanding,” Pumphrey told the committee, with an “aligned intervention component that supports all learners.” The curriculum focuses on “developing students’ deep understandings of math concepts, proficiency with key skills, and ability to solve complex and novel problems.”

The product fosters “being a critical thinker and learning how to attack a problem, how to understand a problem,” she continued. “These lessons are built into a feature called “math forums,” in which students “delve deeply into real-life problems. Math forums have students explain what they created and the process that they went to. Critical thinking and problem solving really hard to supplement.” She added that Bridges supports skills necessary for MCAS success. “Bridges blends direct instruction, structured investigation, and open exploration.”

Pumphrey said there is also a “workplaces and games” component, with differentiation, that helps build a love for math. “Games are fun. If we want students to become deep math thinkers, we need to have some joy present in our math classes,” she commented. “Now teachers are looking for opportunities to bring in that joy. It’s important to like what you’re doing.”

“I do like that it is getting kids to think about math in a conceptual way. And I’m really excited about the joy in math,” said School Superintendent Philip Conrad. Patrick Morrissey, the program administrator for math in grades 6-12, said he expects the adoption of Bridges eventually will facilitate the transition from fifth-to sixth-grade math.

Pumphrey acknowledged that only a few schools are using Bridges-Blanchard School in Acton and the Sudbury schools. She also mentioned adjustments available for remote learning.

Committee members responded to the presentation with various questions and observations.

Ann Guay asked about the prospects of changes in the state frameworks. Pumphrey acknowledged the possibility; she said the most recent revisions were small.

Brad Morrison endorsed the staggered approach but was concerned about teachers who would need to use both core programs during the year. Sarah Scoville asked about the current third graders; they will continue with Envision for the remainder of their Lane School years.

Dan Brosgol pointed out that the math foundation for this year’s second grade has been compromised by the limits of the pandemic. Pumphrey replied that Bridges includes guidelines to address any missing core skills for every grade level.

Mike Rosenberg can be reached at mike@thebedfordcitizen.org, or 781-983-1763


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