Teachers take students on an adventure to better math scores
December 10, 2013 | Bryce Wilks
When Evangel graduates Tabitha Eutsler and Chloe Bolyard surveyed the math testing results for their third grade students in 2011, they decided to become change agents.
While taking a deep dive into the math curriculum, they saw an opportunity to approach instruction through a workshop model that would neither frustrate students with content that was too difficult, nor disengage them with concepts that were too simple.
“We felt like our students were successful in reading and writing workshops, but not as much in math,” Eutsler says. “We wanted to develop a program that would mirror what we were using in reading and writing.”
Math Workshop Adventures was born, and the duo implemented their modified program at Jeffries Elementary in Springfield, Missouri.
Their approach yielded quick dividends. After just one year of the program, Jeffries third graders had the most students in the district meet their growth goals for performance on standardized math tests.
Eutsler and Bolyard shared a few classes in the Education Department at Evangel. Although they were two years apart, both completed their student teaching at Jeffries. The year after Bolyard was hired on full-time, she sat on the interview panel that selected Eutsler to lead another third grade class.
They taught together for three years, two that involved the Math Workshop Adventures program.
“Their approach of working on objectives makes the program successful” Jeffries principal Dr. Elizabeth Cooper says. “By pre-testing every week for a given topic, the groups are constantly evolving to meet the students’ needs.”
In 2011, Eutsler and Bolyard started a web site to chronicle the progress of their efforts and share tips with other teachers. The platform has connected teachers from other schools and districts who have visited Jeffries to observe teaching methods. For teachers in other states, the worksheets they post help share ideas for how to present material.
Bolyard accepted a graduate assistantship at Miami University (OH) to pursue her doctoral degree in 2013. She is researching curriculum, pedagogy, instructional best practices and student-teacher relationships in the Educational Leadership program.
“One of my special interests is researching teachers as change agents” Bolyard said. “That is what I feel Tabitha and I were at Jeffries.”
Appropriately, Eutsler and Bolyard were invited to present at the Missouri State Teachers Association’s Teachers as Change Agents Conference in 2012.
The Springfield district also hosts a conference each year entitled Persistence to Graduation, which is aimed at keeping students in school through graduation and helping them succeed. They presented their research at last year’s conference to teachers from all grade levels, counselors and administrators.
“The past couple of years we set the foundation for Math Workshop Adventures” Eutsler says. “Now, it’s time to tweak the lessons to fit unique contexts, and reconfigure to meet the learning needs of our students.”
Read Dr. Colleen Hardy’s blog about American Education Week.