Historically, students have been led to believe that they are either destined to be good at math or that they just “aren’t a math person.” At Springfield (MO) Public Schools, we wanted all of our students to feel empowered as mathematicians. Through Jo Boaler’s research, we were able to identify key changes that needed to take place in order for that to happen in our district.
Our approach to teaching mathematics began as a journey toward equity in math class. We began focusing on conceptual understanding, strategy-based fluency through number talks and open tasks that support multiple entry points and solutions. In the past, much of our math instruction was focused on procedural rules that didn’t allow students to build flexibility with numbers. Despite the constant focus on fact retrieval, teachers continued to note that students didn’t have mastery of basic facts year after year, and it showed in our standardized test scores. We began offering professional development around strategy-based fact practice and eradicated time testing from our classrooms.