Mathematics in the Elementary Classroom

by Holly Compton, Math TOSA K-5

We recently connected with Holly Compton, Teacher on Special Assignment, to learn how she is bringing professional development into the classrooms of MBUSD elementary math teachers. Here is what Ms. Compton shared:

How should we structure professional development (PD) to have the largest impact, particularly on teachers?

Over the course of this school year, our elementary teachers have had the opportunity to take part in small group professional development, focusing on routines that allow for students to develop their number sense and critical thinking skills. During each PD session, we met as a small teacher group, and then went into a classroom to watch what we are studying in action. Through this process, teachers were able to immediately plan and implement ideas taken from PD into their classrooms.

What results are you witnessing with students?

Our elementary students are engaging in student-to-student deep mathematical discussions due to the routines, such as “Number Talks”, that teachers have implemented. Students work to build off each other’s thinking and push each other’s ideas forward. Teachers have noticed that students are now able to approach problems in a multitude of ways, and persevere in solving challenging problems! The work that elementary teachers are doing is carrying over into the middle and high schools. The 6th graders have even been trying out Number Talks in their classrooms!

CGI Characterizations & Procedures

When you enter a classroom that is centered around the philosophy of Cognitively Guided Instruction (CGI), you will notice there is a working hum in the room. Students are interacting with one another, building off each other’s strategies, and problem-solving in a way that allows each child to make sense of what they are working on. Students push their classmates’ ideas and generate new strategies together. CGI is centered around problem-solving, however, CGI isn’t a word problem. Rather, it is a belief that students have a set of mathematical ideas that the teacher and other students can build upon.

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