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Clairton schools teach parents about new math program

| Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2013, 7:35 a.m.
Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News
Maria Suss and Darlene Clifford, parents of first-grade students at Clairton Education Center, solve math problems using snap cubes during an after-school session on Tuesday.
Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News
Andrea Baker, a second-grade teacher at Clairton Education Center, reviews with parents a classroom discussion in which students were asked to solve math problems involving milk choices in the cafeteria on Tuesday afternoon.

Clairton City School District is putting parents in touch with their roles as at-home educators to help their children succeed with evolving classroom standards.

With the transition from Adequate Yearly Progress to Common Core standards in Pennsylvania's annual student assessment, Clairton elementary and middle school teachers replaced their mathematics curriculum with Houghton Mifflin Harcourt's “Go Math!”

And while students have been performing well in the classroom, acting Superintendent Ginny Hunt said it's important for parents to understand their children are working through a rigorous program with high expectations.

“We want our parents to be aware that some of the skills that were taught in fifth grade are now being taught in third grade,” Hunt said. “Children will be expected to perform at a high level of mathematical thinking. We want parents to be involved, because with their support, our children will do better.”

The district hosted a math workshop for guardians of students in kindergarten through eighth grade after school on Tuesday. Parents and grandparents joined students in small groups by grade level, where teachers reviewed concepts and explained the diversity of classroom tasks.

“We give them so many different strategies now on how to solve a problem,” first-grade teacher Michelle Ward said. “There's not going to be one way to do it.”

The “Go Math!” curriculum is more rigorous, exploratory and investigative than any others used in Clairton classrooms, teachers said. They suggested parents encourage their children to “play with numbers” to help them develop an early sense of math concepts.

Second-grade teacher Andrea Baker said students already appreciate the variety of methods being taught.

“They have to prove their answers now,” she said. “We ask, ‘Can you explain that? How do you know? Can you draw it?' You'll see your children using a lot of higher thinking skills.”

Kweilyn Ross, who has children in third and eighth grades, said she was excited to see what her children are learning.

“Math is very important,” she said. “Both of my children are pretty good at math, and they don't need much help; but I want to be able to help when I can.”

Tammy Fine, who moved her second-grade twins to Clairton schools this year after home-schooling them through kindergarten and first grade, said she knows how important the parental role is in education.

“We need to know what our kids are learning, why they're learning it and how we can help,” she said. “I plan to be an active parent in this school.”

Hunt said parents will be invited into classrooms for future discussions on reading and writing.

Jennifer R. Vertullo is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-664-9161 ext. 1956, or jvertullo@tribweb.com.

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