Merced teachers participate in Silicon Valley Math Initiative program to boost students’ learning

12/15/2013 6:48 PM

12/15/2013 6:50 PM

A number of area high school teachers are participating in the Silicon Valley Math Initiative, a cooperative program that will help them hone their instructional skills through new common core instructional standards.

Five training sessions will be offered throughout the year for math initiative participants through the Merced County Office of Education. Chas Jolly, vice principal at Independence and Yosemite high schools in Merced, is the Merced Union High School District’s math instructional coach and is coordinating the district’s involvement in the math initiative.

Jolly said the initiative will help teachers give students math problems that let them go deeper in their understanding of the subject matter and in their problem-solving skills. Teachers will have more activities, lesson ideas and examples to use with students to help them do better in math.

Tammie Calzadillas, the district’s assistant superintendent for educational services, said teachers will examine how to make math matter to their students and help them see that it’s relevant to their world.

Jolly said the initiative’s goals are to improve math instruction through research and use of assessments, tools that teachers can use to determine if their students are mastering the material.

Robert Shaljean, a math teacher at Buhach Colony High School, said the main focus for teachers through the initiative is what the next generation of tests will look like and how to properly grade them.

“The time spent working collaboratively with other teachers from across the county has been very beneficial,” Shaljean said.

Jonathan Rhodea, math coordinator at the Merced County Office of Education, said the Silicon Valley Math Initiative offers five training sessions that will be held through the year for third- through sixth-grade and seventh- through 10th-grade teachers.

Rhodea said teachers will be able to find out what their students’ abilities are and make instructional decisions to meet those needs. The initiative will help teachers set achievable goals for their math students.

“You hear the word ‘rigor’ a lot these days,” Rhodea said. “This allows the materials to be rigorous while not losing sight of what the students are capable of.”

Over the last 1½ years, Jolly has facilitated the process so district math teachers can identify specific concepts and skills in common core math instruction. Last summer, 24 math teachers agreed to take part in the math initiative.

As a coach and instructional leader with the initiative, Jolly said the experience at summer training sessions was inspiring and the best he has ever experienced as a math teacher because it was totally targeted on student learning and mathematics.

“Our MUHSD teachers are reaching the cutting edge of mathematics instruction in preparing our students for the rigorous critical thinking demanded by the CCSS (common core state standards) and, by extension, businesses and colleges,” Jolly said.

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