by Maureen McCaffery Coleman, Community Manager, TenMarks:
At TenMarks, we love talking with teachers to hear about the fantastic work they are doing with their students. I enjoyed interviewing Megan Crossman, Teacher/MS Math Curriculum Leader at Barrington Public Schools. Read on to hear about the day to day for Megan and how she and the other teachers in the district are teaching students to think about the how and why of math at their district.
Maureen: Tell me about your district and community. What is it like?
Megan: I am blessed to teach math at a high-performing district. Our students come to school genuinely interested in learning and fully engaged in the process. Most go home to families who are just as engaged. Our town seems to be centered on our schools. Many people move here because of them. This defines our population to a certain degree and further supports our students' learning. We typically perform at, or near the top, across the state and country. This is the standard that drives us.
Maureen: That sounds like a wonderful environment in which to work in schools! What does math education in particular look like in the district?
Megan: Math is a unique subject area. We see a lot of variability in our students when they begin middle school. Some of our students are advanced when they arrive. So, we have to think about how to support them when they are ready for more. As a result, we are more flexible in our approach, at times allowing kids to skip a grade in math if they are ready for it. In this way, math looks very different than the majority of our other subjects.
Maureen: It sounds like that flexibility is key. What is your role in the district?
Megan: In addition to teaching grade 8, I am the mathematics curriculum leader. So, I work with all three grade levels in our school. There are three lower elementary schools and one upper elementary school across the district. Other teachers in the district and I try to work with colleagues across the district to help support students in the transition to middle school. At the end of three years, our students all feed into one high school. So, we also think about how to best prepare students for the ultimate transition to high school.
Maureen: So, what does your day to day look like as the curriculum leader?
Megan: Common planning is an important component of what I do. I have many opportunities to plan together with the other teachers. Our main priority is to go deeper in the curriculum versus jumping on to the next thing. This is particularly important as we prepare our students for high school math, and we are seeing this pay off for our kids. They are retaining more, and they have a richer understanding of the concepts, as opposed to just memorizing things.
Maureen: That is great to hear. Let’s talk more about math. What is your particular passion for math education?
Megan: For me, the most important thing is that my students understand the how and why of a particular concept. If teachers prioritize these questions, students are not just memorizing a procedure or learning a formula. They are also developing a deeper understanding for why things work the way they do, and, ultimately, they own it. Then, they are able to further apply what they have learned in interesting ways.
Maureen: That sounds a lot about how we think about math education here at TenMarks, too. Speaking of TenMarks, how does TenMarks Math fit in the Barrington, RI, school district?
Megan: Going back to our approach to depth versus breadth, we like the way TenMarks Math allows us to ask questions of students in ways we didn’t always think of. TenMarks Math assignments require that students apply the concept in a variety of ways. With TenMarks Math, our teachers are able to present students with a math concept and then provide them with another way of looking at the content. It inevitably sparks a conversation, which encourages students to see the concept in a different way. It allows them to avoid that tendency of memorizing and, instead, get back to the how and why.
Maureen: I am so happy to hear that. We are really intentional about the depth and rigor of our content. Do you have any tips for other teachers who use TenMarks?
Megan: One of the features the teachers at the district and I really like is the option to give all the students the same questions in an assignment. This way, we can very quickly review the questions as a group, encourage students to discuss as a group, and then review with the whole class. We actually suggested this feature a while ago. We appreciate that TenMarks has listened to a lot of the feedback we have given over time.
Thanks to Megan for making time to chat with me about her work in math education!
Meg Crossman has been teaching math at all levels for 15 years. She loves teaching middle school students. They keep her day to day interesting!