Field Trip: Kids not thrilled about math? Bethel, Ohio school aims to inspire through IMPACT program

BETHEL, Ohio - Teachers around the Tri-State use innovative and creative means to engage their students and instill a love of learning. With our "Field Trip" series, we head back to school for a lesson in what works in classrooms today.

For the past three school years, kindergarten teacher Tina Brink has changed her approach to math instruction. Instead of telling her students how to do it, Brink allows kids to explore and “to find out that one plus one equals two.”

The strategy is based on a teaching method called Improving Mathematical Practices and Classroom Teaching (IMPACT)  and is being implemented by first and second-grade teachers as well.

“It really has made a difference in how our kids see math,” Brink said.

What is IMPACT?

The method was developed by a statewide group of mathematics educators and is managed by the Teaching & Learning Collaborative. The collaborative partners with universities, districts and educational service centers to train teachers and offer IMPACT in schools.

IMPACT is designed to allow children to think through and explain how they figure out answers to a given math problem. It's targeted at students in kindergarten through third grade and is offered primarily in economically disadvantaged schools and districts.

Learning through doing

Math lessons can be taught through multiple methods using IMPACT, but one common way is through hands-on activities and games.

For one such lesson, Brink gave tangram puzzles  to students and explained that the geometric shapes could be put together to make a square. Then, she walked around and watched students experiment. After a few days of working with the tangrams, Brink’s students helped teach another kindergarten class what they had learned.

Rather than doing the work for the other students, they shared their thinking and explained how the pieces could be put together to form a specific shape.

Noah Mays, son of William Bick Primary School Intervention Specialist Kari Mays, just finished first grade at the school. Through IMPACT, Noah has learned about math on computers as well as through group activities using resources such as playing cards.

“It’s fun to learn in different ways,” he said.

His favorite thing about math is reaching new skill levels and getting treats.

More than math

While IMPACT helps students understand math subjects, including addition, subtraction, number sense and geometry, it benefits them in other ways as well. Proponents say IMPACT helps children develop skills at making connections, problem solving--representing how they solved problems--and communicating.

“They can have a drawing or chart. It doesn’t have to be equations,” Brink said. “I’ve been talking to some of the first and second grade teachers, and both are saying the kids are doing a lot more explaining how they solved a problem, not just to the teacher, but to other students."

Preparing students for the future

William Bick Primary School serves about 400 kindergarten through second-grade students. It is one of four schools in the Bethel-Tate Local School District, drawing students from the Village of Bethel and Tate Township.

Because the district allows open enrollment, students also come to Bethel-Tate from neighboring school districts, including:

  • West Clermont Local School District
  • Felicity-Franklin Local School District
  • Williamsburg Local School District
  • Western Brown Local School District

Teachers at William Bick Primary School are largely focused on helping students transition from home to school and preparing them for higher grade levels. To better achieve this goal, the school became involved in the Ohio Ready Schools Initiative about six years ago.

Through the initiative, educators help students transition from home to school and from grade to grade with a meet and greet, playground night, kindergarten camp and parent orientation for incoming students, and visits to first and second grade classrooms as older students prepare for upcoming school years.

While educators try to prepare students for future success, funding such efforts can be difficult.

“It’s always a challenge to figure out creative ways to fund our programs and provide quality education,” said Matt Wagner, William Bick Primary School Principal.

The Ready Schools grant provided by United Way is one of the creative ways school officials have found to provide programming. The school is also part of a consortium that recently received an IMPACT math grant to train teachers in updated IMPACT methods.

Expanding the impact

Brink hopes to increase the reach of the teaching methods, which she says fit very well with the new statewide Common

Core standards.

Although she received training through the Clermont County Educational Service Center to teach IMPACT math, she expects to soon further her training along with one other teacher. This time, the training will help them become trainers as well. After completing the course, they will be able to help train other staff members at William Bick Primary School.

“We want everybody trained because it will help students to succeed,” Brink said.

She hopes to have all teachers in the building trained by December.

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