Eureka! I Have Found It! Math, That Is

Many children enrolled K-12 are now immersed in the excitement and thrill of Eureka math. While somewhat confusing for parents who did not grow up with such instruction and a challenge for teachers who must learn a new method as well as follow a carefully scripted format, ideas and intent behind it are sound. During one of my observation days I viewed math in action in kindergarten, second, and sixth grades. I realized as each lesson progressed that I had much to rethink and even more to learn. Taken in isolation Eureka math is perplexing but after watching several consecutive lessons, the value of the strategies hit home.

My first focus is in a second grade lesson where students were learning about bonding. They had problems such as 9+ 6. Placing a circle around the problem, they then drew two diagonal lines off of the bottom of the circle where they attached two more circles. The task now was to place the 9 in one new circle and break the 6 into 1 + 5 in the other circle. From here the 1 bonded with the 9 to make 10, an easy way to count, to add, and to implement in math problems. 10 + 5 requires simple addition getting an answer of 15. For students who had not memorized their math facts (a critical issue) the process was helpful. For those who already knew their facts, they simply wanted to write the answer “15” from the outset, dispensing with the bonding step. An aide in the classroom suggested that this was all right, but in my heart I knew it wasn’t. Later on the teacher confirmed that there will be problems that require this bonding step and those who have skipped it may struggle later. Sure enough in my research I chatted with the parent of a third grader who explained to me how the bonding worked in multiplication. So even if your child is a whiz at math, be certain that s/he follows the necessary process to reach an answer. While at first this may feel like drudgery, I know there will be joy in the future.

In a sixth grade classroom students were studying ratios equivalents. I believe ratios came to me in high school so I was surprised to witness students undertaking this arduous task, one that requires abstract thinking with math analogies. In this case, after several practice problems creating the foundation for solving through Eureka methods, independent practice ensued. As students worked the teacher added a bonus, the answers to the problems scrambled across the board. That way as partners solved by following procedures and engaging in mathematical discussion, they could check to see if the answer they arrived at matched one of the possible choices. This not only saved time with wrong answers thought to be right, it really enthused the students. Eureka! I have found it! Revelation prevailed. While I already know how to solve ratios, my method proves to be an antiquated strategy that is neither fast nor efficient. Now ratio equivalents are a breeze.

The true success of Eureka math will increase each year as teachers, students, and parents become accustomed to it and draw success. My hope with this adoption is that districts will continue for thirteen years, following students K-12 to really know how well they have attained mathematical concepts and algorithms.

As a parent, the first thing I’d do is go online, study the how and why of this methodology, and then invest in my own workbook set, starting with kinder, just to be certain that I understand every step. I like the Eureka workbooks as students now have their practice in one consolidated spot for reference and can study how understanding has grown throughout the year. If your child is bringing home separate, completed pages, start a folder now so that you can keep track of what your child is doing and learning. Continue this procedure every year.

I look forward to my year of learning new math. Recalling the new math foisted on me in the seventh grade, a new that was soon jettisoned, I am excited to broaden my thinking and knowledge. Most district schools with this program are planning Math Open House to support parents on this adventure. Be sure to attend the one held at your child’s school. It is your opportunity to listen, learn, and become enlightened Eureka math parents.