The Need for a “Balanced” Math Program

How can teachers build mathematically powerful students, students who can solve problems and also communicate their understanding to others? Our longtime experience as elementary and middle school math teachers has proven that when students are engaged in a “balance” of mathematics activities, they can succeed where it counts—in applying their math skills and reasoning ability to solve real-life problems requiring mathematical solutions.

The five main components of the Five Steps to a Balanced Math Program are:

Step 1: Math Review emphasizes the development of number sense while students practice procedural mathematics and computational skills. It also prepares students for success on the annual state mathematics assessment. Mental Math helps students become skillful in computing math problems mentally.

Step 2: Problem Solving provides both a structure for problem solving activities related to the current conceptual unit focus and a general problem solving rubric or scoring guide that is used throughout the year to assess student work.

Step 3: Conceptual Understanding identifies in district and state math standards a particular grade-level or course topic that is essential for student understanding. That topic becomes the focus for the design of a conceptual math unit that deliberately aligns instruction to an end-of-unit assessment.

Step 4: Mastery of Math Facts emphasizes fact recall through student understanding of patterns. A program of accountability enables students to learn all of their math facts by the end of elementary school. The process begins with the faculty “mapping” all of the addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division facts across K-5 grades.

Step 5: Common Formative Assessments aligns math Priority Standards to school-based assessments for learning. These formative assessments are collaboratively designed, administered, scored, and analyzed within each grade level several times throughout the school year. Common formative assessments provide teachers with “predictive value” as to how students are likely to perform on district and state assessments in time for them to modify and adjust instruction to meet specific learning needs.

Five Easy Steps to a Balanced Math Program For the PRIMARY Grades—K-2

Acknowledgments
About the Authors: Larry Ainsworth and Jan Christinson
Introduction

PART I: THE FIVE EASY STEPS

Chapter 1: Step One: Computation Skills (Math Review and Mental Math)
Chapter 2: Step Two: Problem Solving
Chapter 3: Step Three: Conceptual Understanding
Chapter 4: Step Four: Mastery of Math Facts
Chapter 5: Step Five: Common Formative Assessment

PART II: INSIDE THE PRIMARY CLASSROOM

Chapter 6: Inside the Kindergarten Classroom
Chapter 7: Inside the Grade 1 Classroom
Chapter 8: Inside the Grade 2 Classroom

PART III: RESOURCES FOR IMPLEMENTATION

Chapter 9: Putting It All Together: Time Management and Frequently Asked Questions
Chapter 10: Guidelines for School Leaders

Reproducibles
References and Other Resources
Index


ENDORSEMENTS: 

“We are using this framework extensively in our school district. Five Easy Steps to a Balanced Math Program helps teachers focus on teaching concepts for understanding, as opposed to marching through a textbook. We emphasize that our state standards are our curriculum, and this is the framework we are using to plan and teach these standards for understanding to our students. Textbooks, like any other resource, are incidental to the implementation of quality math teaching and learning.

“We are using this framework extensively in our school district. Five Easy Steps to a Balanced Math Program helps teachers focus on teaching concepts for understanding, as opposed to marching through a textbook. We emphasize that our state standards are our curriculum, and this is the framework we are using to plan and teach these standards for understanding to our students. Textbooks, like any other resource, are incidental to the implementation of quality math teaching and learning.

Virginia P. Foley, Ed.D.

Director of Elementary Curriculum and Student Services

Dalton Public Schools

Dalton, GA


“The processes outlined in Five Easy Steps became a critical component of our district’s Mathematics Strategic Plan beginning in 1998. Five Easy Steps to a Balanced Math Program provided practical suggestions to assist our teachers with the implementation of the district’s mathematics program, [including] its required instructional components. While the Mathematics Strategic Plan serves as an umbrella for the district’s efforts, Five Easy Steps to a Balanced Math Program provided clarity of purpose and a systemic way of maintaining the focus.

“As a result, student achievement has steadily increased while the achievement gap has narrowed. Our work with Five Easy Steps to a Balanced Math Program has been one of the factors responsible for these improved results.”

Denise M. Walston

Senior Coordinator—Mathematics (K-12)

Norfolk Public Schools

Norfolk, VA


“Five Easy Steps to a Balanced Math Program has revolutionized the way our teachers approach math instruction! The five steps not only represent best practice, they are easy to understand and can be implemented by our teachers immediately following awareness/training sessions. The philosophy of the five steps reinforces our desire to create mathematically powerful students. Five Easy Steps to a Balanced Math Program is so highly regarded in our school district, it has made our list of ‘nonnegotiable’ professional practices!”

Michele Walker

Mathematics/Science/Assessment Coordinator

Metropolitan School District of Wayne Township

Indianapolis, IN


“Five Easy Steps has strengthened our traditional math curriculum by providing our elementary staff with a solid foundation in research-based math instruction. The implementation process focused on the consistency of strategies across the grades and gave the teachers a common language for discussing Mental Math, Math Review, concept development, and problem-solving. After three years of implementation, our district continues to show impressive gains on the state assessments for all the reported subgroups.”

Susan Schwicardi, Ed.D.

Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction

District 45

Villa Park, IL


“I love the Five Easy Steps concept because it gives elementary classroom teachers a way to organize and differentiate the daily mathematics instruction. As a principal, I especially love it because I don’t have to buy any special text, series, program, or curriculum. This approach fits right into any current program. My teachers love the Five Easy Steps mostly because it was developed by two ‘real’ teachers. Larry Ainsworth and Jan Christinson are not just talking theory; they’ve been there!”

Paula Shaw-Powell

Principal, Double Churches Elementary School

Muscogee County School District

Columbus, GA


“Five Easy Steps to a Balanced Math Program provides our teachers with a framework for culturally responsive teaching in mathematics. The framework not only has the flexibility necessary to customize math instruction for students at varying instructional levels, it also encourages collaboration among teachers as they design problem-solving tasks and assessments. The framework and its consistent facilitation in our classrooms have raised the bar for student learning and expectations in mathematics.”

Sharon I. Smith

Principal, Harrison Hill Elementary School

Metropolitan School District of Lawrence Township

Indianapolis, IN


“Our use of the Five Easy Steps to a Balanced Math Program framework has made an astounding difference in our students’ ability to reason, think, and be successful in math! The framework provides for a variety of learning experiences that has helped our teachers learn how to differentiate mathematics learning for our students and helped them to develop conceptual understanding of math topics. The students’ success is apparent in their daily classroom activities and is being transferred to our statewide testing results. We love it!”

Jodi Peyton

Digital Age Literacy Coach

Metropolitan School District of Lawrence Township

Indianapolis, IN


“Using the Five Easy Steps to a Balanced Math Program has brought consistency to understanding and developing math concepts for our teachers and students. Teachers are collaborating on developing mathematical experiences for students, which has allowed the students to construct a deep conceptual understanding of mathematical strategies and skills. The Five Easy Steps to a Balanced Math Program has been our key to designing best-practice instruction for student growth.”

Cathy Hargrove

Digital Age Literacy Coach

Harrison Hill Elementary

Metropolitan School District of Lawrence Township

Indianapolis, IN


“Larry Ainsworth and the Five Easy Steps to a Balanced Math Program have transformed math instruction at Sunnyside Elementary! The framework has provided a balanced plan for instruction; it ensures that nothing important gets left out! Best of all, our student achievement on standardized tests has dramatically improved!”

Connie Thomas, Ed.S.

Principal, Sunnyside Elementary

Metropolitan School District of Lawrence Township

Indianapolis, IN


“Five Easy Steps to a Balanced Math Program is a book that provides simple-to-follow strategies for improving student learning in math. The ideas presented are easy to adapt to a teacher’s personal style without investing enormous sums of money and effort in another passing trend.”

Brenda Wolfe, Ed.D.

Principal, Crestview Elementary

Metropolitan School District of Lawrence Township

Indianapolis, IN


“The format of Five Easy Steps to a Balanced Math Program provided the skeleton that our teachers needed and used to structure their math lessons. The “steps” were easy to follow and they facilitated the implementation of our state standards. Teachers were able to work as teams to compile daily Math Review reinforcement lessons, problems of the week to reiterate a concept, and Mental Math problems to engage and motivate students.”

Estella Haynes Swann

Math Facilitator

Crestview Elementary School

Metropolitan School District of Lawrence Township

Indianapolis, IN