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School Reworks Elementary School Math Curriculum

New common core standards will be applied to other grades and subject areas

Kindergarten through second grade teachers in Mahwah will soon receive a comprehensive guide that explains how the district's Everyday Math lessons can be appropriately utilized to coincide with the state's new common core curriculum standards.

In a presentation to the board of education Wednesday night, Lenape Meadows math teacher Denise Varricchio explained the guide she compiled with a consortium of educators from five area school districts.

The common core standards, she explained, are a set of educational standards that states can voluntarily adhere to in an effort to streamline what students across the country are being taught. To date, 49 states have adopted them. Varricchio explained some of the benefits she feels this system affords, including an easier transition for students who move, and more accurate nationwide testing practices.

Varricchio said the consortium of teachers from Mahwah, Edgewater, River Edge, Oradell and Kinnelon met over the summer in order to meet the state rule that said new common core standards be put in place by September. Varricchio said she proposed this regional planning method at a meeting of the “Everyday Math Roundtable” last spring, and these four districts agreed to do it.

Representatives from the Department of Education came to all of the consortium’s meetings, and were “very impressed with what we did,” Varricchio said.

“A large part of what we did was evaluating all of the lessons we were covering in Everyday Mathematics, and figured out which ones best taught the concepts of the common core,” she said. The group also offered teachers other lessons from the math book, interdisciplinary suggestions and online resources that could supplement their instruction.

She said specific concepts are broken down and categorized as either “beginning, developing or secure.” Beginning are those concepts that are first introduced in a grade level, developing means they are still being taught and built up in a grade level, and secure means the concept is no longer being taught in a particular grade, and students should feel secure in their knowledge of it.

Varricchio also said that the consortium added in lessons they felt were important to keep in, though not necessarily in the common core’s standards. For example, first graders will still learn coin values and coin counting, though it is not a common core requirement.

Every K-2 teacher in the district will be provided with electronic access to and a paper copy of the comprehensive guide compiled by the consortium, she said. “They will want to have this by their desks for easy access.”

The guide also lays out when particular lessons should be taught, “give or take a week or two. It should help teachers stay on track.”

The school board said it was very happy with all of the work the group did on the guide. Board President Patricia Shada called it “extremely user friendly and easy to read.”

Assistant Superintendent Janet Donohue said “almost all other subject areas that have common core standards will be updated” between this and next year.

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