Source: Sherman Publications

Math night at Kroger focuses on Common Core curriculum

by Meg Peters

October 30, 2013

Some tiny Kroger shoppers last week could barely see over their carts, but could tell their parents the fraction of registers open to pay for their pop-tarts.

One-hundred shoppers came from Pine Tree Elementary and even some schools in Oxford to the first ever math night at the Kroger on M-24 and Indianwood, introducing students from kindergarten through fifth grade to a different approach to the math curriculum demanded by the Common Core standards adopted three years ago.

As a means to prioritize critical thinking and problem solving skills required by the national Common Core standards which 45 states have adopted, Pine Tree focused on real world application of math while grocery shopping.

Teachers used the “discovery exploration approach.” Students swept through the aisles answering five or more questions based on their grade level allowing them to see math in action.

Kindergarteners were asked to count how many aisles there are. First graders had to find a fruit or vegetable shaped like a cone, sphere or cylinder. Second graders determined the sum of all the aisles. Fifth graders had to derive the fraction of registers open and write a decimal for it.

Not only did students use their math at Kroger, parents participated in the workings of the new curriculum, allowing them to see the differences between decades of curriculum evolution.

From memorization to analyzation

Teachers from Pine Tree were initially inspired by Rocky Creek Elementary in Lexington, South Carolina that hosted a similar night at their local Publix grocery store. They contacted the southern school who set them up with documents and assignment ideas to harbor the new curriculum’s back to the basics approach.

“Before a lot of it was just rote memorization,” Heidi Kast, Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment, said. Now it’s “more of where the teacher is not necessarily at the front of the room always delivering the lesson .There’s a lot of exploration with the students and the students are taking a more active role in learning.”

The key to it, according to the Common Core website http://www.corestandards.org/Math, is to focus more on coherency. Researchers have said that compared to other countries, the United States’ mathematical standards are taught too mechanically and without enough depth which leads to automated memorization instead of true, conceptual understanding.

Common Core is an approach to nationalizing U.S. teaching standards—which before operated on a state-by-state basis— in order to prepare students K-12 to compete globally after receiving their diploma.

“Other countries they will spend a whole year on just fractions, they really understand the ins and outs of fractions and how they operate as opposed to (the U.S.) just doing a unit here and a unit in another grade level,” Melissa Butki, Math Consultant and Coach for Lake Orion Schools, said. “So the new standards really build on that sense, where students have to understand deeply before moving to the next topic.”

Part of Pine Tree’s evolving curriculum involves more conversation.

Butki said the night at Kroger was the perfect example of how students can talk more about math.

Her first grade daughter was in the baking aisle when she found the chocolate chips, priced at $2.99.

“She said I know that one more penny would get me to another dollar, and she pulled out three bags of chocolate chips and put them on the ground, and I asked how much it would all cost, and she said ‘three, six, nine, but remember that penny I added on, it isn’t really there.’ So she was already processing taking that penny away,” she said.

Not only does conversation engage student to student and student to parent thinking strategy, it fosters the possibility to explore beyond the question at hand, another goal of the standards.

“Before a teacher would give a lesson and students would do their practice on paper,” Pine Tree principal Diane Dunaskiss said. “There’s still a lesson, but now they are using manipulatives to figure out their answers, or drawings. Now they’re really visualizing the process and talking about it to give it a deeper meaning,” she said.

While changes to the standards are not an overhaul, teachers will be trained throughout the year to develop their curriculums according to the adopted, national standards.

“In the Common Core of what’s being implemented this year everything is what’s applicable to the real world, so we thought we would bring real world math into the grocery stores where kids are going to need to know how to do these things as they grow old,” Francie Robertson, a fourth-grade teacher at Pine Tree, said.

“A couple of parents said I’d never worked with unit price before so some of the parents are learning some things, too,” Robertson said.

Parents and even grandparents participating at Kroger gave very positive feedback on a survey conducted by Pine Tree, Dunaskiss said, saying it was a great idea and they hope to see it again next year.

While helping her daughter Kathryn count how many rolls of toilet paper were in a package, Donna Kasetrus said they both came to math night “for her, so she can figure out how to answer these questions.”

According to both Dunaskiss and Butki, some parents, however, feel that they cannot relate to new strategies being used in the classroom.

Butki said that the math isn’t new, but the strategies to arrive to the answers are different, and many parents are asking for help to help their children at home.

Pine Tree staff plan on having in-services to help parents understand the new math skills to impart on their children after teachers are brought up to date with the new practices.