Math Initiative

It may come as no surprise that Big Shoulders Fund schools out-perform their local and national counterparts in a multitude of ways. Although our schools routinely see great gains in the standard disciplines, we continue to see the most need for growth in mathematics. In 2011, Big Shoulders envisioned a new way to offer supports to schools and teachers such that they could achieve their greatest impact. The Big Shoulders Fund Math Initiative (BSFMI) — comprised of three programs — focuses on increasing the rigor of math teaching and learning in our pre-kindergarten(pre-K)-12th-grade classrooms.

Each program exemplifies Big Shoulders Fund’s multi-faceted approach to academic programming by providing high-quality curricular materials and resources to schools, offering comprehensive professional development to teachers and administrators, and helping establish structures to sustain improvements within schools and across the network.

Erikson Early Math Collaborative (Pre-K-2nd) – initiated in 2012
In partnership with Erikson Institute — the nation’s premier graduate school for child development – Big Shoulders early childhood teachers, teacher aides, and school administrators learn foundational and developmentally appropriate mathematical knowledge and concepts through the Big Ideas curriculum. This work touches over forty teachers each year. Most recently, the Erikson Early Math Collaborative extended its supports to identify and prepare teacher leaders to facilitate professional development workshops in their own right.

Everyday Math Initiative (Pre-K-6th) – initiated in 2011
In partnership with the Center for Elementary Math and Science Education (CEMSE) at the University of Chicago, Big Shoulders embarked on its first attempt to affect change for the whole school. All participating schools adopt the internationally used, research-based curriculum, Everyday Mathematics. The initiative offers support to schools at all levels – teachers, teacher leaders, administrators, and technology integration specialists – providing professional training, individualized coaching, school-based leadership team development, and experiential opportunities across schools. Additionally, its success led to the creation of the Math Instructional Coach position at Big Shoulders.

BSF-UIC Middle School / High School Math (6th-High School) – initiated in 2015
Big Shoulders partnered with the Learning Sciences Research Institute at the University of Illinois-Chicago to extend the successes of the Everyday Math Initiative from the elementary to the secondary level. Anchor the work to the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics and the College Readiness Standards, teachers and administrators learn how to integrate research-based best practices and highly effective strategies – math talks, MARS Tasks, and formative assessment lessons – to enhance their existing curricula.

In addition to the comprehensive offerings, Big Shoulders is also committed to ensuring schools have access to quality supplemental materials that further deepen the ongoing work in schools. In partnership with MIND Research, four Big Shoulders Fund schools piloted ST Math, a game-based instructional software designed to boost math comprehension and proficiency through visual learning.

Marrying the forces of the overarching initiative and efficacy of rigorous supplemental resources has led to ever-rising test scores and increased teacher capacity. For instance, current eighth graders have moved from performing just below the 50th percentile in third grade to nearly the 70th percentile today. Today, more and more schools are eager to join the movement toward improving math instruction across the Big Shoulders Fund network, and we are thrilled to see it flourish!

For more information, contact Rebecca Lindsay-Ryan.

Rebecca Lindsay-Ryan
Chief Schools Officer
312.751.3851  ✶

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