Why Early Math Matters More Now Than Ever

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From an early age, children learn math skills from home and school through everyday activities and routines such as brushing teeth, eating, and playing. Yet math is a core area of curriculum that many young learners struggle to master. The reasons vary, but we know that math is an important part of learning for children in the early years because it provides vital life skills.

Decline of Math Scores 

There has been a lot of research conducted to learn how students have been affected by the pandemic. The New York Times reported in October 2022 that math scores show the steepest declines ever recorded on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, the nation’s report card. The results show that 41 states saw declines in math scores with just 36% of fourth graders demonstrating proficiency in math.

We know that in order to grow, students need to master elementary math skills and concepts—these are fundamentally critical to their success in middle and high school and beyond. 

New Course Offers Math Teaching Methods K-5

Arizona Virtual Teacher Institute (AZVTI) has created a new course, Math Teaching Methods K-5. The interactive course for elementary teachers shares practical strategies for building math fluency while creating a fun and hands-on math classroom.

Caree Heidenreich, Next Gen Learning Coordinator for ASU Preparatory Academy, said the professional development course was created “to support teachers in our current educational climate of learning and social loss.”

Math Fluency and Number Sense

“When people hear the phrase ‘math fluency,’ they probably picture math facts, times tables, and maybe even timed tests with simple addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division problems,” said Heidenreich. “But math fluency is a lot more than that. If you think about what it means to be fluent in another language, it means you know not just the basic definitions of words, but you also know how to use those words in different contexts. You understand what words to use in different situations. Math fluency is like that. If you are fluent in math, you know the why behind the rule and you understand how all the rules fit into the bigger picture of math.”

Becoming fluent in math means developing a sense for numbers and how they work together. Students who have number sense and math fluency are able to be flexible in their thinking and are able to solve never-before-seen problems by confidently applying what they’ve learned in the past.

Increasing Growth Mindsets

“Too many people in our society claim they just ‘aren’t good at math’ and as educators, we have the power to foster positive mindsets around math and help students see they can succeed, especially in math,” said Heidenreich. We don’t hear nearly as much negative self-talk when it comes to reading or writing, though everyone has strengths and needs in those areas of education as well. Often, it comes down to meeting students where they are, building their confidence about what they are already able to do, and getting them to push their thinking to the next level.”

Interested in learning more about Math Teaching Methods K-5?

In addition to the Impact of Math Fluency, Number Sense, and Growth Mindset, the modules covered in Math Teaching Methods include Mathematical Progression Models and Conceptual Understanding, Bringing Math to Life in the Classroom, and Planning for Mathematical Impact. Arizona teachers can register and participate in the course for free and earn professional development credit. 


[course link] https://training.asuprepdigital.org/product/math-teaching-methods/

For more information on other available teacher trainings, click here or contact Alison Hernandez, Director of Professional Development, at anhernandez@asu.edu. 

Supporting Struggling Readers Through the Science of Reading

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Reading is one of the most fundamental ingredients to life. It provides a window to the world and opens doors. Reading gets your mind working across different areas—stimulates imagination, recounts memories, and uses analytical abilities. Frederick Douglass said, “Once you learn to read, you will be forever free.”

Yet there are many people who struggle to become proficient readers.  

Literacy Facts 

One in five U.S. adults (21 percent) are illiterate. This translates into 43 million U.S. adults who possess low literacy skills, meaning they do not possess the skills necessary to complete tasks that require comparing and contrasting, paraphrasing, or making low-level inferences.    

In 2019, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, 34 percent of 4th-grade students read below the Average National Assessment of Educational Progress basic reading level.

Have you ever wondered why some children have difficulty learning to read and question why they struggle?  

The Science Behind Reading 

The term “science of reading” refers to the research cognitive scientists and reading experts have conducted for more than 20 years on how we learn to read. This new understanding has helped debunk older methods of reading instruction that were based on tradition and observation, not evidence.

Developed by Arizona Virtual Teacher Institute, the “Science of Reading: Supporting Struggling Readers” is a series that teaches participants how the brain learns to read and what instructional steps are needed to build a “reading” brain.

“One question we get over and over again is, what do I do with students who are reading five levels below the grade level I’m teaching at?” said Heide Morton, Lead Training Specialist at ASU Prep Digital. “Reading is embedded in all aspects of content—whether teaching math or science—we’re all reading teachers.”

In this teacher training series, participants will first be immersed in how the brain works and how it learns to read. There are seven Science of Reading principles, and the first principle is: Reading is not natural; it must be taught. Scarborough’s Reading Rope, which includes word recognition and language comprehension, will also be covered. This professional development session is free for Arizona teachers.

Morton, an educator for 17 years, said this series is especially beneficial for 3rd-8th grade educators, but can be for higher grades as well. “This age in particular is where we see a noticeable gap between proficient and struggling readers.”

Participants will discover why some children have difficulties learning to read and the training then moves into diagnostics and assessments. The last portion of the series is resources and proven strategies to help struggling readers before, during and after reading.

“Science-based reading instruction reduces the need for intervention and allows children to move forward as capable and confident learners,” said Morton. “We have a shared responsibility to help students build their reading skills. It’s all hands on deck. We need to work together.”


National Center for Education Statistics
Adult Literacy in the United States

If you’re interested in bringing ASU Prep Digital Science of Reading: Supporting Struggling Readers teacher training to your school or district, please visit asuprepdigital.org/training.   

8K Local Educators Attend ASU Prep Digital Teacher Institute

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*This story was originally published on Daily Independent | Your Valley*

As the nation approaches the 1-year mark of the global COVID-19 pandemic few groups have been more affected by the pandemic than public school teachers.

Last spring, when classes suddenly went remote and playgrounds across the nation went quiet, ASU Prep Digital gathered a group of education leaders together to understand how best to support teachers navigating this uncertain future, according to a press release.

From this meeting, the Arizona Virtual Teacher Institute was born, officials there say.

The free training offered through AZVTI was designed to help Arizona teachers not only survive but thrive in adopting new digital, blended, hybrid, and tech-rich instructional practices. The training is provided at no cost to schools or teachers through the generous investment of the Arizona Department of Education, the Governor’s Office, Helios Education Foundation, and Arizona State University.

During the two weeks of Arizona’s spring break, March 9-11 and March 16-18, AZVTI will be conducting two professional development boot camps for educators focused on blended learning models and educational technology.

Additional boot camps will be available during Summer 2021 and training continue to be available to all interested teachers at the times that work best for them.

Over the last year nearly 8,000 Arizona teachers have participated in the institute, representing 367 districts and more than 1,000 schools across the state. AZVTI offers 400 separate pieces of training aimed at not only bridging the divide created by remote learning but empowering teachers with tools that will have application long beyond the pandemic.
“Arizona is home to over 47,000 public school teachers and AZVTI has already touched 8,000 of them,” said Julie Young, managing director of ASU Prep and ASU Prep Digital. “We’ve interfaced with nearly half of the state’s public schools and our mission is to ensure that every single teacher in need of resources has free access to them.”
Visit our training homepage for more information and to register for sessions.