Math Departments Unite

As neighboring schools in South Los Angeles, it made sense to Principal Joy May-Harris of Alliance Virgil Roberts Leadership Academy (Alliance Roberts) and Principal Andrew Vega of Alliance Renee & Meyer Luskin Academy High School (Alliance Luskin) to focus on comprehensive math curricula, rather than isolating a scholar’s experience between the grade levels.

The school leaders called on Dr. Nick Satyal, a National Board Certified math teacher and former Home Office math coach, to become Assistant Principal of both schools in order to lead the unification process. Together with support from Instructional Superintendents Ryan Bennett and Melissa Chew, the trio reset lead measures for math coaching. “A lot of our work focused on unifying the practices from when students walk into Alliance to when they graduate. We wanted to provide a very rigorous, consistent math experience that focused on problem-solving and not just scoring well on a standardized test,” explained Dr. Satyal.

The main concepts for coaching now include

  1. Key Points
  2. Scholar Comprehension
  3. Mathematical Proficiency

Key Points

Teachers in grades 6 - 12 are coached to stamp the “key point” of each classroom task and lesson cycle so scholars clearly understand the specific goal of the class. For example, lessons are no longer categorized generally such as “solve the quadratic equation,” but rather specifically “solve the quadratic equation by factoring using the diamond method.”

Scholar Comprehension

Christopher Estrada, a math teacher at Alliance Luskin and 2019 Alliance Teacher of the Year finalist, is the instructional lead for high school math. He leads bi-weekly data meetings for the department to support measuring scholar comprehension. Mr. Estrada also provides thoughtful feedback to his colleagues regarding Alliance’s instructional cycle initiative, which ensures lessons are accessible to all scholars.

Mathematical Proficiency

In regards to mathematical proficiency, Dr. Satyal shared the importance of “understanding the big picture. Consider, from an asset-based standpoint, what students are able to do and how they engage in mathematics. It is vital for everyone in the department, including principals, to focus on growth, and what students know in order to avoid deficit thinking and constant performance orientation – which can translate to anxiety for teachers and students.” In that vein, to create extended opportunities for an experiential, engaging, and enjoyable relationship with math, the schools have started holding an annual Math Festival in partnership with California Math Council, and Family Math Night.

The Math Festival provides middle school scholars with hands-on activities using tools like balance beams, mirrors, cubes, and tiles to better understand concepts like geometry, volume, and functions. Family Math Night is an evening of math open to all where scholars and their families practice solving math problems together with their teachers.

If you are interested in learning more about these coaching concepts, please reach out.