One of the challenging but rewarding aspects of my role as Director of Curriculum and Instruction is making sure that Morgan Park Academy students and teachers have the educational tools and resources they need for 21st-century teaching and learning.

This fall, we have been excited to debut two major improvements that have boosted our math curriculum for grades 3-12. The numbers at the core of mathematics haven’t changed, but the tools and approaches our teachers employ to convey this often-vexing subject are ever evolving.

The principals, teachers, curriculum leaders, and I dedicated a lengthy review last year to our textbook needs for math in grades 3-8. In analyzing several options, we found an amazing package from educational industry leader McGraw-Hill that aligned well with MPA’s approach to teaching and learning. It offers digital accessibility to the textbook and materials, allows teachers to customize content, and provides supplemental tutorials and resources online.

(Eager to maintain flexibility where necessary, we determined that a different educational package, Pearson’s onRamp to Algebra, was the best fit for one of our eighth-grade math classes, Foundations of Algebra.)

Our other major addition in math classes is a McGraw-Hill product called ALEKS, an excellent tool that helps our teachers differentiate instruction for individual students.

ALEKS is a web-based adaptive learning system that provides diagnostic questions to determine what topics the students have mastered and where they need additional support. It provides reports and data for the teachers showing how long the students worked on a topic, how many questions were correct/incorrect, and an overall snapshot of each student’s progress.

This resource has already made an impact in grades 3-8 and select Upper School classes. It helps our teachers keep advanced students challenged and more quickly highlight areas where help is needed.

I’m already hearing great stories. Students who never thought of themselves as mathematicians are engaging with the material in a different way. Last week, a teacher in Lower School was telling me about a student who had already finished the whole module for math this year — and it has been easy to keep her engaged by working ahead into next year’s lessons.

Teachers are thrilled with the number of resources available at their fingertips, while students, of course, tell me that they love that the web-based material means they don’t have to lug heavy textbooks home every night.

If you would like to learn more about these programs, the official websites for McGraw-Hill and ALEKS have a wealth of information.

Or just ask your child to show you the new products they are using; you will not be disappointed!

By Jennifer Schmidt

Mrs. Schmidt is our Director of Curriculum and Instruction.