It was a lot of work learning how to bar model, it was hard giving assessments that require students to apply math processes to novel problems, instead of the sort of problems we've practiced in class, and it was hard watching students who used to do well in math suddenly feel stuck and frustrated.
I'm looking forward to a better year this time around. The kids will have had the program last year in third grade, which isn't a very long time, but I have faith in those teachers. I know they went back and filled in the gaps where necessary. It will probably always be a challenging program, but I'm sure it will get better!
And when I'm having my doubts, and feeling frustrated that we're just asking too much of these kids, way more than we had to learn at their age, when their parents are unable to spend as much time helping due to work or extracurricular overload, I'll remind myself of one of the success stories from last year. One of my students, "Johnny," was VERY bright. His vocabulary was extremely high for a fourth grader, he loved to read, and his writing was sophisticated and a pleasure to read. But he didn't know his math facts, he didn't implement procedures well, and although he was good-natured about it, he would be the first to tell you math was not his subject. His mom was the second. She understood well that her son has his strengths and his weaknesses, and she attended the math nights in order to get a better handle of this new math program.
Well, by the third trimester, she was happy with the improvement she was seeing in Johnny's math work. He was studying and learning his facts, and he was beginning to see the way bar models could be used to get a grip on what a math problem was presenting and asking. She said that SHE was seeing it much better than she ever had. This parent was sold. It was a relief to get some good feedback on a new, scary program like Math in Focus. I figure if I can get one parent on board the first year, I can at least triple that this year!