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Math Solutions Case Study: Building a Partnership for Success

District Profile

  • A district of 11,000 students and approximately 900 teachers

Darlington, South Carolina

Math Solutions began its professional development work in Darlington County School District—a district of 11,000 students and approximately 900 teachers—to address a mandate for teacher training funded by Title II, Part A (NCLB) and educational lottery monies. Martha Taylor, the district’s Mathematics Coordinator, wanted to energize her administrators to make changes to math instruction, so she worked with a Math Solutions Educational Specialist to present a special one-day session. The session included a demonstration lesson with students from a school in the district, which provided a lively basis for a post-lesson discussion of effective mathematics teaching strategies. Martha reported that the powerful lesson “really turned them around” and stimulated their interest in sending teachers to the summer five-day course she was planning.

Knowing that one-day sessions are also a way to motivate teachers to take a summer course, Martha then involved nearly 200 teachers in nine sessions during the spring of 2003. The series of sessions included introductory sessions and sessions on using manipulatives in the mathematics classroom. The district equipped each teacher with sets of manipulative materials and each school with sets of videotapes on assessment. (Both are available from Math Solutions.)

To further support teachers with their post-inservice learning, the district purchased collections of resource books, including Good Questions for Math Teaching: Why Ask Them and What to Ask, K–6; About Teaching Mathematics: A K–8 Resource, Second Edition; and So You Have to Teach Math? Sound Advice for K–6 Teachers. Martha believed these books successfully addressed her teachers’ needs.

The next phase of the partnership focused on building district capacity. During the summer of 2003, Math Solutions presented a five-day course to 200 Darlington County School District educators, including teachers, principals, and district curriculum coordinators.

“Math Solutions is among the best professional training I have received in all my years in education. Its impact is evident in students’ more positive attitudes toward mathematics and in rising test scores.”

Allison Baker, Principal
Brockington Elementary Magnet School

The impact of the initiative was immediately recognized. Principals reported that many teachers opened the 2003–2004 school year using strategies and lessons they had learned in the summer course as early as the first week of school! Martha commented that other changes are occurring, including a better understanding and implementation of the state mathematics standards (South Carolina Math Curriculum Standards) and more hands–on learning and use of manipulatives in the mathematics class.

She also shared that student scores showed greater gains than other district scores across the state. In fact, Darlington’s lowest-performing schools were showing the most significant gains-with a 3% upward shift of “below basic” scores to the higher “basic” level.

Also of note were grade 4 scores, which indicated a 4.3% increase in the percentage of students performing in the “proficient” category (one level above “basic”). To date, more than 500 Darlington teachers have participated in Math Solutions inservice, most attending more than one course or session. To extend the summer inservice experience, Math Solutions presented more than 10 all-day sessions on standards-based teaching to district teachers in spring 2004. In addition, nearly 300 teachers attended About Teaching Mathematics I and About Teaching Mathematics II during summer 2004. All-day teacher sessions continued in the spring and summer of 2005. “This is hard work for everyone involved,” Martha said, “but it’s worth the payoff.”