Districts with experience using standards-based middle school mathematics curricula share their implementation stories.


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Math Thematics

North Saint Paul - Maplewood School District

The North St. Paul - Maplewood school district includes several suburbs of St. Paul, MN. The district has about 900 students at each grade level. Most students in this school district come from middle and moderate income families with about 17% of students receiving either free or reduced price lunches. Not too long ago the school district had relatively few students from minority groups, but in recent years there has been an increase and now the school district has about 9% minority students. This system has three middle schools, one of which did not opened until 1996. These middle schools include grades 6 through 8.

Field Testing in 7th Grade

During the 1994-95 academic year, three 7th grade mathematics teachers at one the schools, John Glenn Middle School, took part in field testing for Math Thematics. At that time, the curricula was known as Six Through Eight Mathematics (STEM). The materials used in 7th grade were later revised and became Book 2 of the Math Thematics series. The materials were only in preliminary form, but the teachers felt the materials were a definite improvement over previous curricula and so the teachers continued using them after the 1994-95 academic year. When the third middle school opened in 1996, one of the teachers using the field test materials transferred to the new school and taught there using the field test materials.

Implementation in 1998

In the fall of 1998, the district decided to implement Math Thematics in all three middle schools for grades 6, 7, and 8. Thus, the district decided to change to Math Thematics all at once as opposed to converting one grade level at a time. Since 1998, Books 1, 2, and 3 have been used in grades 6, 7, and 8. The Math Thematics materials are written to teach mathematics to all students and there is very little need for remedial curricula. Thus only a very few special education students are using less demanding materials. There is some tracking for accelerated students, but in 6th and 7th grades the tracking uses the Math Thematics curricula. About 10% of 6th grade students are accelerated and use Book 2 instead of the usual Book 1. A similar percentage of students use Book 3 of Math Thematics in grade 7. Then a similar percentage in grade 8 take an integrated high school level mathematics course. The integrated mathematics course uses the ARISE materials. The next table shows the implementation timeline and the above mentioned tracking.

Table 1
Math Thematics Implementation Timeline
for Middle Schools in North St. Paul - Maplewood

1994-98 1998-Now
6th Grade Most students use Book 1 of Math Thematics.
Some advanced students use Book 2.
7th Grade A few teachers use Math Thematics field test materials. Most students use Book 2 of Math Thematics.
Some advanced students use Book 3.
8th Grade Most students use Book 3 of Math Thematics.
Some advanced students study the first year
of an integrate high school mathematics curriculum (ARISE).

Teacher Support

The district middle school mathematics teachers were given a good deal of support during the 1998-99 implementation year. The teachers received 130 hours of training. The summer before the district wide adoption, teachers were given 80 hours of training during a two week introduction to the new materials. These 80 hours got teachers started on the right track and were followed by 50 hours during the academic year. For each teacher, these 50 hours were broken down into 20 hours of close mentoring by a teacher familiar with the materials and then 30 hours of more general follow up support. Teacher support was definitely crucial to making the transition to the new materials relatively smooth.


Parental Role in Selection of Math Thematics

The North St. Paul - Maplewood School District had real parental involvement in the selection of curricula and hence parents played a role of the selection of Math Thematics. The school district had an initial selection process with parents as well as teachers involved. After the initial selection of Math Thematics, then parents also had further involvement since the selection had to be approved by a citizens committee appointed by the school board. Thus, parents were able to give input and receive information concerning new materials during all stages of the decision to use Math Thematics. This parental involvement was clearly very helpful in both informing parents about the new materials and in gaining their support for the new curricula.


Continuing Programs to Inform Parents:
An Innovative Approach to Parent Night

The school system set up an informational meeting with parents in the spring before district wide implementation. In addition, each fall a meeting is held in late September or early October to keep parents informed. This fall meeting is a special workshop which is done in an innovative fashion. Both kids and parents are invited to the workshop and some activities from the materials are covered. The activities are covered with a group learning format. The activities are lessons which the kids have already covered in class and thus the kids help their parents go through the materials. This approach has been a real success. The parents get to see some of the materials first hand and also get a fast and direct view of some things their own kids have already learned and are able to explain to their parents. A side benefit to this approach is that the parents are introduced to the power and effectiveness of group learning. They quickly find that the materials contain real mathematical content and that group learning can be real learning.

Measuring Success

Data below just refers to John Glenn Middle School which was the middle school where there was 7th grade field testing of Math Thematics in 1994-95 and where teachers continued using the field test materials. The following two tables give results for the Iowa Basic Skills Test (ITBS). In each case the students were tested in the fall as 6th graders and then also two years later in the fall as 8th graders. About 2/3 of the students used the Math Thematics field test materials in 7th grade and about 1/3 took an accelerated math course in 7th grade using different materials. The increase in ITBS performance over the two year period is clearly very substantial.


Table 2
Iowa Test of Basic Skills at John Glenn Middle School
Students tested in 6th grade in Fall 94 and then in 8th grade in Fall 96

John Glenn Middle School
National Percentiles 6th Grade Fall 94 8th Grade Fall 96
1st - 25th 20% 9%
26th - 50th 33% 17%
51st - 75th 24% 31%
76th - 99th 23% 42%


Table 3
Iowa Test of Basic Skills at John Glenn Middle School
Students tested in 6th grade in Fall 95 and then in 8th grade in Fall 97

John Glenn Middle School
National Percentiles 6th Grade Fall 95 8th Grade Fall 97
1st - 25th 15% 7%
26th - 50th 25% 14%
51st - 75th 27% 32%
76th - 99th 33% 47%

The following table shows how students fared on the 2003 Basic Skill Test administered by the state of Minnesota.

Table 4
North St Paul-Maplewood District - February 2003
Basic Skills Test Average Scale Score: Grade 8 - Math Performance - All Students

Average Scale Score Number Tested
STATE 629.7 64865

Lessons Learned

    • There is a definite need for teacher support when the materials are being introduced. This need is probably best given both before and during the year of implementation. The two weeks of summer training before classes got teachers started, but more teacher support during the year was also of real value.
    • It is helpful to inform parents during the selection process and to keep parents informed on a yearly basis. The innovative parent night where both kids and parents work together in going over some of the activities can introduce parents to the materials and at the same time introduce them to the effectiveness of group learning.
    • It is certainly possible to implement all three of 6th , 7th, and 8th grades at the same time. In the case of this particular school district, the fact that some teachers had been using the materials for a few years before general implementation was of help in smoothing out the transition.

Acknowledgement: The Showme Center is indebted to Judy Rohde of the North St. Paul - Maplewood School District for information used in the above implementation story. She is a teacher at John Glenn Middle School and took part in the original field testing of the 7th grade materials.