PARKERSBURG - As West Virginia's mathematics standards for schools evolve, area educators are learning new ways of teaching math in the classroom.
In 2010, the West Virginia Department of Education approved Common Core State Standards for math and English, a nationwide initiative to present clear academic standards for students in all states.
West Virginia is one of 46 states working to phase in the standards.
Tammy McKnight, math and science curriculum coordinator for Wood County Schools, said the new standards come with adjustments for teachers, students and parents.
"I think the focus now is more on learning rather than on teaching," she said. "In traditional math instruction, we expected the students to follow one procedure, one practice, to arrive at one answer. Now it's about problem solving, collaboration and arriving at an answer that makes sense to them."
"I think it's a positive shift," said Greg Merritt, an instructional coach for elementary mathematics for Wood County Schools, who helped facilitate a mathematics training session Friday for fourth- and fifth-grade teachers.
"Traditional math instruction has been very procedurally based. Children are shown how to solve a math problem and then they solve it," he said. "Now they are asked how to approach a problem, how they might solve it. They are asked to tell how they solved the problem."
Several years ago Wood County Schools adopted an Everyday Math curriculum, which focuses on presenting mathematics in real-world context, such as shopping at a grocery store or traveling on a family vacation.
McKnight said the district still uses Everyday Math, but the curriculum is being adapted to better fit with the new standards.
"We say 'here is a problem we have.' It might be a real-world problem that exists in the school or community," McKnight said. "It's a way the kids can use those skills we are teaching and apply them to things they see in their world. Now, they are no longer working on activities that don't have a connection to what they are trying to learn."
But this new approach to math means teachers are having to re-learn how to bring information to their students.
"We are going to be in a transition period for a few years," McKnight said. "We are doing to do whatever we can to make sure this makes sense for the teachers and especially for the students."
Merritt said more training opportunities, both within and outside of Wood County Schools, will be made available to teachers throughout the year. This year the Common Core Standards have been implemented for kindergarten, first-, fourth-, fifth- and ninth-grades, but next year all grades will be using the standards.
"It is not going to be easy to change how they've always taught math," Merritt said. "However, Wood County teachers are excellent and they will do whatever it takes to better serve these children."