Everybody is a math person

Published in the Argus Observer January 20, 2015 and the Math Education SmartBrief January 22, 2015.

Ontario School District math coach, Steve Wyborney believes everyone has the ability to be a math person.

“We used to hear it in terms of, well, these students are math people and these students aren’t math people,” Wyborney said. “But sometimes there’s just not as much exposure to math.”

The concept is that anyone can be good at math if they put their minds to it, and Wyborney’s theory is that success in learning math is all about communication of fundamental concepts.  His position, as district math coach, is new as of this year and his goal is to streamline the teaching of mathematics to create success at graduation and beyond.

“We want to get our kids up to speed early so they can be successful,” Wyborney said.

The way he plans to accomplish that goal is to connect math teachers at all grade levels through digital platforms, as well as through one-on-one and group meetings. He’s begun to implement these strategies in the classrooms, which he often frequents.

“I go into the classrooms and teach the class with the teacher,” Wyborney explained. “When I do this, I learn something new every time.”

Wyborney has visited math classes at every level of education within the district and has noticed that the concepts taught in second grade math, for instance, are imperative to understanding what is going on with sixth graders in their math classes.

“Teachers need to know what’s going on vertically, through all the grades,” Wyborney said. “They also need to know what’s going on horizontally, what other teachers in their grade are teaching.”

Wyborney said once teachers connect on different concepts, they can see how what they are teaching will be built upon in the coming years.

“There are third grade smarter balanced test questions that use the same concepts as SAT questions,” Wyborney explained.

If teachers are able to instill the foundational math concepts needed to pass SAT tests in the third grade, students will have had more practice and will be more successful. The same is true, if the concepts being taught in the third grade are the same across the board. In order to accomplish that, Wyborney has implemented the use of instant messaging throughout the elementary schools to help teachers share their knowledge. He’s also started using a video drive, where he can place professional development tools for easy access.

Through these types of digital tools, math teachers district wide have access to a platform where they can share their own expertise and receive the same tools for success in education. With this same digital platform, they also have the ability to track each student’s math abilities, and Wyborney’s vision doesn’t stop there.

“I have a dream where we know where every one of our kids are, mathematically, in the whole district,” Wyborney said.

Wyborney said he’s proud of the district for being open to the new position.

“I don’t know of many districts that have a district math coach,” Wyborney explained. “It’s not common.”

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