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New Math Books Add to Learning Experience

New math materials for grades three and four are to be purchased for the first time since the late 1990s. Educators believe the books may improve performance on the Connecticut Mastery Test.

Children in the town’s third- and fourth-grade classrooms will study math using new textbooks next fall, a change school officials hope will better prepare them for the Connecticut Mastery Test.

The school district plans to purchase 880 copies of the 2012 edition of Pearson’s Investigations in Number, Data and Space, a book that school officials say best lines up with recently updated state and national math standards.

The recently approved spending $67,219 for the textbooks, corresponding activity books, teacher manuals and 20 “Smartboard kits,” which will allow teachers to supplement lessons with activities on interactive white boards. Funding will come from the 2010-11 operating budget.

Scott Detrick, assistant superintendent for instruction, said the purchase “has been a long time coming. We have been looking at third- and fourth-grade math for about two years,” he said.

While Cheshire scores above the state average in math on the CMT, Stephen Mrowka, chairman of the school board's curriculum committee, said at a recent meeting that student performance in grades three and four has been stagnant for the last five years.

Meanwhile, Cheshire’s standing within its Educational Reference Group (ERG) has decreased, Mrowka said. The state Department of Education groups school districts into ERGs based on socioeconomic similarities.

The district hasn’t purchased new math materials since the late 1990s, and instead has kept up with curriculum changes by using a hodgepodge of supplementary materials from different publishers. Teachers had asked for a single resource that would line up with what children are expected to know for the CMT.

Detrick said a committee which included teachers looked at several alternatives before choosing Investigations, which he said emphasizes problem-solving and critical thinking skills. It also has an online component where parents can access resources from their home computer. The series is described as “an inquiry-based approach to teaching mathematics through engaging activities, discussion and problem-solving,” according to the Pearson Web site.

The school district is targeting third and fourth grades because those had the greatest need, Detrick said. He said if funding became available he would like to see books purchased for grade two and eventually for grades one and five.

Detrick said officials expect the materials to arrive before summer so teachers will have access to the manuals before the start of next school year. Teacher training will take place in June and August.

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