Lisa Hatamoto, Parent CPM Advocate, Founder of Inspiring Student Success
Last February, I had the opportunity to speak with Elizabeth Coyner, Executive Director of CPM, at the CPM National Conference. I was grateful for the chance to ask her some questions, because I had some concerns about what I saw happening in the classroom as a parent aide.
Specifically, I had noticed that students were not finishing all the math problems in class. I did not understand how the curriculum could possibly be working if the students could not even make it through the content.
“If they get through the key problems, that’s good enough,” Elizabeth responded.
As the conversation went on, Elizabeth remarked that the real intention of the program is to teach children to use multiple strategies to solve math problems. Speed is not valued as greatly as the ability to persevere and try different things. This, she said, would lead them to long-term success in math and more importantly, in life.
Monster in the Woods
As I have come to adopt Elizabeth’s belief in multiple strategies, I have created an analogy that serves me well. Imagine that you and your friends (aka a study team) are out in the woods and a giant, fire-breathing monster appears (aka a challenging math problem). You need to fight the monster in order to survive.
First, you pull out your sword and try to hack it. That does not work, so your friend pulls out her bow and arrow and starts shooting at the monster. That does not work, either, so finally a third comrade cuts down a tree, which falls on the weakened monster and kills it. Problem solved, after three different strategies have chipped away at the monster.
Ultimately, we are working to improve dexterity and resilience in our students. This is what CPM has been teaching all along – and I am amazed to find that there is still more to learn after all these years! Turns out, we could all use a few more tools in our toolkit.