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Meet Kay Neuse, CISD’s Director of Mathematics

October 18, 2010

“It’s not what you teach, but how you teach it.  Know your audience and adjust accordingly,” says Kay Neuse, CISD Director of Mathematics.  She’s bringing dynamic  teaching methods to our school by changing the way we think about mathematics.  She wants it to be fun and interesting through organically learning about math.

Changing the way math is taught
Math isn’t a race.  Neuse wants math to be about depth, exploration, and creativity by changing the way we teach math.  She wants students to pull a problem apart, play with the pieces, and understand what it all means before coming up with a solution.  Classes are getting away from the teacher doing a math problem on the board and then the students doing the same problem.  Rather, they are teaching a skill and how to apply it.  Neuse feels that students should be taught problem solving strategies to use as resources with fewer teacher directed examples.  “Instead of getting kids to think outside the box, don’t put the box on them,” says Neuse.

A great analogy is plumbing.  A plumber walks into a house with no clue what the problem might be.  He shows up with lots of tools, even though he doesn’t know which ones he’ll need to use.  After assessing the situation, he then selects the tools needed to fix the problems.  Math should be the same way.  Give students lots of tools and teach them how to figure out which ones they need given the problem.

This philosophy of teaching is in line with both state and national curriculum guidelines, as well as The National Council of Mathematics Teachers.  Neuse suggests checking out their website, particularly the position papers on gifted math.

About Kay Neuse

-Bachelors of Arts in Elementary Education

-Bachelors of Science in Secondary Math Education

-Masters in Industrial and Organizational Psychology

-Certified K-12

-Over 20 years of service in public education

Elementary Math
Investigations is a curriculum written from best practices based on philosophy, inquiry, and guided discovery.  It’s not new mathematics, rather the approach is just different.  The model is about finding the meaning of math while pushing deeper, not just manipulating symbols without any meaning or understanding.

Neuse shared several real examples with me, and I must say they were a lot more fun and educational than I remember elementary math to be.  Through probing questions, she helped me discover the surface size of a cylinder.  Then, she showed me the formula.  It all made so much more sense because I had to logically work through it. Instead of just memorizing an arbitrary formula, I understood where it came from.

Middle School Math
The middle school math curriculum was the first to be re-vamped.  It’s based on individual needs and teaching what’s needed, not just what is slated for that semester/grade.  Automatically reviewing what was taught last year is out.  The program is about assessing where students are and identifying individual needs, then teaching to them.  It’s a big philosophy shift, but is the right one for students.

A new course is being introduced, called Math Science Investigations.  It’s for 6th – 8th grade and is pure fun (no TEKS).  It uses the inquiry model, much like the television show CSI. They’ll have guest speakers, learn about personal finance, and even play with the stock market.  MSI also previews high school math within the academies – STEM, Public Service, and EMAC. The goal of the class is to peak student interest in math by making it fun.

High School Math
Changes in Algebra 1 will be the focus at the high school this year.  Moving away from teacher directed lessons to inquiry based, student centered lessons will be the direction this year.

GT Math
Neuse dives right in and says that GT math will get better.  She’s working on more training with classroom teachers and Todd Kettler (Director of Advanced Academics) to better meet needs of truly gifted math kids.  The goal is to challenge GT math students at grade level with more depth.  We’ll start to see deeper content, rather than racing through volumes of material.  A change like this can be uncomfortable, but it is also exciting.

Kay Neuse, CISD Director of Mathematics

Technology
Through Club 21, CISD teachers were interviewed and selected to receive technology and training for use in their classrooms.  Mathematics teachers are using everything from iPod Touchs, Smart Boards, student response Systems, netbooks and applications such as GoogleDocs and Ustream to change instruction and increase student engagement in the classroom.

Some teachers are using WolfRamAlpha.com as a teaching tool.  It’s a website that allows the user to type in an equation.  It lists the steps and solves it.  My initial thought? That’s cheating!  Neuse’s idea?  Have students use it to do their homework.  Students take a screen capture, make a voice over of the steps, and send in the electronic file of their homework.  They get to have fun explaining how to do a math equation!

Enrichment
Math Olympiad was Neuse’s choice for enrichment.  She says it challenges kids the right way.  They have to think and use intuition to solve problems.

When asked what she brags about when it comes to our math program, Neuse says that our average student is so far beyond neighboring students that our growth in math is exponential and we are rising to the occasion.  Kay said she is more than happy to talk with parents if they have any questions about the math program.  She’s welcomes calls at 214.496.7008 or email kneuse@coppellisd.com.

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