First Year with Bridges in an Independent School

Blog guest, Alison Fox Mazzola, is a Math Specialist leading her school through the first year of Bridges at St. Matthew's Episcopal Day School in San Mateo, California. Here she reflects on first year implementation in an independent setting. [Photos are from her school.]

Question: How did you first introduce Bridges?

Alison: Our journey began last year. I taught one Bridges lesson per class per week as we explored how the program fit with our students and how teachers responded to it. We  measured its academic rigor and its match with our collective math philosophy. I was amazed at the power of the program. Student engagement ran high as they developed concepts and skills using manipulatives and visual models.

Question: How did you involve teachers?

Alison: We planned for Bridges professional development in grade bands K-2 and 3-5. During the 3-day workshops, teachers immersed themselves in Bridges and learned more about how the program works.

By the end of the summer, most teachers were hooked. They could see the power of the program. All were committed to trying Bridges in its entirety for a year.

Question: How did you educate parents about Bridges?

As the new school year began, it was time for teachers to share their enthusiasm with parents and other family members. We began with a parent information night within the first few weeks of school. Parents heard a presentation about current research in math education and tried out a number of the Bridges activities.

Teachers strengthened the math sections of their websites with information about the new program. They provide weekly updates about the curriculum. [Find Support for Parents here.] The walls of our classrooms showcase math with Number Corner and the hallways contain some of the beautiful quilts and story problems created in the lower grades, complete with talking bubbles sharing math thinking and reasoning. Home Connections engage parents in math activities with their children each week, helping them to see the power of the program.

We also invited Stanford Professor, Keith Devlin, to speak to us about teaching mathematics in the 21st century. His words echo our own messages about the need to be creative, communicate clearly, and think deeply about math.

Our journey continues this Spring with a family math night. We would love to hear from others about things you have done to interact with families as you continue to promote math thinking and learning both inside and outside the classroom. What school-wide family math activities have worked well for you? Have you built bridges (grade 3), flown airplanes (grade 4), or built and tested spinning tops (grade 5)? We'd love to hear your stories!

Our goal is to make math at our school "loud" this year. We want parents and students to be engaged in doing math and ENJOYING math together.