Northampton Public Schools Superintendent Blog

Posts Tagged ‘math

May 2013 School Highlights:

math girl.ID-10082902Bridge Street School:

1) 6×9 = 3×18

Is this equation true? What is the relationship between the two sides of the equation?

Yes, it is true. 6×9= 54 and 3×18=54

3 is half of six and 18 is 9 doubled. This creates an equivalent problem.

2) Find as many different ways as you can to make this equation true.

40×32 = _____ x _____

Possible answers: 20×64, 80×16, 2×640, 4×320, 5×256, 10×128

3) Place the following decimals in order from least to greatest.

.344, .340, .358, .285, .331, .317, .328, .366

In order they should be

.258, .317, .328, .331, .340, .344, .358, .366


Jackson Street School:

Please click on to see the work:

Jackson  Street Math

Leeds Elementary School:

The K3 classroom at Leeds is incubating chicken eggs. If they have 2 dozen eggs and a dozen is equal to 12 eggs, how many eggs would there be in 2 dozen? Answer: 24

RK Finn Ryan Road Elementary School:

“Nora takes three nuggets of gold to be weighed.  One weighs 1.18 grams, another weighs 0.765 gram, and the third weighs 1.295 grams.  What is the total weight of the gold?” (Investigation 2 Session 5 Grade 5 Investigations – adding decimals.)

This activity encourages students to figure out and make sense of adding different decimals (i.e. hundredths and thousandths) in a context that has meaning. The enrichment that Michele Andrews and MaryBeth O’Connor added involved technology. They had the students track the price of gold on They watched the price of gold rise and fall on a graph.  They chose a price to “lock in,” to decide to “sell” their gold.  As a further enrichment they invited the kids to use the gold to design a piece of jewelry and then figure out a price to sell it for.

JFK Middle School:

Please click on to see the work:

JFK  Math

Northampton High School:

Algebra 1B

Quadratics and Geometry Activity

 I want to buy a rug for my classroom. I want to rug to occupy 75% of the floor space of my room, leaving a space x feet wide on all four sides. You are going to help me decide what the dimensions of the rug should be.

1)      With a partner, measure the length and width of my room. You and your partner will need to discuss whether to measure in inches, feet, centimeters, or meters.

2)      Draw a picture to model the problem and label all relevant known and unknown quantities on the picture.

3)      Find the area of my classroom.

4)      Find out what 75% of your result from #3 is. That is the area of the rug.

5)      Write an algebraic model that represents the area of the rug as a quadratic expression involving x. Use your picture in #2 to help you.

6)      Set your expression from #5 equal to your result from #4 and solve for x.

7)      What should the dimensions of my new rug be?

 Inverse Relationships

 Name ___________________________

1)         Have your partner stand at a distance of 3 meters from you.  Use a tape measure or count 3 tiles for every meter.

2)         Stand facing your partner with your toes just touching the 3 meter mark.  Hold a centimeter ruler at arm’s length and line up the “0” end of the ruler with the top of your partner’s head.  Measure (to the nearest centimeter) the apparent height of your partner at this distance.

3)         Have your partner move 4 meters away from you.  Repeat step 2.

4)         Repeat step 2 for distances from 5 meters to 9 meters and record your results in the table below.

Distance (m)                                3           4           5           6           7           8            9

Apparent height (cm)                ____    ____     ____    ____     ____     ____

5)         GRAPH the data on separate graph paper (distance is X, height is Y)

6)         How does apparent height vary with distance?

7)         Multiply the paired values of distance and apparent height (step 4) and write the product below.

_____     _____     _____   _____    _____    _____

What do you notice?  If you can’t come up with a pattern, speak to Mr. Sass.

8)         Use your pattern in Step 7 to mathematically predict what the apparent height of your partner would be if you are 15 meters away.

9)         Test your hypothesis in the hallway.    How close were you?

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Photo: Salvatore Vuono


Everyone was on their best game for the English Language Arts MCAS this month.  For the first time since beginning to administer this assessment, there were several fifth graders who continued on the test until dismissal at3 pm.  It was evident that students were doing a lot of writing and we are encouraged by that since we have been emphasizing how to complete the open response questions.  A third grader on the way to her first test session met me in the hall and I asked her how she felt.  She smiled at me and said that her teacher told her that since she had worked really hard, she was ready to take the test.  She said that she was “kinda excited”.   It was wonderful to see her feeling prepared and not stressed.

We had two very successful math family activities.  There was a math curriculum night for parents of students in grades 3-5.  Parents had the opportunity to work on problems that students have in class and received information and guidance from MaryBeth O’Connor, BSS parent and Math teacher at Ryan Road on how the math curriculum encourages deeper math thinking.  Next year we will make it a little longer since no one was ready to leave when it was over.

Last night we had the second Family Math Fun Night for families and children in grades 3-5.  People really got into it and spent a lot of time playing the games and chatting with the teachers about math instruction at the different grade levels.  It was awesome to see ambitious third graders successfully tackling fifth grade games on fractions and decimals (and winning too).

On the April 6th professional day, Craig Murdock presented information to teachers on a computer-based math skill practice program, Assistments.  We were able to spend some time judging whether it complemented our classroom math instruction.  We decided that it was not useful for regular classroom work but could be useful for math tutorials and homework practice.


Mary Cowhey, the JSS Title I/ELL Math teacher has scheduled meetings with classroom teachers to share her expertise in the new intervention, “Math Recovery”.  Mary has been trained in this approach which similar to the reading intervention called “Reading Recovery”.   It is specific, targeted and measurable and based on assessment.  It is implemented based on a set of goals for individual students.   Mary’s work with students, using this approach as well as small group targeted instruction, has resulted in significant gains in students’ achievement.   The classroom teachers have noted this, as well as the extra math that they are receiving in Morning Math Club and in the After School Math Club in 4th grade (taught by the teachers).   This attention to math as well as our hope for improvement is one of the JSS School Improvement Plan Goals. In addition we have had Family Math Nights for grades K-5, another goal on our plan.  We recognize that a major part of our work in supporting students has to be in conjunction with their families.

The staff and faculty had their final session in the NEF-sponsored Mindfulness Practice course on Wednesday, 4/11. We began the school day with the whole school gathering in the gym for a “Movement Meditation”, a concept introduced to our school by our Grinspoon Award-winning PE teacher, Ms. Janis Totty and Ms. Janet Aalfs, of Valley Women’s Martial Arts Center.  We have Monday Morning Meditation every Monday by Ms. Agna, over the school intercom.  We have introduced parents/families to this – most recently at a talk by Ms. Florence Meleo Meyer who shared other school districts’ work in mindfulness practice.   The next stage of our NEF grant is to introduce and research-based school curriculum in this practice and for coaches to help support teachers in implementing it.  We all recognize how important it is for students and adults to have more tools for self-regulation in order to learn and teach effectively.


1) Third Grade Walk -a-Thon – Students and teachers walked an astounding 200 miles to raise money for Field Trips.
2) Spring Read-A-Thon- The goal is for students to read a combined total of 500,00 minutes.  The proceeds will go towards supporting classroom libraries.
3) Community Meeting- April 12, 2012, The theme is Perseverance and we will have a brief Tribute to slain youth Trayvon Martin.
4) Second Grade  teachers and students are working on their Book Clubs. The training for this reading initiative is through the Reading Workshop Professional Development facilitated by Jenny Bender.

RK Finn Ryan Road School:

Staff members at RK Finn Ryan Road Elementary School have recently completed work on an NEF grant, “Welcoming New People into Our Community.”  Teachers and ESPs met six times after school to share ideas and review our Responsive Classroom resources to develop tips for new staff members, for teachers welcoming new students, and for “guest teachers” (substitutes).  The group created a “Staff Picks” shelf of Responsive Classroom resources on a visible bookshelf in the staff room.  Each favorite book now has a short description of its usefulness and includes names of staff members who especially like the book.  We also put together Guest Teacher folders for each staff member.  The folders are visibly stored near the telephone in each classroom.  The folders include nametags for the students, a list of favorite Morning Meeting activities, a school map and other helpful information to acquaint substitutes with regular routines in the class and school.

The sessions were invaluable in helping us to review and recommit ourselves to Responsive Classroom practices and to remind each other about the language that effectively engages students to be their best.


Vertical team meetings:

On Friday afternoon, April 6th, elementary and middle school teachers collaborated in vertical team meetings to discuss curriculum, instruction, assessment, professional development, and transition. Three meetings took place: grade 5 and 6 math teachers; JFK English andReading teachers and the Elementary Literacy Specialists; Elementary ETLs, JFK ETL, grade 6 Special Education Teachers, Lesley Wilson and Nathan Ziegler.  Teachers were excited to have the opportunity for professional conversation and work across grade levels, and to begin to develop these vertical teams.

JFK Student of Color Alliance (SOCA) and Civil Rights team combating stereotype initiative:

Students in the JFK Student of Color Alliance (SOCA) and Civil Rights team organized events to honor Trayvon Martin and to discuss how to combat stereotypes in our school and community.

These socially active student leaders developed activities for Forum, our Advisory Program, and organized a hoody day in honor of Trayvon Martin and as an avenue to challenge stereotypes.  The team created a blank picture of a hoody with the words “if you really knew me you would know that…” and had the JFK community fill in their hoodies.  The hoodies are displayed around our building.

The group also encouraged students and staff to wear a hoody on Friday, April 6th, and to think about stereotypes, how can we challenge stereotypes…how can we look past our ideas of people based on stereotypes and really get to know them before passing judgment.

Thank you to the JFK SOCA group, Civil Rights team and advisors Heather Heyes and Dinah Mack for facilitating this powerful school-wide initiative.

NorthamptonHigh School:

Sue Crago, English Teacher, and Sue Biggs a Science teacher were named MMSI Teachers of the year.

Photo:David Castillo Dominici

Please find the “Story of the Month” Newsletter.  The Superintendent has been working with School Committee member Alden Bourne and members of the Central Office staff to promote and highlight the great work we are doing in our schools. Do you have a story to share?  We are looking for submissions of no longer than two paragraphs from teachers/esps, parents, school committee members and students about a person who is positively impacting our schools or happenings that should be shared with the community.  We would like each “Story” to be accompanied by a photo.  Please forward your submissions to Nicole Markel at and put “Story of the Month” in the subject line.

Enjoy the first volume for March and stay tuned for our April edition.

Please share the ELECTRONIC newsletter with your parent organizations and students through listserv emails and your websites.  Please refrain from printing in order to keep it green.

Morning Math Club


By:  Alden Bourne, School Committee Member

On a recent Tuesday morning, eighteen students arrived at Jackson Street School well before the starting bell. They were there to take part in a voluntary project, held two days a week, called Morning Math Club.  The idea, says teacher Mary Cowhey, is simple.  “It’s a chance for kids to have fun doing math.  A lot of kids are not doing a lot of math outside class, so if we can get them an extra hour or two a week, it’s like supervitamins for math.”  Some participants take turns playing games on four computers, but most use more old-fashioned tools like dice and plastic coins to further their skills in a fun and dynamic way.  The club was the brainchild of Jackson Street children and parents, and parent involvement is one key to the program’s success.  Parent volunteers help out each morning and actively engage in math games with their children.  For some parents, it’s also a chance to brush up on their own math skills, so they can better help their kids at home.  Tony Garcia, father of second grader Alany, was at Morning Math Club after just finishing a twelve-hour overnight shift at work. He believes he benefits just as much as his daughter, who says the math “can be kind of complicated, but it’s really good for me.”

Mary Cowhey says Jackson Street teachers have reported increased performance and confidence among students who take part in the club.  “Fourth grade level teachers reported that students who participated in the Morning Math Club at Jackson demonstrated an improvement in their grasp of mathematics facts and increased confidence.”  Students who regularly attended the Morning Math Club showed an overall improvement in their Student Growth Percentage between 40-95 points. Considering the vast majority of the students in morning math who consider English as their second language, this is impressive growth for one academic year.

Dancing into Spring

Ryan Rd. March 2012

By:  Principal Margie Riddle

R.K. Finn Ryan Road Elementary School

The 300 members of the R.K. Finn Ryan Road Elementary School community welcomed the first day of Spring on the Vernal Equinox with an all-school line dance on the playground.  The annual event primarily supports the students’ understanding of science standards about the causes of the changes in the seasons.   They learn about the revolution of the Earth around the Sun and its tilt on its axis while it rotates.  Skills learned in physical education and music are combined in the dance, which reinforces students’ understanding of rhythm and patterns.  Students were connected by colorful paper chains, leis, and hand-made paper flowers, representing the first flowers of spring.  After dancing, children and staff enjoyed a traditional New England treat “sugar on snow.”  Colonial settlers in our area learned from Native Americans about this sweet, which is made of fresh maple syrup poured over clean snow.   The school marks the start of each season with a similar outdoor event.

Upcoming Events and News from the Superintendent’s Office

4/11/12: 6:15pm Superintendent Evaluation Meeting at JFK

4/12/12: 7:15pm School Committee Meeting at JFK

4/26/12: 7:15pm School Committee Meeting at JFK

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Bridge Street Elementary:



We had a successful first Family Math Fun Night for families in grades K-2. Many families participated to learn about the primary math program, play math games that students play in the classroom and take home games and suggestions for helping children understand number sense.  This is being followed up this month with a parent information night on the math curriculum for grades 3-5 and a second Family Math Fun Night for families in grades 3-5.

The entire school participated in a Read-a-thon which saw thousands of hours of reading by students and raised over $3,000 for our Nature’s Classroom trip at the beginning of April.  Parent feedback stressed the benefit of the focus on reading at home and the encouragement to have the entire family involved in reading.

A visitor to BSS in March will learn a lot of interesting science facts which are now posted around the building as we begin preparations for our science fair. Did you know that a slug has four noses?

The BSS PTO was fortunate to receive a small grant from Ward 3 to support our school garden.  A committee of parents and teachers are meeting for the planning phase this spring. Soon there will be some new garden projects springing up around the school aligned with our science curriculum.

JFK Middle School:

Ocean’s 8 Omnivore’s Dilemma Cross-Curricular Unit Summary

At the end of March, grade eight Ocean’s 8 students will begin an inter-disciplinary unit of study: Omnivore’s Dilemma.  The teachers, including the four core subject areas, a special education teacher and the family and consumer science teacher have collaborated to plan the unit.  Two of the teachers are also farmers.  The project goal is to produce students capable of navigating the tricky world of mass media, to create educated, informed consumers of agricultural products, and potential future farmers, while utilizing the Common Core Standards. Our cross curricular event will expose our students to local agriculture. Using technology to bring stores and farms to the students, they will learn about local foods, the difference between industrial, natural, organic, and local hero products. The choices will be cooked and tested in family and consumer science. We plan to visit local farms, invite guest speakers and hold a farmers’ market.

The Young Readers:  Omnivore’s Dilemma, by Michael Pollan, will be taught. It provides common vocabulary, and a starting point for student inquiry.  The goal is to look at the concepts in the book through the different lenses of each class.  In science, there will be labs comparing fresh eggs to store-bought, investigations into food safety, research on metabolism. The history of farming and the influence of governmental action will be explored during history class as well as a comparison of the different types of farming in our country today.  In English, students will explore the elements of persuasive writing, develop vocabulary, and participate in lively debates.  In math, students will use data from the book to calculate calorie input and output in our foods, the obesity rate, and comparisons of eating habits statistically.  In learning strategies, students will be supported and investigate key issues of personal interest to individual students. The team is hoping to incorporate team-wide activities into the unit, including field trips to Hemenway Hill Farm and Crimson and Clover Farm (formerly the Bean Farm), preparing the three comparative meals from the book, hosting a farmers market for local producers, guest speakers from CISA and other community members, and other activities that will foster student curiosity on their way to becoming a more informed consumer.

The Smith College Physics Department and Office of Educational Outreach are hosting a Physics Club for JFK students.  Smith College students and faculty will provide a six week intensive physics immersion.  JFK Science Teacher Kate Parrott has partnered with the college to bring this opportunity to our seventh and eighth graders who are interested in robotics, hovercrafts, and machines. The program will take place in the physics labs at Smith, where students will participate in labs around mechanics, fluids, and electricity and magnetism.

Leeds Elementary School:

This afternoon is our monthly Community Meeting.  Seroe Michaud has the first part slatted for recognizing “Beyond No Name Calling Week – Building Community at Leeds” and acknowledging the students’ positive attributes.

Jackson Street Elementary School:

The Jackson St. School Faculty and Staff are preparing to administer MCAS in March.  This year, because of required trainings for principal, we have had “refresher” courses in the administration, delivered by Gwen Agna, the principal.  Included in the refresher are specific instructions about coaching students and the use of electronics. There have been violations in the past when teachers have said more than is on the MCAS script and when students have used cell phones, especially, and texted during the tests.  Teachers have been supporting students in the test-taking skills that they need, particularly when they are new to this. The teachers also use the MCAS Test Questions that the Dept. of Education releases, to orient students to the kinds of questions they will be asked and the strategies they need to have to be successful in answering them.  For instance, in 4th grade, they practice the long composition test by reminding the students that they must make sure they keep the “prompt” in mind when they write their essay.  This may sound obvious – however in the DESE training for principals, we were told that a third of the invalidations in long comp are to do with not writing to the prompt.

The JSS staff and students are immersed in preparing to plant the school garden by beginning seed planting in the classrooms.  They are also working with Hope Guardinier, on an all-school science curriculum with the garden at the center. Thanks to the grant form Cooley Dickinson Hospital, all classes will work with Hope to plant seeds and all teachers will work with her to document garden lessons – all aligned with the Curriculum Frameworks/Common Core.

The students and Ms. O’Connell, music teacher, have been practicing for the Spring Concert, which will be next Friday, March 16 at 9:30AM. We invite you to join us for this very special event.  Included this year is a staff ukulele band – 25 members of staff have been practicing with Ms. O to perform with the students.  We hope to see you!

R.K. Finn Ryan Road Elementary School:

Focus on Reading in March

Students, staff and families are shining a spotlight on reading during March at RK Finn Ryan Road School.  The special events kicked off with an evening session, “Matching Books to Readers,” supported by a Northampton Education Foundation grant February 28.  Parents Stephanie Grimaldi, Professor of Education at Westfield State University, and Jennifer Crowther, Kindergarten Teacher at the Hill Institute, offered tips for choosing appropriate books for children and encouraging them to read at home.  Each family was given a book to add to their home collection.

All classes celebrated reading on Dr. Seuss’s birthday with many fun activities like reading to buddies and with family and community members on March 2.

The PTO is sponsoring a Read-A-Thon for two weeks to encourage students to read for at least four hours during this period.  Students may collect pledges with funds going to support the school library, but the main purpose of the event is to promote the joy of reading.    Students, staff and families will celebrate reading together through many fun activities planned for Family Reading Night Tuesday, March 13 from 6-7:30.   School Committee members are invited and welcome to join us for that evening.

Finally, teachers have met for a second day with Ken Pransky of the Collaborative to deepen their understanding of strategies to promote the acquisition of academic vocabulary among all of our students. This professional development was also supported by an NEF grant.


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