Underwood Math Update

Dear Underwood Families,

I am Andy Guttell, the math coach here at Underwood School. This is my seventh year in this role. I am also the math coach at Ward School. Previously I was a classroom teacher in first and second grade at Bowen School for 19 years. I have also taught in international schools in Ecuador and Japan.

This is the first full year that our school will be using the Investigations math curriculum in all grades, K-5.  Two years ago, Investigations was successfully launched in Grades 3 and 4. Last year Grades 1, 2, and 5 all began using the curriculum. This year Kindergarten is fully implementing the curriculum. Investigations is a focused, coherent, and rigorous K-5 mathematics curriculum. It is fully aligned to the content and practice standards of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), deep and careful attention is paid to mathematics content and to student thinking and understanding. Making sense of mathematics is the heart of the work, for students and teachers (from https://investigations.terc.edu/about/)

This year fact fluency has been a point of emphasis in our school, particularly in grades K-4. Kindergarteners have been learning about the relationship of counting to addition and subtraction. Counting forward is the same as adding one. First graders have been practicing counting on as a way to add (5+3 is solved by 5: 6,7,8). By the end of the year, the goal is knowing from memory all of the single digit facts up to 10. Second graders have been using foundational facts that they know such as the Doubles (4+4, 5+5, etc) and the Make Tens (2+8, 3+7, 4+6, etc) to figure out facts that they don’t know yet. For example, many students reason that 6+7 equals one more than 6+6. By the end of the year, second graders are expected to know all of the facts through 20.

In third and fourth grades, the fact fluency focus moves to multiplication and division. In September, third graders consolidated the learned basic multiplication facts by relating their knowledge of skip counting by 2’, 5’s and 10’s to multiplication. In the winter, they build on this foundation and use the foundational facts they know to figure out the facts they don’t know yet. For example, many third graders solve the difficult fact of 7*8, by breaking it apart into the known facts of 2*8 and 5*8. Many fourth graders work in the early part of the year to consolidate their multiplication and division fact fluency through 100.

Parents can help their children by reading the Family Letters that are sent home with each new unit. The Family Letters will show and explain how math is taught in the classroom. This can be a very helpful resource to deepen parent understanding and to position parents in the best way to help their child. Math instruction and learning has changed a lot since all of us adults were in elementary school. It is most beneficial to children if parent help mirrors what is happening currently in the classroom. Math Words and Ideas are brief videos from our curriculum that can explain math concepts and strategies to parents and children. They can be accessed by clicking on the link or going to the Underwood website and clicking on the student tab. The Investigations Game Center provides fun and engaging ways to practice. This site can also be found on the student page.

The adoption of the Investigations curriculum has resulted in a lot of excitement and deeper learning in classrooms throughout Newton. At Underwood, I see students that are eager, engaged, and working together to deepen their mathematical thinking on a daily basis.


Andrew Guttell

Math Coach

Underwood School