Primarily Math | Profiles

Frances Merica works works on math skills with a student

Frances Merica

Primarily Math

Kindergarten Teacher, Beals Elementary, Omaha Public Schools

Out of her comfort zone. Out of the box. This is how Frances Merica describes her Primarily Math experience – and she wouldn’t have it any other way.

“You will become a better teacher after NebraskaMATH, and your students will also benefit in their learning and understanding of mathematics. The program teaches you to understand mathematics in a new way and to appreciate the importance of teaching mathematics to students. It is a lot of hard work but the return is well worth it!” the Omaha Public Schools teacher of more than 30 years said.

Merica, a participant in the Cohort 4 group of OPS teachers, currently teaches full-day kindergarten at Beals Elementary School. She and her grade-level partner are working on making their instruction more differentiated to meet students’ needs and learning styles. “We are incorporating more small-group instruction into our teaching as well as increasing the amount of student involvement in our lessons,” Merica explained.

Merica also attends monthly voluntary extended learning sessions offered by Connie Colton, a Math in the Middle graduate, Noyce Master Teaching Fellow and Primarily Math instructor, who teaches at McMillan Magnet Middle School in Omaha.

The support systems that exist in OPS and in NebraskaMATH help Merica and her colleagues make it through the intense 18-hour program.

“When the work in the program seems overwhelming, there is always someone to go to for help and support. The people involved in the program are very supportive and are available to help you accomplish things that sometimes feel unattainable,” she said. “The cohort helps you develop lasting friendships with fellow educators.”

Born and raised in Omaha, Merica always loved math as a student, from elementary school through college. She found growing up that she loved working with younger children and “seeing their eyes light up when they learned and accomplished new things.” Today, she and her husband, Chuck, have one daughter, Lacey, who graduated from UNL with a degree in biology.

Merica already has adjusted her teaching to accommodate what she’s learned thus far in Primarily Math.

“Being involved in Primarily Math has made me rethink some of my teaching methods as well as reaffirm some of them. I often find myself questioning the planning of my math lessons as well as lessons in other subjects,” Merica said. “It has made me look at whether the students are being challenged to not only find the answers, but also to be able to explain their thinking and reasoning.”