Patriot Elementary, Papillion-La Vista School District
Building a strong connection with parents is central to Primarily Math and has been fundamental for kindergarten teacher Allie Elsasser, a Cohort 4 participant. Elsasser’s philosophy for teaching math in kindergarten revolves around not only creating a strong yet flexible number sense, but also giving parents the tools to develop this number sense at home.
She uses this teaching philosophy with Patriot Elementary’s incoming students as well, through a grant the Papillion La-Vista School District teacher was awarded from Region II.
“The grant allows me to hold a math day, where I invite parents of incoming kindergartners to come to Patriot and share some ideas and resources on how to create an early number sense before their child starts school,” Elsasser said. “My goal is to have a ‘make and take’ with some activities and to help parents gain some ideas and strategies to help develop strong questioning and math communication. This includes using visual images, math vocabulary, math games and literature to use.”
Elsasser held the math event “Dive in to Math” in April 2013. More than 30 incoming kindergarteners and their families attended, learning a range of skills, including using five and ten frames, and integrating technology, math vocabulary and problem solving in a small-group setting. After taking a year off from the event with the birth of her daughter, Elsasser hopes to apply for another grant to hold the event again.
Parents of Elsasser’s students are amazed at how much their children have learned about math. One parent said of her son, “He counts everything! Sometimes he turns it into a song. I even hear him teaching his 3-year-old little sister math problems. He loves to learn, and it is obvious he is being taught very well.”
Another parent said when she asked her son what he thought about math, “He said, ‘Math is awesome!’ He is learning about patterns, adding and skip counting, which is helping him learn to tell time, and he’s so excited about it!” The daughter of another parent proudly proclaimed to her mother, “I have learned that six is less than eight.”
Originally from Omaha, Elsasser knew from an early age she wanted to be a teacher. “From my earliest memories, I played teacher and school. I knew I wanted to teach and was fascinated by young children’s development.”
Now in her eighth year of teaching, Elsasser completed Primarily Math in the summer of 2013, along with getting married that July. She was encouraged to join Primarily Math by her principal, Mary Scarborough, and her math coach at the time, Danielle Inserra, a participant in Cohort 1. Fellow Patriot teacher Erin Case also joined her cohort.
Elsasser said the program has made her become more strategic, reflective and knowledgeable.
“My students have blown me away with their math journaling, discussions, sharing their work on the ELMO/smart board, and teamwork during math workshop. They celebrate one another’s successes and push one another’s thinking. This experience has helped me see that even kindergarten students can be effective math communicators.”
Elsasser also has helped write kindergarten assessments and guide instruction on her district’s kindergarten math toolbox group and has led several professional development sessions for K-6 teachers on math workshop, math note booking, calendar math and math communication.
“I use so much of what I learned through Primarily Math to help fellow teachers become better math educators. I am forever grateful to UNL and the Primarily Math staff for giving me this invaluable opportunity. It has truly opened so many doors and has allowed me to become a leader in my district.”