Researchers, teachers visit math classes

By Lauren Siegel

Researchers and teachers from other secondary schools visited the math department Feb. 1 and Feb. 2 as part of Renew and Review, in which the department reflects on its strengths and weaknesses with the help of unbiased sources.

“They’re sitting in our classes and meeting in small groups to give us feedback on things that sometimes we don’t see ourselves,” upper school Math Department Head Paula Evans said.

“[They served] much in the way an accreditation committee serves, except these people have been hand selected by our school and are very clearly math experts,” Head of School Jeanne Huybrechts said.

Renew and Review is a six-year process comprised of two phases, the research phase and the methodology phase.

The research phase analyzes data from Harvard-Westlake and other schools. From the data, conclusions can be drawn about the math curriculum and how it is taught, Evans said.

The methodology phase uses the conclusions reached in the research phase to make specific goals for the department and to outline steps to achieve those goals.

The visitors were upper and middle school math department chairs Chris Jones and Tom Petras from The Horace Mann School in Riverdale, N. Y., Bradley Stoll from The Harker School in San Jose, and Chris Rasmussen, researcher and math and statistics professor at San Diego State University.

“It’s really cool to see people from other prep schools, Harker and Horace Mann, help us take a look at our action plan to see if these are feasible goals, if they fit in with things that are important and overall give us feedback to achieve success,” Evans said.

The Renew and Review feedback process has worked well since its creation in 2009, resulting in stronger teachers and therefore successful students, Evans said.

“Students are achieving their goals and kids are clearly enjoying math more because they’re doubling and tripling up in math courses,” Evans said.