Concord teacher’s math program helps bridge the distance learning gap
The Pioneer. Staff. June 27, 2020.

Mandi Smith has gone above and beyond to ensure that her students have access to high quality, hands-on, accessible math instruction. Smith teaches math and science on special assignment at Sun Terrace Elementary STEM Magnet School in Concord, CA.

The Bridges math program, funded in part by MDUSD Education Foundation, has resulted in student achievement growing in “leaps and bounds.” It has also successfully adapted to distance learning.

Smith took over the math and science program three years ago at the fledgling magnet school off Port Chicago Highway near the North Concord BART Station. She aimed to provide a consistent math curriculum for all grade levels. Through tireless fundraising, Smith eventually rolled out the Bridges math program for all students school-wide.

The staff was “ecstatic” to have new program in the classroom. The curriculum matched the common core testing standards. Smith assisted with in-classroom teaching and promoted use of the bilingual parent education materials that reinforced the math skills at home. She also integrated Bridges into the after-school program, attended by over half Sun Terrace students.

As the COVID-19 pandemic led to a shutdown of all MDUSD schools in March, Smith found the Bridges program “easy to push online” for distance learning. Videos of lessons, along with the assignments, are posted online, and twice a week, Smith holds Zoom office hours to go over the math problems with students.

Sun Terrace was able to provide Chromebooks to each student for distance learning. However, the biggest challenge has been ensuring that students have access to adequate WiFi for the online learning. Fortunately, Bridges parent handouts also include hands-on math games that can be done offline with everyday materials.

Despite the challenges of distance learning, Smith has received very positive feedback about the Bridges program. She works hard to ensure that it provides all students with a consistent and relevant math curriculum. This applies to the classroom or through distance learning. MDEDF takes pride in having funded part of the Bridges program.

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