Thirty-eight percent of students in Hamblen Co. schools fall behind in math

A lot of students’ toughest subject this year is even tougher--math.
Published: Jan. 19, 2021 at 6:08 PM EST
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MORRISTOWN, Tenn. (WVLT) - A lot of students’ toughest subject this year is even tougher--math.

A national research company called NWEA said elementary and middle school students across the nation have fallen behind in math, partly because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Some other reasons include no classes over the summer and different teaching methods.

“Both my daughters are struggling in math,” said Christy Cowan, a Hamblen County Schools parent.

Math – called the universal language – can be challenging for kids to grasp.

Fifth graders listen to math lesson
Fifth graders listen to math lesson(WVLT)

Toss in a pandemic and virtual learning and you’ve got a difficult equation.

Cowan explained, “There’s just something, I think, even in our culture at large, people are scared of math.”

For Cowan’s two daughters, grades 5th and 7th, learning from home has hit hard.

“There’s just some things you get in person you can’t get online,” said Cowan.

Hamblen County Schools Superintendent Dr. Jeff Perry said they anticipated the loss of learning.

“We started this school year with the assumption that students would be struggling,” said Perry, “We also understood that students were struggling with certain concepts that they should’ve mastered last year but they had not yet been introduced to.”

Thirty-eight percent of Hamblen students are at risk of not grasping the math skills at their grade level by the end of the school year.

“It is hard to begin dealing with fractions if you don’t know your multiplication and it’s hard dealing with multiplication if you don’t know some basic math facts,” said Perry.

The key is to master basic math principles in every lesson.

“I think for me, when I help them with math, I didn’t learn math that way I grew up in the 1980s and we were taught math in a different way,” Cowan explained, “When I look at it I’m confused. So it takes me a minute to figure out what’s going on.”

Virtual learning also silenced Cowan’s fifth-grader.

A student works one-on-one with his learning pod teacher
A student works one-on-one with his learning pod teacher(WVLT)

“I know my youngest daughter when she is struggling, she is less likely to ask for help. And so if you’re in an online environment it’s easy, it’s so easy to be quiet. "

Perry said, “We know that we’re going to have to do something to bridge those gaps with these particular students.”

He’s looked at after school tutoring options and summer programs but knows the value of not burning out the teachers who already work so hard.

Perry is giving it more time before jumping to conclusions.

For Cowan, she knows her girls may not have straight-A’s, but try their best.

“That’s my biggest hope with my children is that if they’re going to be ok with failure and see that as a point to move forward,” said Cowan.

Students will be tested again in nine weeks.

School systems across East Tennessee

Alcoa City Schools Director of Schools said about a quarter of students struggle this year with math. That’s an increase of nearly 10 percent from last year.

The Director of Schools for Jefferson County reported math grades testing lower than normal.

A different story at Clinton City Schools where its Director said some students have already made a year’s worth of growth in the first semester of the school year.

Problem extended to the state level

Governor Bill Lee said data showed third-graders faced an estimated 65% drop in math proficiency.

He’s proposed learning loss interventions and paying teachers more. A proposed Senate bill could create summer learning camps this year.

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