Teacher Connie Michael

Dreamstarter Teacher Connie Michael: Expanding Mathematics in the Classroom

Connie Michael of Billings, Montana is a classroom teacher of all subject areas at Crow Agency Public School teaching primarily Crow and Cheyenne students.

“Culturally and historically Native students are hands-on learners,” Connie stated in her Dreamstarter Teacher application. “They are active learners who used to learn from experiences. Manipulatives and visuals are key to my students’ success in mathematical concepts, and with this grant I will be able to provide these learning opportunities for my class.”

To that end, Connie used her $1,000 Dreamstarter Teacher grant to purchase the Math Learning Center Number Corner materials for her 5th grade class, an interactive bulletin board that revolves around the classroom calendar, providing skills practice as well as continual encounters with broader mathematical concepts.

“The purpose of my project is to provide students with culturally appropriate mathematical materials as well as culturally relevant literature,” she reported following the conclusion of the school year.

“Through utilizing Bridges Number Corner, I was able to integrate Crow language into calendar and math lessons. In addition, by purchasing literature by Native authors that reflect the lives and experiences of my students, students were drawn into reading and reading comprehension skills improved.”

Missy noted that her project met the math goals she had set out for my students and pointed out that students, post-COVID, had fallen behind in their mathematical skills.

“I purchased a math/calendar program that provided students with supportive math curriculum to fill gaps in learning,” she reported. “Students’ basic math facts and math language improved from the beginning of the year assessments to the end of the year assessments.”

The program allowed her to integrate the Crow language, including days of the week, months, weather, and basic math terms into the curriculum.

“Students’ Crow language improved from the beginning of the year to the end,” said Connie. “I purchased literature from Native authors and picture books with impactful Native people. Students began to engage in silent reading with more enthusiasm and improved their retelling skills.

“The long-term impact is I was able to show growth with my program and the principal purchased the program for all grade levels.

“I hope it will allow students to become more active learners and gain mathematical language in English and Crow.”

This project had a positive impact on her students as they were able to explain their thinking and had deep understanding of math concepts that will support them as they move to middle school, she told us.

“They had concepts given to them in both English and Crow which gave them a deeper understanding,” said Connie, adding, “This was shown by assessments the middle school did to place students in math classes for next year.

“In addition, my students were amazed by stories and graphic novels which depicted characters who had similar lives to them and looked like them.

“When the books arrived, we had a box opening ceremony and they were silent looking through the texts.

“One student mentioned how different our classroom library looked from the school library – that it looked like them.”

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