Spotlight on Math at Bank Street: An Interview with Akia Goudy and José Guzman

José GuzmanAkia GoudyWe are excited to share deeper insights into Bank Street’s approach to math education. Below is an interview with Akia Goudy, Math Specialist for kindergarten (5/6s) through fourth grade (9/10s), and José Guzman, Math/Science Coordinator.

Q: Can you briefly describe your role at Bank Street?

Akia: As the math specialist, I collaborate with teachers to develop curriculum and support students’ learning of mathematics. I work directly with students in small groups for supplemental math instruction and partner with families in supporting their child as a learner. I love getting to know students across Bank Street and being able to see the many ways they make sense of math concepts by building connections to the world around them.

José: In my role, I meet with teachers and teams regularly to discuss curriculum, instruction, and student work. I enjoy supporting the work of my colleagues. I also enjoy working with students on larger-scale projects, such as the second grade (7/8s) fish dissection, supporting them with the Upper School Science Expo, or simply being a guest visitor in a classroom to work on a project or to explore a topic.

Q: What is the Bank Street approach to math education?

Akia: Bank Street is dedicated to ensuring every student reaches their full potential in math. Our hands-on, developmentally appropriate approach promotes learning through familiar contexts and real-world applications, as demonstrated in our interdisciplinary curriculum. For example, in the 5/6s students come to understand numbers by counting everything in their environment. In the fall, during their pumpkin study, they explore ways to make numbers within 20 using pumpkin seeds and compare which pumpkins have the most seeds. By the spring, students develop their own “put together” and “take away” story problems as they investigate what it means to add and subtract using equations. This year in the third grade’s (8/9s) introduction to multiplication, we took a neighborhood walk to look for examples of equal groups and arrays in nearby architecture, storefronts, and vehicles. We utilize these learning experiences to contextualize explicit instruction of skills and inform our teaching practice through regular analysis of assessment data and student work.

José: We also believe that students can get deeper into subjects when they find their work intriguing and engaging. Through the use of games and math-oriented activities, students develop their own understanding of mathematics and share their thinking and problem-solving strategies with their peers and teachers. As they build their knowledge and confidence, they become proficient mathematical thinkers and more “mathematically productive.” Overall, our curriculum is problem-centered and encourages students to ask questions that help them refine and develop essential understandings.

Q: How does Bank Street support the development of foundational math skills?

José: We use standards-aligned curricula founded in research and we pay close attention to the mathematical practices supported by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics. Akia and I partner to support the curriculum at all levels, from foundational skills to thinking through how to best tailor instruction to meet children’s learning needs.

Akia Goudy working with a School for Children studentAkia: Bank Street educators support students toward mastery of foundational math skills— early counting strategies in the younger years to multiplication and division with multi-digit numbers in the middle years. We keep math tangible by using manipulatives like counting blocks and pattern blocks in hands-on activities to help children visualize mathematical concepts and develop spatial reasoning skills. We support students in extending and deepening their thinking with problem-solving activities and projects based on real-world scenarios. We also recognize that each child learns at their own pace, so we create opportunities for differentiated learning through small-group activities, one-on-one instruction, and personalized assignments that encourage critical thinking and problem-solving.

Q: How does the School for Children prepare students for a rigorous math curriculum in high school?

Akia: We utilize a variety of methods, including observations, performance tasks, interviews, projects, and skills-based assessments, to monitor student learning and inform instruction. To track students’ progress, we use a vertical map linking the math concepts and skills students will engage with from their earliest years in preschool (3/4s) to the time they graduate in eighth grade (13/14s) and enter high school.

José Guzman helping School for Children students with a project using wooden dowelsJosé: Our students are well-prepared for math in high school and many of them go on to study at high schools and colleges with a math and science focus, which leads to careers in those fields. Bank Street’s project and problem-based approach provide greater points of entry for a broad group of students to access the curriculum and build skills. We also offer a choice for certain leveled assessments in the Upper School, which is a form of differentiation not seen at many other institutions, as well as allow time for students to make corrections on assessments and encourage them to meet with teachers during early morning math for additional support or to work on challenges.

To learn more about mathematics at Bank Street and how we prepare students for success in math, explore Our Program pages or register for one of our upcoming open houses to discover other aspects of Bank Street’s program and our approach to teaching and learning.