Students working on math problems

Math in Somerville

Math Challenge Updates

Current Somerville Math Challenge Initiative Updates, Milestones, and Goals

Letter to Families from Superintendent Skipper

Superintendent Mary Skipper's Letter to Families in English, Spanish, Portuguese, Haitian Creole.

Latest Updates

  • 11/13/2019: Math Information Workshops for Parents and Guardians: We are pleased to announce the second annual workshop series where families can learn about how the math curriculum is taught and how they can help their children at home. There will be a morning and evening option each year at different schools across Somerville. The first workshop will take place on Wednesday, November 6th, 2019 at the Arthur D. Healey School from 8:30-10:00am. The second workshop will take place on Wednesday, November 13th at the West Somerville Neighborhood School from 6:00pm-7:30pm. If you can't make it, visit our webpage of resources and handouts from the workshop:
  • 11/7/2019: Math Extensions PD for Grades 3-5 Teachers: This voluntary workshop will take place for teachers afterschool on January 9th with the goal of providing a variety of strategies for successfully implementing the math extensions in their classrooms along with building a system of flexible grouping and challenge for all students.
  • 12/12/18: Middle Grades Math Workshop with Dr. Hilary Kreisberg: As part of the STAR Biogen grant, Dr. Hilary Kreisberg, Center for Mathematics Achievement at Lesley University, worked with our grades 7-8 teachers on approaches to teaching the ratio/proportion standards. The focus was on using visual models to help build conceptual understanding in this area. Dr. Kreisberg will continue working our teachers in coming professional development sessions.
  • 10/30/2018: Math Curriculum Information Workshops for Families and Guardians: Based on the feedback from last year's family survey, we are pleased to announce the beginning of a series of annual workshops where families can learn about how the curriculum is taught and how they can help their children at home. There will be a morning and evening option each year at different schools across Somerville. The first workshop will take place on Wednesday, November 7th, 2018 at the Winter Hill Community Innovation School from 6pm-7:30pm. The second workshop will take place on Thursday, November 15th at the Benjamin Brown School from 8:30am-10am. If you can't make it, visit our webpage of resources and handouts from the workshop:
  • 10/17/2018: Grade 7 Extension Pilot Development: During our afternoon professional development time, grade 7 teachers worked on finding and creating extension challenges that match up with each curriculium standard. We are hoping to pilot and refine these in classrooms this year so we can have a more robust system of these challenges for students.
  • 9/30/2018: Gr. 3-5 Math Extensions Rolled Out to Teachers: Based on all the work done by the math coaches last year, we have rolled out extension challenges to grades 3-5 teachers, which they can use as they teach their first units of the year. These are meant to be available to any student, once the teacher determines that he/she has met the day's objective. Before extensions get started in a classroom, students watch a video explaining what they are and how to approach them, with a focus on a growth mindset.
  • 9/15/2018: Introducing Computer Science for All 6th Graders: During their library/media period this year, all sixth graders will learn the fundamentals of computer science through the Code.Org Exploring Computer Science curriculum. Each student will participate in approximately the first 25 lessons of this highly regarded curriculum, which mixes conceptual lessons essential to computer science (ex. inputs, outputs, processors) and hands-on coding work. For this purpose, we have hired a computer science teacher to teach these classes at the Argenziano, Healey, Winter Hill, and East Someville Schools, while the curriculum at the West Somerville and Kennedy Schools will be taught by the library/media specialist there.  
  • 6/18/2018: Redesigned MX2 Grade 8 Geometry Program: This is an opportunity for students who love learning math and can work independently to complete the high school Geometry Honors course at the same time they are taking their grade 8 Algebra class. Students complete the course work using a blended format of online learning and weekly afterschool in-person sessions at Somerville High School. MX2 Program Flyer
  •  6/11/2018: Math Lab Boston University Grant: Katie Starbuck, Somerville math coach, and Barbara Strell, Healey special education teacher, have been awarded this $5,000 grant to work with Lynsey Gibbons at Boston Unviersity to implement that Math Lab model in several grade 1 classrooms. Using a modified lesson study model, teachers will work together across schools to collaboratively design and teach lessons that strengthen number sense and support struggling learners.
  • 6/5/2018: First Phase of Math Extension Development Project Complete: For the past year, Somerville Math coaches have been developing extension challenges, tasks, and projects to accompany each of our math units. The extensions are open to all students once they have met the objective in the day's lesson. After piloting and refining them with classrooms this Spring, we are happy to announce that these have been finalized in grades 3-5 for the first half of the school year. They will be rolled out to teachers and introduced to students in September 2018. We are working to finalize the remaining grades 3-5 extensions as well as introduce extension challenges for grades 6-7. So far, this has been an immense and intensive task; we are very fortunate to have such dedicated math coaches!

Resources for Families

In addition to the resources below, check out our website of resources for families:

Blogpost: Helping Students with Math Homework

Video: With Math I Can

All The Mathematical Methods I Learned In University Are Obsolete 

Video: How you can be good at math, and other surprising facts about learning | Jo Boaler | TEDxStanford

Helping Students With Math Anxiety


Grade 8 Math Grouping

In alignment with the pathways that the Massachusetts Curriculum Frameworks lay out, Somerville students either complete the traditional pathway that covers the eighth grade math standards in preparation for Algebra I in 9th grade or an alternative faster-paced pathway that covers both the eighth grade math and Algebra content, preparing these students to take Geometry in 9th grade. How this is done varies by school, with some schools offering separate traditional and faster-paced classes and others offering both options in a differentiated way within one mixed class.

  • The Argenziano, Winter Hill, and East Somerville Schools offer two different classes, the traditional and faster paced classes. Going forward, students who scored Meets or Exceeds Expectations (500 or higher) on their grade 6 MCAS will automatically qualify for the faster paced group. Those who missed the cut-off, but show proficiency on other measures such as STAR, district common assessments, and daily coursework, will also be eligible for the faster paced class, provided that both the teacher and parents agree that this is the right path. During the year, students who are excelling in the regular class will have the option to move to the faster paced class.
  • The Kennedy, West Somerville, and Healey Schools offer one mixed 8th grade math class for all students, while providing opportunities within that class for students with higher proficiency to master the Algebra content required to take Geometry in 9th grade. It is not possible to offer two different classes at these schools that are grouped by proficiency while maintaining manageable class sizes and without having a major negative impact on scheduling and programming. Therefore, they will continue to offer one combined class and work closely with our instructional coaches to differentiate for the range of learners within the classroom. We anticipate that within a few years, as our interventions fully take effect and the number of proficient students continues to increase across the district, that all schools will be offering their 8th grade math in this way.


Leadership team

Uri Harel, K-8 Curriculum Coordinator 

Chad Mazza, Assistant Superintendent