When it came to learning elementary school math, Kasey Prichard lost it at fractions. Years later, when Prichard became a fifth-grade teacher, she decided to teach herself how to solve those problems that stumped her so many years ago.
Turns out there's more than one way to get to an answer.
For instance, rather than the traditional method of adding numbers in columns, addition might be better grasped by using a horizontal number line. Multiplication might be easier for those who use what's called the lattice technique.
Others might be able to come up with their own methods.
If it works, and students can explain just how they got their answer and repeat the process successfully, that's quite all right, Prichard said.
"It's called strategy or critical thinking," she said. "Those are qualities that are needed in today's global job market."
"As long as they get it and they become confident with math — that's what's important."
Now as a math coach at Chasco Elementary School in Port Richey, Prichard is sharing those techniques with parents and their children during Muffins and Math events held mornings before the start of the school day.
Math techniques, along with lessons in science and reading, are being served up with breakfast for students in grades 2-5 at these monthly sessions. The program, supported by Title 1 funding, is one of the ways the school is integrating parents into the learning process.
"It's been well attended so far," Prichard said, noting that an average of 20 families attend each session to see what and how their children will be learning during the year. And while the kids head off to class, parents are welcome to stick around for another cup of coffee to learn the ways kids are solving problems these days and voice any concerns.
Muffins and Math uses game play between parents and their kids to reinforce what's being learned in classrooms.
"He's winning eight games to one," said Kevin Lynch as he played a rather competitive board game on liquid measurements — gallons, quarts and pints — with his son, Donovan, 8. "That's why he's smiling more than me right now."
"It's great — we get more familiar with what our children are learning in class and see the ways they are learning," said Richard White, who attended with his wife, Tricia, and their children, Ayanna, 8, and son, William, 10. "It's a whole lot different than when I was in school."
"I liked that I got to do activities about math," Ayanna said. "And I can learn more stuff."
Although traditional methods are still being taught, Prichard said, "new math" can be a stumbling block for parents who grew up using those old-fashioned ways.
"I look at some of this work, and I'm like, 'Wow, this is second grade — I have to learn to do it all over again,' " said Martine Compere, a certified nursing assistant who got a late start on her work day so she could attend last week's session with her daughter, Sarayia, 7.
Homework can be a befuddling experience for parents like Stacie Reinhart, who admits that she hasn't always been able to understand some of the methods laid out in her son Trenton's second-grade math book.
"He's always telling me that I'm not doing it right," Reinhart said. "Now he can't say that anymore."