In mid-2010, Winthrop University professor Dr. Bradley Witzel asked graduate student Marla Herlong about collaborating on a math book for teachers of children in grades 5K through third grade.
By the time they and another professor had published the book this year, Herlong had completed her master’s degree, got married and moved to Aiken County, taught one year at Busbee Corbett Elementary Middle School and now serves as a math specialist for the Aiken County School District.
The book is titled “Building Number Sense through the Common Core” and is available at Amazon and the publisher, Corwin Press, in California.
“We’re offering intervention strategies – offering research about ‘number sense,’” Herlong said. “The focus is on K through three and those students who don’t have an understanding of what a number is. It would be hard for them to move on without that foundation.”
Common Core is a state-driven program of national standards for the primary subjects – math, English/language arts and social studies in South Carolina. The state is relying on its own science standards; math and English have fully moved into the new standards this school year.
About three to four years ago, Common Core had been out in draft proposals and had piqued her interest, Herlong said. She and her professor contacted Dr. Paul Riccomini at Penn State about working together.
“It was a long process,” Herlong said cheerfully. “We did a lot of conference calling, emailing and meetings. Both guys do professional development around the country, and I’ve done a lot of that with (Witzel) as well.”
Before they reach kindergarten, some children have yet to grasp the distinction of numbers – what one, two or three mean in terms of quantity. Math is all about the “number,” and it would be hard for children to grow without it, Herlong said.
Common Core fits into such needs, Herlong said. It provides a much deeper understanding of math.
“Sometimes we touch only the surface of things,” she said. “There have been so many standards for teachers in the past. With Common Core, we’ve got fewer standards so that we can go through them with more depth. Children now explain ‘why’ they did it, how an answer works. Our book can be a good resource for teachers.”
Herlong received her master’s degree in curriculum instruction with a focus in math. As a pre-K to 12th-grade math specialist, Herlong is among those providing pacing guides for teachers and developing model lessons to help the teachers prepare their own.