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Texas children are still struggling with math after the pandemic. Some schools are trying a new approach.

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Texas children are still struggling with math after the pandemic. Some schools are trying a new approach.


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DALLAS — In Eran McGowan’s math class, students try to teach each other.

If a student is brave enough to share how they solved a math problem, they stand up in front of the other third graders and say, “All eyes on me.” The classroom responds, “All eyes on you,” and the student explains how they did it.

This collaborative method of learning math is part of a new curriculum, named Eureka Math, that was launched in the Dallas Independent School District this school year. It emphasizes helping students better grasp mathematical concepts instead of their performance on the state’s standardized test. The new curriculum is described as a step away from memorization.

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The new curriculum “moves away from using tests as a way to measure success,” said McGowan, who teaches at the Eddie Bernice Johnson STEM Academy. “It’s more focused on the kids understanding the concept, and in turn, that will help a child pass assessments.”

While the teaching approach is different, the intent ultimately continues to be helping students do better on the math portion of the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness. Last summer’s results showed that Texas students have still not caught up to the math scores they had in 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Forty-five percent of students who took math in third through eighth grade or Algebra I last year passed the STAAR test. While their math scores represent a slight increase from last year, they are still 7 percentage points behind the state average in 2019.

What’s more, the number of students who went above and beyond and “mastered” the subject has not recovered since the pandemic. In 2023, 19% of all Texas students mastered math at their grade level, down from 26% in 2019. While Texas students’ overall math scores last year were four points higher than the national average, the percentage of students who master math in the state is significantly behind the national average of 38%, according to the Nation’s Report Card, which samples fourth- and eighth-grade students’ reading and math grades across the country.

Policymakers and educators worry that the low number of students who master math will mean not enough Texans will have the skills to meet the demands of the most lucrative, in-demand jobs in the next few decades. They fear Texas will not be able to produce its own workforce and will be forced to look for talent elsewhere. According to a Stanford University study, students who do not bring their math scores back up to pre-pandemic levels will earn 5.6% less over the course of their lives than students with better grades just before the pandemic hit.

“Is our inability to get kids back towards this increased level of mastery — for math — going to limit them in the long run for the types of jobs that you’re going to be able to access, or even feel like they can access, in the future?” said Gabe Grantham, a K-12 policy analyst at Texas 2036, a public policy think tank. “If we don’t do anything about this at the state level in 2025, we’re going to be behind the ball.”

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Texas won’t know how well Eureka Math is working until later in the year, when the next STAAR results are released, but there is optimism. About 400 other Texas school districts, both private and public, are using the curriculum. Across the country, districts that have adopted the curriculum have seen scores improve. Dallas ISD piloted the program at Anson Jones Elementary before adopting it districtwide and found that students’ math scores and confidence in their handling of the subject went up.

Dallas ISD has adopted Eureka Math, a collaborative math curriculum, across its schools. Credit: Azul Sordo for The Texas Tribune
Third grade student Alaiyah B. demonstrates how she got her answer to Eran McGowan's class at the Eddie Bernice Johnson STEM Academy in Dallas, Texas on Feb. 5, 2024.

Third grade student Alaiyah B. demonstrates to her classmates how she got the answer to a math problem at the Eddie Bernice Johnson STEM Academy. Credit: Azul Sordo for The Texas Tribune

The Texas Legislature has also taken steps to make it easier for students to advance in their math studies. Lawmakers last year passed Senate Bill 2124, which automatically promotes middle schoolers to a higher math class if they do well at a lower level.

The law’s author, state Sen. Brandon Creighton, R-Conroe, said having students perform at a high level in math will increase their lifetime earnings and contribute to a healthy Texas economy. Lawmakers, policy analysts and public education officials are looking for other ways to help students bring up their math scores ahead of the 2025 legislative session, he said.

Grantham said Texas is behind other states when it comes to math reform at the legislative level, but it’s better to design policies based on data and a careful review of what’s working and what’s not.

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“We don’t want to throw things at the wall and see what sticks,” he said. “Everyone wants the same silver bullet, but we’re trying to parse out what that actually looks like.”

For now, Texas is betting on laws passed over the last couple of years to help struggling students, such as mandated tutoring and, more recently, a law that makes it easier for teachers and districts to have access to “high-quality” instructional materials. Texas education experts and school administrators believe both policies are promising, though they say staffing shortages have made it difficult to comply with mandatory tutoring.

Teaching challenges

When the pandemic forced Texas schools to close and shift to virtual learning, STAAR scores plummeted to lows not seen in a decade.

Schools and families weren’t ready for the change. Some children didn’t have internet access or computers at home; others were completely absent. Academic achievement in both reading and math took a hit.

Four years later, reading scores have surpassed pre-pandemic levels but students are still struggling with math.

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“The pandemic was just such a large-scale interruption, one that our system didn’t really know how to engage with,” said Carlos Nicolas Gómez, an assistant professor of STEM Education at UT-Austin. “And due to that, even coming back, we’re still dealing with the interruption.”

Gómez and Grantham said the reason why students have recovered faster in reading is because they can practice it at home much easier than math.

“Reading, it’s a lot easier for parents to read to their kids at home,” Grantham said. “Math is going to take a lot more direct instruction. That was just lost when kids were out of school.”

When kids came back to the classroom, many didn’t have a grasp of mathematical concepts they should’ve learned in previous years, said Umoja Turner, principal of the Eddie Bernice Johnson STEM Academy.

It fell on teachers to come up with learning plans that incorporated the concepts students are supposed to learn at each grade level, plus fill out the gaps in learning caused by the pandemic.

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But Michelle Rinehart, superintendent of the Alpine Independent School District, said the state’s teacher shortage crisis and the departure of experienced teachers from schools have made it difficult to help students catch up. Only two out of her seven math teachers in grades 3-8 have taught math before, she said.

Principle Umoja Turner poses for a portrait inside the Eddie Bernice Johnson STEAM Academy in Dallas, Texas on Feb. 5, 2024.

Principal Umoja Turner sits inside Eddie Bernice Johnson STEM Academy, a Dallas ISD school that adopted the Eureka Math curriculum. Credit: Azul Sordo for The Texas Tribune

Experienced teachers lead to increased student achievement, according to the Learning Policy Institute, an education policy think tank. But during the last school year, 28% of new teachers hired in Texas did not have a certification or permit to teach, and 13% of all teachers left the profession. Both figures represented historic highs.

“That is a really high challenge right now,” Rinehart said.

The teaching shortage is especially hard for rural districts compared to their urban counterparts. For starters, Rinehart said, small districts like Alpine can’t pay teachers as much and usually have far fewer resources.

A new way to learn

Before Eureka Math was introduced in Dallas and Alpine ISDs, teachers could use a variety of different curricula, mostly geared toward passing the STAAR and memorizing how to solve equations.

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This led to differences in how students across the state learned math. Turner said this sometimes causes students who move to a different campus to struggle when adapting to a new teaching method.

With Eureka Math now being widely adopted across Dallas ISD, students have a more consistent way of learning math, which hopefully will result in better test scores, he said.

McGowan said the curriculum he used in the past heavily emphasized passing the STAAR.

“With previous curriculums, it was just, ‘we have an equation, we solve it,’ but the kids cannot explain the process well,” he said.

Third grade teacher Eran McGowan helps students work through math problems at the Eddie Bernice Johnson STEM Academy in Dallas, Texas on Feb. 5, 2024.

McGowan helps students work through math problems at his classroom in Dallas. Credit: Azul Sordo for The Texas Tribune
Third grade teacher Eran McGowan watches students demonstrate their answers to the class at the Eddie Bernice Johnson STEM Academy in Dallas, Texas on Feb. 5, 2024.

McGowan watches students demonstrate their answers to the class at the Eddie Bernice Johnson STEM Academy. Eureka Math, McGowan said, emphasizes collaboration among the students. Credit: Azul Sordo for The Texas Tribune

Brittany duPont with Great Minds, the company that designed Eureka Math, has been helping Dallas teachers adopt the new curriculum. She said it’s been a huge shift in math teaching, and some veteran teachers have pushed back.

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But duPont said the teaching tactics that Eureka Math proposes are needed to help kids catch up with their math studies after the pandemic. They’re also timely because the recently redesigned STAAR test now focuses more on how a child solves a math problem, she added.

Kids are more excited to learn and master concepts with Eureka Math, McGowan said. Another upside of the new curriculum is that it gives teachers room to test kids’ knowledge on a topic before each lesson, making it easier for teachers to collaborate on ways to help students catch up, he said.

The new curriculum also emphasizes collaboration. McGowan lets his students debate concepts with each other and figure out how they got to certain conclusions. The process allows them to gain a deeper understanding of mathematics.

Moving to a new curriculum always poses a bit of a risk and challenge, especially when it’s easier to stick to what you know, but McGowan said he’s seen kids enjoy learning math in a way he never has in his 18-year career.

“It’s about trusting the process. Trusting that the kids will learn,” he said. “But we have to be consistent.”

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Disclosure: Texas 2036 has been financial supporters of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune’s journalism. Find a complete list of them here.


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Knecht, Aidoo lead No. 5 Tennessee past Texas A&M, 86-51

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Knecht, Aidoo lead No. 5 Tennessee past Texas A&M, 86-51


KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) Dalton Knecht scored 24 points and No. 5 Tennessee beat Texas A&M 86-51 on Saturday night to tie Alabama for the Southeastern Conference lead and give coach Rick Barnes his 800th Division I victory.

The 69-year-old Barnes became the 14th coach to win 800 games at Division I schools. He also coached George Mason, Providence, Clemson and Texas, winning 402 games in 17 seasons with the Longhorns. He has 196 in nine seasons at Tennessee.

Jonas Aidoo had 18 points, 14 rebounds and three blocks to help the Volunteers (21-6, 11-3) win their fourth straight game. Zakai Zeigler had 14 assists and Tobe Awaka added 12 points. Tennessee shot 52.4% from the field.

Tyrese Radford and Wade Taylor IV led Texas A&M (15-12, 6-8) with 11 points each. The Aggies shot 27.3% from the field in dropping their fourth in a row.

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Santiago Vescovi hit a 3-pointer just before the buzzer to put Tennessee up 37-27 at halftime.

THE TAKEAWAY

Texas A&M: Two weeks ago, the Aggies couldn’t miss from beyond the arc in their 16-point win over Tennessee. They hit 8 of 16 3-pointers in the first half and were up by 14 before the Vols knew what hit them. … Andersson Garcia was dominant on the boards with 17 rebounds.

Tennessee: The Vols control their own destiny for a double-bye in the SEC Tournament. … Tennessee continues to get production from different areas of its roster. Earlier this week it was Awaka off the bench to rescue the Vols against Missouri.

UP NEXT

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Texas A&M: Host No. 20 South Carolina on Wednesday night.

Tennessee: Host No. 14 Auburn on Wednesday night.

Get poll alerts and updates on AP Top 25 basketball throughout the season. Sign up here.

AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-basketball-poll and https://apnews.com/hub/college-basketball

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Copyright 2024 STATS LLC and Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and Associated Press is strictly prohibited.





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Kansas vs. Texas: Predictions, picks, odds for men’s college basketball game

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Kansas vs. Texas: Predictions, picks, odds for men’s college basketball game


The No. 9 Kansas Jayhawks are set to face off against the Texas Longhorns at Allen Fieldhouse in a Big 12 showdown on Saturday night. This will be their only meeting this season.

Kansas currently has a record of 20-6 and is hoping to maintain their momentum after securing a 67-57 win against Oklahoma. The Jayhawks experienced two losses in the past month, a close 75-70 overtime loss to Kansas State, and a 79-50 blowout loss to Texas Tech.

The Texas Longhorns are coming off a 62-56 win against Kansas State. Longhorns’ Max Abmas made history by becoming the 12th player in men’s Division I to score 3,000 career points. Abmas is currently averaging 16.9 points and 4.4 assists per game.

Here are the betting lines and current predictions for the Kansas Jayhawks vs. Texas Longhorns Big 12 showdown.

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No. 9 Kansas Jayhawks vs. Texas Longhorns predictions

ESPN: Kansas has a 73% chance to win

According to ESPN’s Matchup Predictor, the Kansas Jayhawks have a 73.0% chance of beating the Texas Longhorns.

Winners and Whiners: Texas to get the win

Staff writes: “On the other end, Texas allows 67.9 points per contest. They embark on this trip after holding Kansas State to 56 points. The Longhorns’ opponent shoot 42.5% from the floor and 34.2% from beyond the arc. Texas sends foes to the free throw line 18.2 times per game. This season’s team is positive in rebounding (+1.5) and turnovers (+0.8). Texas has a good team. Can they pull off the upset?”

Action Network: Over 143

Scott Shaeffer writes: “Both teams have had about as much rest as they could ask for at this time of year in preparation for this game. Kansas’ offense struggles in the half-court at times, so the Jayhawks are likely to try to ratchet up defensive intensity to force turnovers and easy transition opportunities. Texas should have some avenues to find scoring, even in a tough road environment. I expect this to be a higher-scoring game than a typical Big 12 rock fight, so I’m recommending taking the over here.”

No. 9 Kansas Jayhawks vs. Texas Longhorns betting odds, lines

The Kansas Jayhawks are favored to defeat the Texas Longhorns, according to the BetMGM odds.

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  • Spread: Kansas (-8.5); Texas (+8.5)
  • Moneyline: Kansas (-400); Texas(+310)
  • Total: 146.5

Looking to wager? Check out the best mobile sports betting apps offering betting promos in 2024.

How to watch No. 9 Kansas Jayhawks vs. Texas Longhorns channel, steaming information

  • Game day: Saturday, Feb. 24, 2024
  • Game time: 6:00 p.m., ET
  • TV channel: ESPN
  • Live stream: ESPN+, Fubo

How to watch: Catch NCAA men’s basketball action with Fubo

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How to watch Tennessee Volunteers vs. Texas A&M Aggies: NCAA Basketball live stream info, TV channel, start time, game odds

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How to watch Tennessee Volunteers vs. Texas A&M Aggies: NCAA Basketball live stream info, TV channel, start time, game odds


Who’s Playing

Texas A&M Aggies @ Tennessee Volunteers

Current Records: Texas A&M 15-11, Tennessee 20-6

How To Watch

What to Know

We’ve got another exciting SEC matchup on schedule as the Texas A&M Aggies and the Tennessee Volunteers are set to tip at 8:00 p.m. ET on February 24th at Thompson-Boling Arena. Texas A&M is staggering into the matchup hobbled by three consecutive losses, while the Volunteers will skip in buoyed by three consecutive wins.

The point spread may have favored Texas A&M on Tuesday, but the final result did not. They fell 78-71 to the Razorbacks.

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The losing side was boosted by Andersson Garcia, who scored eight points along with 15 rebounds.

Meanwhile, the Volunteers beat the Tigers 72-67 on Tuesday.

Jonas Aidoo and Tobe Awaka were among the main playmakers for Tennessee as the former scored 14 points along with four blocks and the latter dropped a double-double on 18 points and ten rebounds.

The Aggies’ loss dropped their record down to 15-11. As for the Volunteers, they have been performing well recently as they’ve won 16 of their last 19 games, which provided a nice bump to their 20-6 record this season.

Saturday’s match is one where the number of possessions is likely to be a big factor: Texas A&M have been smashing the glass this season, having averaged 43.1 rebounds per game (they’re ranked third in rebounds per game overall). However, it’s not like Tennessee struggles in that department as they’ve been averaging 38.7 rebounds per game. Given these competing strengths, it’ll be interesting to see how their clash plays out.

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Texas A&M strolled past the Volunteers when the teams last played last Saturday by a score of 85-69. The rematch might be a little tougher for Texas A&M since the squad won’t have the home-court advantage this time around. We’ll see if the change in venue makes a difference.

Series History

Tennessee has won 6 out of their last 10 games against Texas A&M.

  • Feb 10, 2024 – Texas A&M 85 vs. Tennessee 69
  • Feb 21, 2023 – Texas A&M 68 vs. Tennessee 63
  • Mar 13, 2022 – Tennessee 65 vs. Texas A&M 50
  • Feb 01, 2022 – Tennessee 90 vs. Texas A&M 80
  • Jan 09, 2021 – Tennessee 68 vs. Texas A&M 54
  • Jan 28, 2020 – Texas A&M 63 vs. Tennessee 58
  • Feb 02, 2019 – Tennessee 93 vs. Texas A&M 76
  • Jan 13, 2018 – Tennessee 75 vs. Texas A&M 62
  • Dec 29, 2016 – Tennessee 73 vs. Texas A&M 63
  • Jan 09, 2016 – Texas A&M 92 vs. Tennessee 88





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