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West Jordan Journal

New Antelope Canyon Elementary has the solution to the math problem

Sep 21, 2020 04:35PM ● By Jet Burnham

By Jet Burnham | [email protected]

Antelope Canyon Elementary, at 8810 South 6400 West, is the newest school in West Jordan. Principal Tami Bird has calculated that the winning formula for opening a new school during a global pandemic is an equation of safety, kindness and math.

Bird will address the low math scores common among students with a comprehensive mathematics instruction curriculum. Bird was a district math specialist for five years and previously administered a comprehensive mathematics instruction curriculum at Rose Creek Elementary in Riverton. Several teachers have completed training in effective teaching of mathematics in conjunction with BYU and Jordan School District.

The CMI curriculum follows best practices of teaching mathematics using a conceptual approach.

“We know that memorization is not the best form of learning for students in mathematics,” Bird said. “Because, at just about fifth grade, it's all a jumble in their head, and they don't know what any of that means.”

Conceptual level instruction uses pictorial representations and concepts that carry through from year to year.

“Usually what you're doing in kindergarten has a direct correlation to what's happening in calculus later on,” Bird said. “You’ve got to connect the dots with the kids and help them to see how mathematics is an interrelated system.”

Bird is passionate about math instruction and said when students have negative attitudes and experiences with the subject, it becomes a stumbling block in their education. 

“It is the No. 1 reason kids don't get into college,” she said. “It's the No.1 reason kids don't want to go to college. And that's something that I'm trying to remedy in our community. I want the kids to see math as something that's fun and exciting and that they can do it.”

The CMI program empowers students.

“The kids need to see themselves as learners,” Bird said. “They have their own ability to make sense of this and not just do what the teacher says.” 

Antelope Canyon curriculum will also have a strong STEM focus. During daily rotations, students will spend time in a high-tech STEM lab exploring coding, robotics, physics, geometry, engineering and scientific principles.

Ultimately, Bird wants students to feel safe and happy at school. She has established the common factors of optimism, safety and acceptance among the faculty and staff. She expects it will multiply as students and families pick up on the culture.

“We're going to take care of the students, and we're going to love them, and it's going to be a good school,” Bird said. “Because a school is not about a building; school is about the people in the building. We're going to take care of them. This staff will love these kids, and they will use their hearts and their incredible skill set as teachers.”

The student body will be coming from a variety of schools, backgrounds and experiences and will be at different levels, academically and emotionally. Bird isn’t worried. She has handpicked a staff of what she said are excellent teachers who are skilled and kind.

“We're experts in the field,” she said. “We can help fill holes. We can help diagnose learning gaps. We can do all of that. But right now, the most important thing is just to feel safe, to feel loved, to feel that this is their school family.”

The staff is following Jordan School District procedures and guidelines to provide a safe environment for learning and teaching.

“Right now, the thing consuming my mind is safety,” Bird said. “And once we get that through that hurdle, then I feel like I can really start all the other dreams and things that I'm just excited about. I don't want COVID to drive this train. It is always on my mind and it is always there. We can find our ways to mitigate the impact. When we get past that, then watch out, world, we've got an agenda. Academically, we've got some work to do.”