News & Updates

Moving forward with Math:  Supporting Thinking Classrooms at GMS

Math can be tricky for many students but expect a change for next year’s 6th-grade students with the help of a grant from the Greendale Education Foundation.

The math department at Greendale Middle School is incorporating ideas from Peter Liljedahl’s book, “Building Thinking Classrooms” in a plan to increase student engagement, critical thinking, problem-solving, and mathematical skills. 

 The shift to a “Thinking Classroom” has already started and is already bearing fruit.  According to one 6th-grade math teacher, “We started to shift our practice in using 3 of the 14 ideas from this book. When students were challenged in small groups with an open middle problem (they can come to the answer using a variety of strategies), 100% of the students were engaged. Some less confident students were willing to participate by writing others’ thinking or listening to their group members or using the calculator to try different ideas.”

 The Education Foundation donated $1,021 to Greendale Middle School to purchase WipeBooks vertical re-usable writing surfaces to implement one next step in developing thinking classrooms.  These tools allow students to work together around the room and collaborate more effectively.  Liljedhal notes that when working on reusable surfaces, students get to work faster and get more work done since “they’ll try anything and everything because they feel like they can just erase it if it’s wrong.”

 In addition, when students use the vertical writing surfaces, teachers can easily see how they’re progressing, and students can see the work their peers are doing and be inspired by each other’s ideas.  Working on vertical surfaces also keeps students standing rather than sitting, which also increases engagement.  Liljedahl highlighted that “when students are sitting, they feel anonymous, and when students feel anonymous, they disengage.”

“These tools will offer a shift in how we teach students math. We are moving away from ‘sit-and-take-notes’ and into bigger problems with more engagement,” added Jane Patterson, Greendale Middle School Math Teacher.

Since 1998, the Greendale Education Foundation has been committed to bringing together community support and resources to meet the needs of students, educators, families, and community members. Almost $400,000 has been raised to fund learning opportunities for Greendale students and staff.

Are you interested in helping provide more opportunities for Greendale students? Contact the Greendale Education Foundation at or visit