La Cañada Unified school officials looked at whether or not heterogeneous math classes in fifth- and sixth-grades piloted in the 2013-14 school year help kids learn.

Supt. Wendy Sinnette and Anais Wenn, assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction, met with teachers at La Cañada, Palm Crest and Paradise Canyon elementary schools at the beginning of the school year and quarterly throughout the year to guide the process.

The classes combine students of different proficiency levels, and teachers use differentiated instruction to reach students of all different learning rates and types within a single lesson.

At Tuesday’s meeting, the three elementary principals shared their experience with the program last year.

“We want our kids not to just do more, but think more deeply,” La Cañada Elementary Principal Christine Castillo said.

One in-class exercise asked students to identify their dream car. Then, they had to determine what kind of salary and position they’d have to work in order to afford payments and still have money left over to pay bills.

Another math lesson asked the students to draw a city with buildings and parallel and crossing roads. For each structure, they had to figure its circumference or diameter, while road angles were also determined. The level of work and detail was driven by the students’ understanding of key concepts.

“They work in groups to talk about their strategies and they compare strategies,” said Paradise Canyon Elementary Principal Debra Cradduck. “That sharing of knowledge really deepens the math that’s being done in the classroom.”

--Sara Cardine, sara.cardine@latimes.com

Follow on Twitter: @SaraCardine.

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