Fairfield’s Elementary School Math Academy


Aniket Martins

The Fairfield Public School Math Academy is an opportunity for select 4th and 5th grade students to accelerate their math learning…

Aniket Martins, Opinions Editor

The Fairfield Public School Math Academy is an opportunity for select 4th and 5th grade students to accelerate their math learning in order to be placed into Pre-Algebra 7 in 6th grade. Following a natural sequence of math courses (including Algebra 1, Geometry, Algebra 2, Precalculus, Calculus and Multivariable Calculus), the Math Academy allows students to access college level math while they are still in high school. The Math Academy is run at Holland Hill Elementary School, and students are invited to attend based on their scores across tests (including the CogAT, NNAT3 and other district/school assessments). Families of participating students must provide their own transportation to Holland Hill, but students return to their regularly districted middle and high schools. 

During the 2020-2021 school year, various Board of Education members highlighted some of the inequalities exposed by the math factory. Arguments were made that the Math Academy did not provide opportunities for academically gifted students whose families could not provide for the necessary transportation. 

Proposals to remove the Math Academy for the 2021-2022 school year were not adopted by the Board of Education due to a campaign from Math Academy parents and students, culminating in a 5-4 vote in favor of the Math Academy.

When asked about the Math Academy, Holland Hill Principal Mrs. Molly Farrell said, “I am the biggest fan of this program and always have been. This is the third year that it has been in existence, and I think we have fine-tuned it each year.” Regarding the concerns of student assimilation into the Math Academy at HHES, Mrs. Farrell said that HHES has “put new parents in touch with current/past parents in the Math Academy so they could support each other” and conducted “a team building event at the start of the year so the Math Academy kids can get to know other 4th graders in a more formal way, not just at recess.” 

However, at the December 2021 Board of Education Regular Meeting, Dr. James Zavodjancik (FPS Director of Instruction, Curriculum and Assessment) and Mr. Walter Wakeman (FPS Program Director of Elementary Mathematics, Science, and Enrichment) proposed changes to the Math Academy which would eliminate the Academy at Holland Hill, instead offering a “45 minute math acceleration/challenge period in elementary schools beginning in the 2022-2023 school year [which would] occur once in a 6 day cycle” (per the Board of Education Meeting Minutes). The proposal specifically states that “the math academy programming cannot be replicated in all 11 elementary schools without significant staffing increases” and the new “acceleration program does not afford students acceleration opportunities in their elementary school.” Per the Board of Education notes, the core differences between the Math Academy and the proposed enrichment plan lie in the curriculum and learning environment. While the Math Academy teaches 5th and 6th grade curriculum by 5th grade, the enrichment program offers curriculum “embedded in grade level content.” Furthermore, the Math Academy groups all of the advanced students together, while the enrichment program happens in typical classrooms. 

When asked about the rationale behind the transition to a school based enrichment program, Mr. Wakeman stated that “It is important to provide equitable access and challenge in mathematics to all students in their districted home school” and that “there is greater emphasis across the district to challenge all elementary students in mathematics regardless of their participation in Math Academy.” Mr. Wakeman stated that “The goal is to provide the best instruction possible for all students in Fairfield.”

Between the December and January Board of Education Regular Meetings, dozens of students and parents of the Math Academy have voiced their opinions to the Board of Education by highlighting the social, emotional and academic benefits of the Math Academy. Unlike many Board of Education programs, the Math Academy is being discussed as a part of the new FPS Budget.

Voting and further discussions regarding the Math Academy and the Fairfield Public Schools Budget for 2022-2023 will happen during the next few weeks, particularly at the upcoming Board of Education meeting on February 15th, 2022.