Mya Gooden, a sophomore at Fraser High School, met with Lynne Munson, the founder and CEO of Great Minds, which produces textbooks, last month in the Salk Elementary Media Center. They discussed a letter Gooden sent when she was in the sixth grade, suggesting changes Great Minds would later make to their books.

Mya Gooden, a sophomore at Fraser High School, met with Lynne Munson, the founder and CEO of Great Minds, which produces textbooks, last month in the Salk Elementary Media Center. They discussed a letter Gooden sent when she was in the sixth grade, suggesting changes Great Minds would later make to their books.

Photo provided by Fraser Public Schools


Fraser student’s letter brings about changes in nation-wide textbooks

By: Brendan Losinski | Fraser - Clinton Township Chronicle | Published January 13, 2022

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FRASER — A letter from a student at Salk Elementary School in Fraser five years ago has brought about changes to math book curriculums across the country.

Each year, the students of sixth grade reading and writing instructor Kelly Jenks write letters to practice composing persuasive arguments.

“The assignment was about persuasive writing. You find a complaint and try to focus on a solution,” explained Jenks. “The kids could write about what they wanted. They would then research where they could send the letter to. Some schools don’t send them out, but if it’s a good argument, why not actually give them to who you are writing to?”

Mya Gooden, who is now a sophomore at Fraser High School, decided to write a letter to Lynne Munson, the founder and CEO of Great Minds, which produces the Eureka Math textbooks her math class was using when she was in the sixth grade.

“The letter that we wrote was a complaint letter, so there was something wrong with the program that I wasn’t clicking with and that inspired me to write the prompt,” said Gooden. “I said that the way that they were wording things in the math problems was difficult for sixth graders to understand, and it was quite complex for us to learn.”

Gooden explained how the vocabulary used in Eureka Math was difficult to understand at times, and how her teachers had to spend time explaining it before students could even begin the math work. She then offered several suggestions for improvements.

Jenks said that, because the textbook was new and not well established, it was not surprising that students like Gooden might have some problems.

“Eureka is the program they use to teach math. It focuses on a deeper level of thinking. Instead of memorizing math facts, it also focuses on why you’re doing it that way,” she said. “The Eureka Math program was in its pilot stages at the time, so there were a lot of complaints, and Mya focused on its language and vocabulary.”

To the surprise of Gooden and Jenks, Great Minds took notice of Gooden’s letter and used it as a reference when designing the next version of the Eureka Math textbook.

“It was very surprising because I thought that after five years had passed, my letter would have been forgotten about, but they said they had been thinking about it ever since they got it,” said Gooden. “They said they would be taking into consideration how the wording was and changing it to make it a bit better. It became way easier to read and a lot simpler for students to understand.”

Gooden went on to say that receiving a response was incredibly satisfying.

“I heard a couple of months ago, probably in October. They emailed my mom because she works for the school, and they emailed (Ms. Jenks), too,” said Gooden. “It was pretty exciting, and I definitely didn’t think it was going to make this much of an impact, but it was really great to hear. … They wanted me to come in and talk about the background and why I wrote to them and show me the Eureka Math II book and how it had been changed.”

Great Minds contacted Gooden and Jenks to tell them about the changes and met with them to speak about how the changes would be made.

“Lynn Munson, who is the founder and director of the program, said she connected to it since she has a daughter who is dyslexic,” said Jenks. “She recognized how fast they had to put the Eureka program together because of time constraints they had with the state of New York, so she knew how they rushed it a bit. The language and names in the book are still multicultural, but they changed a lot of names to make them simpler and easier to read and simplified a lot of the terminology.”

Both Gooden and Jenks said that this goes to show that making your voice heard can make a difference — even if it can take some time.

“Usually, if you’re going to get a response back, it’s pretty quick. That they still had the letter was pretty incredible, in itself,” said Jenks. “I think it’s a good motivator for kids, since kids often don’t feel like they have a voice. People just tell them to be quiet or ignore them. This shows that if you have a respectful and positive approach, you can make people listen.”

“I really think that if you’re struggling with something, don’t be afraid to speak out and voice your opinion,” added Gooden. “Everyone has the right to voice your opinion and make your voice heard, even if you don’t think it will go very far.”

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