Advancing New Hampshire Public Education

Home » Common Core » ‘Brains are on fire’ in Amherst – the Union Leader makes the case for the Common Core

‘Brains are on fire’ in Amherst – the Union Leader makes the case for the Common Core

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.


Union Leader Reporter David Solomon captures here, on the last day of the Union Leader series on the Common Core, what you see in classrooms all over New Hampshire.  Be sure to read the whole thing.

AMHERST ­— Brenda McHugh was in the middle of a math lesson with her first-grade class at Wilkins Elementary when mathematics coach Jen Eccleston entered the room with Nicole Heimarck, director of curriculum and professional development for SAU 39, the district that serves elementary schools in Amherst and Mont Vernon as well as Souhegan Regional High School.

As McHugh paused to introduce her guests, including a reporter, one girl leapt to her feet and turned to face the visitors: “I solved a tricky question today, Mrs. Eccleston,” she said. “Our brains are on fire.”

There was a lot of talk about brain power in McHugh’s class that morning and obvious enthusiasm among the 15 first-graders. They gathered in a semi-circle at her feet as she took them through several exercises designed to reveal concepts behind addition, subtraction, equations and even what Heimarck described as “algebraic thinking.”

McHugh hung an orange rod on one side of the scale with 10 blocks. On the other side, she hung a green rod with six blocks and a purple rod with four blocks.

“Six, which is a part, and four, which is another part, are equal to the whole, which is 10,” she says. “Can I prove it on the scale?”

“Yes,” comes the reply.

“It is equal. How do I know?” asks McHugh.

“Because it balances,” the class replies in unison.

“So many kids have their brains on fire,” says our precocious greeter.

see the rest at ‘Brains are on fire’ in Amherst.


  1. booklady says:

    In spring 1978 I observed an early childhood teacher using balance scale & colored cubes to teach equations. The CCSS aren’t responsible for this type of lesson.

    • Bill Duncan says:

      That’s true. It’s not about the tools but how they are used and the level of expectations we set for our students. Their brains are on fire when we challenge them.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: