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Welcome to Room 24!
Contact Info

Burton Valley Elementary School

561 Merriewood Drive

Lafayette, CA 94549

phone: (925) 927-3550 x5037


Attendance Line: (925) 927-3550 x3554

Advice from a Teacher...and Mom

I realize that many children enjoy electronics (television, video games, computers, etc.). I also have two boys who enjoy these fun diversions, but I try not to let it consume them. One of my rules is that there is no television during the school week. I also have the "minute-per-minute rule." This rule states that they must read for every minute they want to play on the computer. So, if they read for an hour, they get to play on the computer for an hour. This ensures they get their reading in, which is the very best thing they can be doing with their time. :)

Common Sense Media

Wondering if a movie is appropriate for your child? How about an app for your iPad or iPhone? Check out this site for media reviews.

Common Sense Media

I will be keeping a collection of the students' work in binders, so please keep that in mind as you go through the Friday folders with your child. If you would like to add anything to your child's binder, please send the papers back in the Friday folder on Monday.

Cathy Martinsen

Welcome Back!

I am excited to be back in the classroom with your children and look forward to a fantastic school year!


Math FAQs

Why is math being taught differently from when I was in school?

Forty-six states, including California have agreed to move to a new set of educational standards, called the Common Core State Standards (CCSS).  In mathematics, these standards call for students to move beyond computational and algorithmic mastery, to understand mathematics more deeply and to be able to solve complex problems using mathematics. The emphasis on understanding, reasoning and problem solving in the CCSS reflects decades of international research on effective mathematics instruction. The new standards are being phased in and will be fully implemented with new assessments in the 2014-2015 school year.  You are encouraged to attend the math parent night for your child’s grade level to learn even more.

Why does my child have to solve a problem two ways?

Solving problems two ways helps students develop flexibility and efficiency with computation. Students can also check their own work and find their own errors when they use more than one strategy to solve a problem.

When will you teach the standard procedure/standard algorithm? Why is my child learning different strategies to compute instead of just focusing on the standard algorithm?

In Lafayette, students learn standard procedures once they have developed other efficient strategies to solve problems. Learning multiple strategies helps students build number sense, deepen their understanding of the operation, and become fluent with number properties. Research shows that students who have developed flexible strategies for computation are more successful problem solvers.

The “standard algorithms” were developed in India in the first centuries of the Current Era, and further honed by traders and engineers in the Iraq-Persia region, in order to make mental paper-and-pencil calculation most efficient. Those standard algorithms sacrificed ease of understanding in favor of computational efficiency, and that made sense at the time. But in today’s world, we can turn the educational focus on understanding the place-value system that lies beneath those algorithms, and develop the deep understanding of number and computation required in the modern world, and prepare the ground for learning algebra.

The Common Core State Standards require mastery of the standard addition and subtraction algorithms at 4th grade, the standard multiplication algorithm at 5th grade, and the standard division algorithm at 6th grade.

Why isn’t all of my child’s homework from the textbook?

The current math textbooks are not yet aligned with the Common Core State Standards. To help with this transition, teachers in Lafayette are supplementing their instruction with other resources to provide more reasoning and problem solving activities for students, and to include work that requires greater depth of mathematical knowledge.

Why does my child have only a few problems for homework?

As part of the shift in emphasis to more reasoning and problem solving, math homework generally consists of fewer problems that require a greater depth of knowledge. Students may be asked to solve problems in more than one way, to write about their thinking, and/or to solve more complex problems that require applying several skills. 

Didn’t my child already do this activity last year?

Teachers revisit previous activities in order to deepen student understanding of mathematical concepts.  Students benefit from revisiting an activity because they bring more meaning to the task, and are able to extend the activity to solidify and deepen their conceptual understanding.  Building mathematical understanding is a spiral process, not a linear one; students need to systematically revisit important concepts.  Additionally, Lafayette, like the rest of California, is in a transition period moving from existing content standards to the Common Core Standards.  As teachers adjust to new content standards and search out new resources, there is going to be occasional overlap across grade levels.  In some cases, content standards may be similar at two grades levels, but more restricted at a lower grade level.  For example, in fractions, the Common Core standards for 3rd grade specify the use of only a few denominators (2,3,4,6, and 8) to allow students to more fully grasp concepts of fractions (such as equivalence).  In 4th grade, students go deeper in fraction standards by broadening the set of denominators they use, even within the same or similar activities. 


Routines and procedures for classroom instruction are the instructional components of the Workshop Model. Useful in any content area, the model includes:



Typically around 10 minutes, this whole-class direct instruction is delivered by the teacher in one of these ways:

  • conduct a shared reading

  • read and think aloud for a specific purpose

  • teach a key concept

  • demonstrate a writing strategy

  • direct students in a hands-on activity



Students work on their own, in pairs, or small groups. The teacher circulates to be sure all students are on task, then moves to:

  • confer with individuals, taking anecdotal notes

  • work with small groups in direct instruction



Teacher brings class back together at meeting area to:

  • recap day's learning

  • check for understanding

  • focus on work of 1-2 students that use what was taught in lesson

  • allow students to share their work in pairs or whole class

MobyMax - Keep your skills fresh!




Character Counts Quotes of the Month

“There is no better exercise for strengthening the heart than reaching down and lifting up another.” Anonymous


“We may never know all the good a simple smile can do. May no one ever come to you without going away better and happier. May everyone see kindness in your face, in your eyes, and in your smile. Love is a fruit in season at all times.” Mother Teresa


“Be humble and give more honor to others than to yourselves. Do not be interested only in your own life,

but be interested in the lives of others.” Saint Paul


“A person who gives to others will get richer. Whoever helps others will himself be helped.” King Solomon




Explorer Presentations

The students created digital stories about their selected California Explorer. Enjoy!


Juan Cabrillo


Sir Francis Drake


Sebastian Vizcaino


Vitus Bering


Gaspar de Portola