Strengthening Schools: Sam Adams Elementary Steps Up to Multiplication

Published on Wednesday, August 31, 2022 in Strengthening Schools Grants

Jessica Struble sits on a stairway at Sam Adams Elementary School.
Jessica Struble sits on a staircase at Sam Adams Elementary.

As the K-12 Instructional Math Coach for Cassopolis Public Schools, Jessica Struble is always looking for ways to help the district’s math teachers improve.

Thanks to insightful observation on her part, as well as a Strengthening Schools Grant from MEC, Struble is helping Sam Adams Elementary students learn their multiplication tables – one step at a time. By decorating the staircases of the elementary with math facts, Struble says students can work on memorization each day on the way to class.

“Memorization is a basic building block of learning,” she says. “Kids will struggle without that.”

When Struble began teaching fourth and fifth grade at Sam Adams, she realized kids were struggling with multiplication. Michigan’s Department of Education expects students to develop an understanding of basic multiplication in third grade.

Struble later became the district’s math coach and made multiplication a priority. Another school’s Facebook post planted an idea that would lead Struble to apply for and win a Strengthening Schools Grant for Sam Adams Elementary.

The project: cover each riser on a flight of stairs with a vinyl sticker, which has math facts printed on it. Each step represents one row of a table – for example, the fourth step represents the 4s, and might range from 4x2 on the left to 4x10 on the right. The columns of the “table” are color-coded. Red might represent 2s, purple 3s, and so on.

Students follow one column up the stairs, working on one set of multiplication facts at a time. On one of the school’s main staircases, they can work on their 7s by finding the yellow column and counting up by seven for each step – 7x1 for the first, 7x2 for the second, all the way up to 7x12 at the top.

A staircase at Sam Adams Elementary displays a multiplication table.

Some staircases focus on division, and others have only a few columns, but the idea is the same for each. And because third, fourth, and fifth grade classrooms are all on the second floor of the school, students have several opportunities each day to practice their tables.

Struble hopes this is just the beginning for interest in math at Sam Adams. She urges parents and grandparents to work on memorization with students, whether in the car or at home.

Struble says winning a Strengthening Schools Grant is what made her project possible.

Strengthening Schools Grants are funded by partnership dollars through our power supplier, Wolverine Power Cooperative. If you’re a teacher, administrator, or school official serving students in our electric service territory, you’re eligible to apply. The deadline for 2022 is Oct. 17 – visit to learn more.