YONGSAN GARRISON, South Korea — One train leaves the station at noon going 45 mph. A second train leaves a station 100 miles away at 12:15 p.m. going 60 mph.

How long before your eyes glaze over?

Charles Toth, the superintendent of the Department of Defense Dependents Schools-South Korea district, says he wants to end the eye-glazing and brow-wrinkling that so often can come with math lessons.

He wants to incorporate lessons on math theory into activities that stretch across many subjects, turning the traditional “drill and kill” lessons — with word problems and multiplication tables — into situations that help students understand how math really works.

This year, he’s hired a special math coach for the district’s elementary schools. The coach, Clif Wolf, will work with a team of teachers from each school to pilot lesson plans and brainstorm ways to improve students’ attitudes and test scores toward math, Toth said.

“The goal is to develop the plan this year and test lesson plans,” Toth said.

The program will focus on grades 2 to 5, and the district will look for teachers to volunteer to help test different techniques, he said. The program will build on an initiative started in 2005 to incorporate algebraic lessons in third- and fifth-grade classes, he said.

The math coach idea is a pilot program from the Pacific and could be set up at other schools if it’s successful, said Nancy Bresell, director of DODDS-Pacific.

“I’m eager to see how it’s going to work and see how we can expand it,” Bresell said.

Other initiatives this year include adding Mandarin language classes at the middle schools and high schools on Yongsan Garrison, and adding a Spanish-language immersion program at elementary schools at Yongsan and Osan, Toth said.

The Spanish lessons — a DODEA-wide pilot program — will include 90 minutes of language lessons each week for some kindergartners and first-graders. The Mandarin classes already have 30 students at Seoul American Middle School and another 30 at Seoul American High School, Toth said.

Toth said he didn’t expect any space problems at any of the district’s schools. For the past two years, schools at Camp Humphreys and Osan Air Base dealt with overcrowding problems. Last year, the district added temporary classrooms at the Pyeongtaek schools, and those classrooms will be used this year, Toth said.

“We are in excellent shape,” he said.

Megan McCloskey contributed to this report.

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