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Making math fun, exciting at Claxton Middle
Melissa Gardner focuses on her 7th graders
W Melissa Gardner
Melissa Gardner, center, a seventh-grade math teacher at Claxton Middle, teaches a class earlier this week. - photo by CRYSTAL WALKER/Staff

      CLAXTON - In a recent interview, Claxton Middle School teacher Melissa Gardner provided the U.S. Department of Education a framework for implementing six elements of an effective math lesson for their Doing What Works (DWW) website.
      Gardner was asked to contribute when Claxton Middle was chosen to participate in the federal research-based online program.
      The DWW website was created to help teachers, schools, districts, states, and technical assistance providers implement research-based instructional practice.
      Gardner's interview, along with others, offer practical advice for creating successful practices in the classroom, based on what has been found to work in real classrooms across the country.
      Each concept offered on the website begins with an overview of the practice to introduce the issues it addresses. The next step helps viewers understand the research base behind the practice. Educators can then access examples of schools engaged in these practices and use the tools provided to improve their own classrooms practices.
      In Gardner's interview, she describes how as a seventh grade math teacher, she works informal formative assessments into six elements of a lesson: drill, review, instruction, processing, application, and homework.
      "Gardner constantly seeks research-based strategies that will reach each and every student," said Bootsie Threatte, middle school math department chair.
      Now in her eighth year of teaching, Gardner considers it a privilege to be able to teach students about one of her favorite things-math. The very school where she now works was where her love of learning was fostered, she said, and where her desire to teach was born. Gardner moved with her family to Claxton from Marietta as a 10-year-old, and now she said, it is a blessing to work so closely with people that started shaping her life 20 years ago.
      Considering herself "a total math nerd," Gardner said she went from racing her friends and twin sister in solving algebra problems in middle school to tutoring her best friends in high school.
      Gardner went on to earn Bachelor and Masters degrees at Georgia Southern University.
      "It is so rewarding to teach math because my students' successes continue long after they leave my room," Gardner said.
      At any given time, she can readily discuss how each student she teaches is performing toward his or her mastery of a given standard, said Diane Holland, principal of Claxton Middle.
      "Math education is empowering in today's world," Gardner said.
      Gardner also serves on the design team at Claxton Middle, helping plan and review the school improvement plan.
      She and her husband, Raymond, live in Claxton with their two children Katie Anne, 3 and Dane, 2.
      Gardner's Six Elements of an Effective Math Lesson and other resources can be found at

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