KAIMUKI, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - At Liholiho Elementary School, fourth grade math is an exercise in exercise. Students recite math tables while they work out with hula hoops and jump ropes.
"I do my jump roping and then I say, 'Two times one equals two. Two times two equals four. Two times three equals six,'" Lolah Laudowicz said.
Teacher Ryan Towata believes warming up the body engages the mind, so kids can excel in the classroom.
"We start every day with these stations and I've seen growth in all students," he said.
Hawaii's public schools have seen growth in math test scores. For the first time ever, fourth graders beat the national average. The National Assessment of Educational Progress showed improvement in all areas from basic to advanced proficiency.
"Math was traditionally an issue for many schools. There was a lot of focus on it, and that focus has paid off," State Superintendent of Schools Kathryn Matayoshi said.
On NAEP's scale since 2003, Hawaii's fourth-grade math scores have risen 16 points. The national average went up seven points.
"Hawaii has invested in raising standards. They're focusing on the schools that need the most support, and on supporting great teachers and leaders," U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said.
NAEP tested 6,300 fourth graders and 5,500 eighth graders in math and reading. Math scores were the best ever. But reading needs improvement, so the DOE has focused on an English-Language Arts curriculum.
"It's not that they have to teach only that material, but it's sort of the center. What that allows us to do is provide some really grounded professional development around that curriculum," Matayoshi said.
Of all 50 states and the District of Columbia, Hawaii's math gains ranked second highest. Matayoshi credits the creativity of teachers.
"You have to really understand the kids. That's where the art and the science of teaching comes in," she said.
"We are finding other ways, innovative ways to tap in. It's not your old textbook, here's the work sheet, get it done," Towata said.
He holds his fourth-graders to a high standard because they'll use math every day.
"It helps in our lives. If we get the wrong change we can multiply in our head like that!" student Spencer Leung said.