Monday, June 2, 2014

We celebrate math at Seabury

A celebration of math?  Really?! 

For many of us, math was something we did in school, or that we engage in when we balance our checkbooks.  It is a necessary skill – a tool we need to manage our lives and do our work.  But it is rarely celebrated – except at Seabury!

At Seabury, math is more than a collection of skills we tick off a list – it is a way of thinking that can be challenging, fun, engaging, and intriguing all at the same time.  Seabury’s teachers seek to develop strong math skills in their students, and also to develop students’ mathematical thinking and love for discovering new patterns and possibilities.

Most schools talk about differentiating instruction to meet student needs.  Looking at Seabury’s math program you will see that Seabury takes differentiation to a level that is unheard of for most schools.  In our effort to challenge each and every student every day, teachers have developed strategies for tailoring math instruction to individual student needs through the use of individualized instruction, flexible grouping, using a variety of teaching tools (rather than just the math texts), and the use of open-ended activities that allow students to go as deeply into a topic as their interest and readiness will take them.

Here is a math problem for you.  There are 25 students at the middle school.  Students are grouped by math ability and readiness, and teachers have used six different texts (ranging from sixth grade, through pre-algebra, algebra and geometry) with students this year.  Our middle school math teachers are currently preparing students for final exams that will be given during the last week of school.  In order for each student to take a final that is tailored to what she or he has studied this year, teachers are   How personalized does that make Seabury’s math program?
preparing a total of nine different finals, each with its own final review worksheet.

But math isn’t just working in a small group or individually with a teacher at Seabury.  Students at the lower school engage in “Math Adventures,” which are open ended activities that allow students to explore interesting patterns, develop their mathematical thinking, and explore the concept behind the algorithm for solving problems.  Students in the fourth-fifth grade class have developed their mathematical thinking through working with Math Pickles and have solved complex puzzles that have stretched their understanding of factors and prime numbers and patterns such as the Fibonacci sequence.   Students at all levels have incorporated math into art, and have made connections in the integrated curriculum to math.  Kindergarten students studying marine life recently made a life-sized nurse shark, measuring carefully to make sure it was the size of a real shark. 
As with all of Seabury’s program, tailoring instruction to meet individual needs, allowing student’s individual development to drive the pace of instruction, and building understanding through engaging, challenging activities drives math instruction.  Our students celebrate math because it’s fun, challenging, and it provides a chance to learn something new at school every day.  Come celebrate with us!

– Sandi Wollum