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Math at CDS

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

There’s no denying it—math is a hot topic. From articles like the The New York Times’ “Why Do Americans Stink at Math” to books such as Jo Boaler’s What’s Math Got To Do With It?, experts are calling for a change to the standard math that is being taught across the country.

CDS is proud to be among the ranks of schools that offer students a richer, more holistic, hands-on approach to math learning. Our goal is to help children build conceptual understanding and become flexible mathematical thinkers. We do this by focusing on the development of conceptual reasoning, as well as skill fluency; emphasizing communication and group work; providing students with opportunities to apply math to real world problems and participate in longer chains of reasoning; and stressing the importance of developing a variety of tools for the “tool box,” not just one method. To do this important work, our transitional kindergarten through fifth grade students use the Bridges in Mathematics curriculum. We are excited to share some of the work that our teachers have been doing to deepen their own math understanding.

In order to provide a framework for collaboration and conversation, we are now working for a third year with math consultant Alison Fox Mazzola. During her regular visits to our school, teachers engage with Alison in ongoing professional development, conversations about best math practices and grade level collaboration. She models lessons, observes and gives feedback to classroom teachers and helps to set grade level and individual goals for math instruction.

Last spring all division administrators and math teachers, preK-8, worked with Alison to write the school’s math vision statement:

The goal of the Children’s Day School math program is to develop students’ mathematical thinking and understanding so that they can communicate their ideas and solve problems with accuracy and efficiency. Teachers engage students in explorations with real-life contexts to experience the beauty and language of math.

Teachers empower students to take ownership of their learning and encourage curiosity, wonder, and resourcefulness in the study of mathematics. Teachers cultivate flexible thinking and value a variety of approaches to solving problems.

Students communicate their ideas and strategies, as well as consider and respond to the thinking of others. They develop strong connections to mathematical ideas through movement, use of manipulatives and collaboration.  

Teachers facilitate mathematical investigations by presenting meaningful problems that provide students with the opportunity to apply skills in context. Assessment informs instruction so that teachers can differentiate to meet student needs. CDS celebrates mistakes and a growth mindset; students try, fail, and try again. Reasoning is developmental and emerges for students at different rates.

Students build understanding as they move from concrete to abstract application and practice.  

Articulating this philosophy and intentionally building our professional learning community is a win for teachers and a win for students.