At Lesley Ellis School, we teach mathematics as a valuable tool for making sense of the world. Students are encouraged to construct meaning and apply concepts to a range of real-life problems and, as a result, they come to value mathematics as a meaningful and practical subject that has many applications in their everyday world.
Young children develop an understanding of basic mathematical concepts by actively engaging with objects and materials. When working with blocks, puzzles and other toys, children make observations about size, quantity, sequence, patterns, space, speed and categorization. Through these meaningful activities, children build on their existing knowledge and theories and develop problem-solving skills.
Much of our math curriculum is experiential – lessons are designed to engage children in the practice of counting, multiplying, dividing and measuring as part of a hands-on activity. For example, a class might create a “virtual” restaurant, requiring them to calculate or pay a bill, and make correct change. Another class might use spreadsheets and computers to calculate a family budget based on income and expenses.
Students are challenged to work in-depth on problems using mathematical tools, manipulatives, conversations with peers and their own understanding to actively solve a variety of problems. Time is allowed for the children to think about the problems and to model, draw, write and talk about their ideas. Students discover materials and resources available to them and use these resources both inside and outside of school. At the end of the day, it is our goal that the students will use their knowledge in real-life situations and hence, view math as an exciting and integral part of their everyday lives.
Middle School math begins in fifth grade with a course focused on building skills for algebra while challenging students to think creatively as they solve problems. Students explore operations with integers, decimals and fractions, always using their new skills to solve word problems and proving why the algorithms work. Using currency to improve facility with decimals; comparing decimals and fractions on a number line; exponents; order of operations; and properties of numbers are introduced. The sixth grade curriculum deepens the concepts from fifth grade and adds number theory and plane geometry. Special units such as Greek mathematics enhance the interdisciplinary ancient civilizations curriculum in Grade 5/6.
Seventh graders complete a traditional pre-algebra curriculum including solving equations and inequalities, graphing linear equations and inequalities, data analysis, and working with plane and solid geometric figures. Eighth grade reviews the algebraic skills from the previous year before introducing quadratic equations and factoring, polynomials and working with rational equations, covering a full algebra curriculum. Students gain experience using TI-84 graphing calculators and learn to write simple programs.
Classes are small and focused on problem-solving and practicing new skills. Students use technology for viewing lessons, practicing skills and creating presentations to demonstrate their mastery. A middle school Math Club meets weekly in the fall and spring to offer additional challenge - from Math Olympiad and MathCounts contests to open-ended logic problems and creating tessellations - and students have the opportunity to explore new areas of math. The expectation is that at the end of eighth grade, students will be ready for a full year ninth grade geometry course.