Friday, December 27, 2013

How Math Is Working

The middle school math program at Summers-Knoll invites students to stretch their mathematical muscles with three different groups over the course of a given week, and with a consistent cast of mentors giving instruction and offering one-on-one support.

On Mondays and Thursdays, students in the middle school are divided into three small groups, loosely ability-based. These groups of approximately ten students apiece have a forty-five minute math lesson with Sam Hirschman, who orients each lesson toward the particular needs, goals, and interests of each of the three groups.

On Tuesdays and Fridays, all thirty MS students have math for an hour in the morning, under the supervision of Sam, Jason, and me. Generally speaking, Sam will teach a lesson and work with the students he feels need the most support--or the strongest challenge. Jason takes younger students for interactive work time in his room. Upstairs, I gather about a dozen students--the precise roster can change from week to week, depending on the kids' needs. In the project rooms, I convene and facilitate work with a few small groups of two to four students. Each group takes a few minutes to first articulate strengths and weaknesses in particular areas, and to set explicit goals for the day's work. The common area upstairs is designated a Silent Work Space. Some kids are assigned to this space for individual work; others request it.

Wednesdays find the seventh and eighth graders in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) with Jason and Sam, exploring scientific topics, often with a mathematical bent. The featured topic during the Identity theme has been genetics. While that class convenes, I take the fifth and sixth graders for close readings and activities in humanities, all based on the Identity coursepack. In the afternoons, we trade, so the older kids have humanities then, while the younger students have STEM time.

Thus each student has math every day, but with varying orientations, partners, and objectives. The program has enough variety to keep the days from getting stale, but enough consistency--in teacher support, space, and subject matter--to keep progress strong.

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