Math in almost all schools does not look the same as 30 years ago, but I never understood why until my son transferred to Roots Community School. Math is so much more than paper and pencil work, chugging through endless repetitions of calculations without understanding what all those numbers really mean. We are so lucky to have teachers who are passionate and knowledgeable in math concepts!
Math appears in many different forms during the typical week at Roots Community School. While there are 3 core classrooms at Roots, these separations disappear during much of their math time and students are grouped by math levels, meaning each child is placed in the appropriate group for their ability no matter what “grade” level they are. It is quite possible that a “2nd grader” is in the same group as a “4th grader” and the kids enjoy these multi-age groups, encourage each other and develop relationships and a deeper understanding that we are all unique, with variable strengths and weaknesses. These groups ensure students are constantly challenged yet taught at a pace where they can truly learn the information and techniques before moving on. No more boredom from class being too easy, and no more extreme frustration because foundational concepts aren’t clear prior to moving on. There are also some math lessons within their core classrooms including concepts and number sense. This time spent with mixed abilities encourages students to help each other and learn how to explain something that is very easy to them. It stretches students to have flexible thinking about the problem to help a friend understand it better. This also teaches empathy and respect as the roles may be reversed when writing, reading or science time arrives and the student who breezes through math may then need assistance from other students. Students really see that there are multiple ways to view and solve a problem, which is a skill that will serve them well as adults. It’s truly a beautiful thing when students are supporting, encouraging and teaching each other rather than groaning and being frustrated about the students who take longer to grasp concepts. Students seem more than willing to help each other out, as they know they will also get an opportunity to challenge themselves and work at their much faster pace during another part of the day.
Friday looks quite different than a typical day at Roots, as students have 4 class rotations, one of which is visual math. This breaks away from the math they’ve been doing the rest of the week and focuses on visualizing and investigating big ideas relating to numbers. It helps teach kids that everyone can be good at math. The challenge and struggle is celebrated as learning and growing. Confidence is built and the helpless mentality is reduced as they conquer new concepts and stretch their minds.
Good mathematics curriculum and teaching progresses students from concrete (being able to see/touch the objects represented by numbers) to pictorial (just being able to see the representation of numbers) to abstract understanding (numbers represent objects we aren’t actually seeing or touching at this time). This is constantly revisited by the teachers at Roots Community School as they monitor student progress throughout the year. Student levels are also evaluated and math groups are fluid/flexible. Students change levels at individual times, as appropriate, and some students are involved in two groups until they are ready for the full change into the next level. Illness, travel, home stressors and so many factors play into a student’s ability to progress their academics. At Roots Community School, teachers strive to always look at the whole child and a low student to teacher ratio allows teachers to really know each student and teach accordingly. Math at Roots sets students up for success not only in middle and high school, but the math program sets the student up for success socially, emotionally, cognitively, and in the work world.
Fast Math Overview
- Formal Lessons
- Concrete, sequential and progressive. Move students through basic mathematics.
- Math Rotations
- Number sense- a strong sense of how numbers relate to each other and what numbers represent.
- Practical/Mental Math- an example is rounding and estimating totals (an important life skill for financial stability)
- Individualized learning- practicing concepts or increasing the challenge depending on the student. Geometry, spirals, measuring, fractions, decimals, & fact practice
- Teach and reinforce concepts and skills in a fun, stress free, social way!
- Manipulatives & Visuals
- Number line, blocks, charts, dry erase board, dice, dominoes etc