The Lower School Mathematics Curriculum strives to develop young mathematicians who feel secure in their understanding of mathematical principles and their use of numbers so that they can apply their understanding to problem-solving situations.
Research shows that most students in our society can perform arithmetic computation but cannot use those skills to solve problems. Reports indicate that students do not have a strong preparation in the areas of mathematics that require higher level cognitive skills and understanding to solve problems that go beyond routine situations. Students who are preparing now for their role in our world must be ready to face rapid advances in knowledge and technology and, no doubt, many as of yet undetermined needs.
The mathematics program uses the manipulative-based, integrated approach recommended by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics. The curriculum is designed to reflect real-world situations, including the use of technology and a collaborative method of discovery.
The program emphasizes the way that children acquire and use strategies to perceive, understand, and act on mathematical problems. Children learn to use different methods to solve a problem and to seek multiple solutions to problems when appropriate. The content of mathematics is important, but it is emphasized within the larger framework of understanding and application.
The operations of addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division spiral sequentially throughout the curriculum each year as children expand their understanding of numbers and numeracy. These skills are applied as students use manipulatives, pencil and paper, mental computations, problem solving techniques, calculators, and computers to investigate the specific topics of fractions, decimals, measurement, patterns and relationships, and geometry.
Instruction takes place on a whole group, small group, and individual level. Related projects are designed to further children's mathematical understanding and to develop interdisciplinary themes. For example, in conjunction with a unit on Native Americans, kindergarten children play chip-trading games with dice, dried kernels of corn and clam shells. If the rolled dice is four then the child gets four pieces of corn. When the child has accumulated ten pieces of corn he trades for one clam shell. Some children can play with two dice and when they have accumulated ten clam shells, they can trade for one conch shell (representing one hundred).
In second grade, children read and then act out the story The Doorbell Rang. They explore graphing, division, multiplication, and story-problems. The culmination of this project is baking cookies and creating their own story-problems to share with classmates. The fourth grades study of the Maya base twenty number system includes concepts and skills in math, art, writing and social studies. In working with the number system students grapple with place value, different bases, and create replica of Maya art and symbols. They also write about their experiences and make cross cultural comparisons between our number systems and the Maya number system.