What if math class was a place where kids’ problem solving and deep thinking skills could come alive, and a place where they grow in their confidence and adaptability?
Mathematics learning can be authentically engaging, and it is the perfect place for students to take on the much sought after “growth mindset.” Rather than focusing on “getting the right answer,” math class can be an incredible place to bring about flexible thinking skills.
At Acera, the school year starts with a series of math problem-solving exercises, offered up in an encouraging way with adults who observe and coach them along. And this, then, correlates with placement in math classes that honor their capacities and needs, instead of just their age. In the 2022-23 school year, this translated to 16 different math classes for our 143 students.
Take a tour of the many different strategies and activities happening during Acera’s math block!
Ability-based math classes become feasible through a scheduling framework of holding math classes at the same time across multiple classrooms and, ideally, multiple grades. Teachers can then define groups which fit the students’ capabilities, placing students in the right level and right learning style/approach to best suit them in what they are ready to learn.
A key part of fluency is not just knowing a fact but also knowing how to think about solving a problem most efficiently, and picking the best strategy. Students get to engage deeply in a way that fits their capacity, and experience the authentic satisfaction which comes from trying hard, figuring things out, balancing that equation just right, and solving a problem. That kind of intellectual satisfaction creates an appetite for trying new and more challenging things. When habits of flexible thinking start to hatch, they can be generalized to other areas of learning and life.
In this type of math school schedule and framework, new possibilities open up for math experiences for all kids. These kinds of experiences then generate a new sense of self and new capabilities which far surpass math alone, and inform the adults they will become!