HOW WE DO NUMBERS IN THE JUNGLE
What is the maths curriculum at Green School? Are there tests? Homework?
These are questions we often hear from visitors to our campus who are curious about our wall-less classrooms, progressive learning program and focus on project-based learning for sustainability. Let’s take a peek through the bamboo and see what maths looks like at Green School. Discover how students can experience the magic and relevance of maths, equip them with skills to see and apply maths in everyday life right through to supporting them to achieve a perfect SAT score in mathematics. In this latest article on academics at Green School, we take a look at our Middle School Mathematics Program.
Children learn best when we engage the body, mind, heart and spirit (in fact the same is true for adults!). Maths is no exception to this rule. It just requires some progressive, creative teaching practices and imagination to transcend the textbook and reveal the magic and relevance of maths in our lives.
The Green School Middle School Mathematics program is as rigorous as it is innovative, student-centered, project-based and fun. The Middle School Maths program is based on the learning outcomes of the highly acclaimed Singapore Maths Curriculum. These learning outcomes provide us with the guideposts necessary for a robust program – delivered in the unique Green School way. A major goal of the Maths program is for students to ‘connect’ with numbers – to understand the relevance of maths in their lives and to relate it to their understanding of the world. Numbers describe our amazing planet – our aim is for students to have fun, feel comfortable and confident, and enjoy learning maths.
A major factor that differentiates the Middle School Maths program is that classes are not ‘grade-level’. There are no standard Grade 6, 7 and 8 Maths classes. We know that age is not a determining factor of mathematical ability, so our classes are arranged in ‘ability’ groups. These groups are assigned from pre-unit assessment activities and students often move around these groups as they change from unit to unit and find some math concepts more easy to grasp than others. Students learn maths in different ways.Our low teacher to student ratio enables us to deliver a dynamic and varied program.
Some teachers design game-based units, whilst other teachers teach more ‘traditional’ lecture-style and practice/repetition lessons. Our class-groups are also organized so that students who need the most help get the most help.Our Student Support group concentrates on hands-on ways to build number skills and, most importantly, confidence, in a small group setting. Catering for students who have the confidence and ability to take on more challenge is the Maths Extension group. This group often has 20-plus Middle School students, powering ahead with formal High School Maths units, including more formal examination and assessment, necessary at the High School level. Providing appropriate challenge, gaining confidence and busting the boredom of regular maths classes is at the core of the Program.
In line with the Green School approach to homework, maths homework is carefully considered, evidence-based and only given where it is assessed as impactful. We do not do homework for ‘homeworks sake’. Homework is minimal but here are times where it is impactful for students to practice recalling new skills and concepts in order to make solid, hard-wired memories.
Focus on Student Growth vs Testing
As students progress through Middle School and High School, we need to make sure their progress is assessed and they are prepared for life beyond Green School. Assessment comes in many and varied forms at Green School and, in the case of maths, tests at the end of each unit that help teachers, students and parents to stay informed of student learning and assist in making adjustments to student support or extension.. Tests are just one form of assessment, with in-class formative assessments being made progressively throughout units. Test results are not the core of the student reporting process, we look more at individual growth for each individual student.
Mix It Up – From Skill Building to Application
The Middle School maths program has the ‘standard’ units that all schools have: Semester One – Number Skills, Fractions-Decimals-Percentages, and Ratio-Rates; Semester Two – Geometry, Measurement, Statistics, Probability, and Algebra etc. This sequence allows us to build number skills through the first part of the year – and then start to apply the learning in the second part of the year. Semester Two units have many project-based activities – culminating in student projects such as conducting School-wide sustainability audits to gather, analyse, calculate impacts and prepare and publish a report on energy, water, waste, consumables, transport and other sustainability metrics.
Beyond Maths – Integrated Experiential Learning
Maths is a part of the other components of the Middle School program. This sophisticated, integrated, experiential approach to learning is fundamental to learning at Green School.
From our art-science classes (robotics, coding, and pure science), to thematics (where maths is the tool for analyzing local and global problems-to-solutions concepts), to nature-based Green Studies units (in PE and arts classes), to other experiential units (architecture, photography, cooking, music and PE). Maths, numbers and patterns are everywhere, students don’t just learn maths in maths classes.
Take Maths Outside The Classroom
At Green School, we understand that learning can happen anywhere and the the whole world is the classroom. With such an expansive and natural campus, opportunities to take maths outside the classroom are in abundance. Looking at one example of taking maths outside, was the Middle School bridge project. This challenging project involved student construction of a real, cable-and-bamboo, footbridge across the Ayung River. Not a model of a bridge, but a real, functional and beautiful bridge. Students designed, calculated costs, dragged heavy cables, measured, cut and attached the bamboo, and conducted load-tests.
Make Mathematics Gamefied & Fun
Having fun – we cannot stress this enough! It is a requirement for real learning. Students play a lot of games in the Middle School maths classes. Whole-units are designed around a particular game. Friday is often ‘Fun Friday’, where we see teachers and students having fun together, building maths abilities with strategy, pattern and number-skill games.
We utilize the format of Google Classrooms to deliver day-to-day lessons with assigned activities, resources and homework or extension. Students have the opportunity to set up on-line math program accounts – either for reinforcement of classroom learning, extension of concepts or individual enquiry.
Green School believes that avoiding students defining themselves as either ‘good at maths’ or ‘bad at maths’ is critically important. Middle School is a precious time in a child’s development. Developing positive relationships, developing inner-confidence, feeling free to be an individual and learning to be more independent is central to the Green School Middle School experience. Maths is no exception to this and as we prepare students for High School we are committed to preparing them both academically and socially and emotionally. A meaningful, relevant, fun and individual student-centered approach is what gets them there.
– Sal Gordon, Green School Bali
How to apply Green School Middle School Maths in your own classroom or home:
Consider creating projects that engage and inspire students to connect maths with real-world problems.
Look for ways to take classroom learning outdoors. Consider building projects and other group-based experiential activities.
Engage students with games and activities that are fun and inspiring and ‘imprint’ learning for time to come.