Mastering math may begin with knowing the numbers, but gaining a full understanding of mathematical concepts also requires an understanding of how and why the numbers work. It also requires the development of critical thinking skills that lead to reasoned decisions and judgments.
As students progress through their primary years, they apply their fundamental math knowledge to conquer grade-level objectives, including measurement and estimation, simple geometry, data collection and interpretation, and critical thinking and problem solving.
Heritage Hall Lower School teachers provide instruction in these areas using the Math Expressions program, which combines traditional pedagogical approaches with standards-based teaching.
Making up the five core structures of Math Expressions are Building Concepts, Math Talk, Student Leaders, Quick Practice, and Helping Community. According to Sharon Marion, Lower School Educational Support Services, these five interactive structures support one another.
“The five core structures of Math Expressions empower students from all backgrounds, with diverse learning and life experiences, to learn mathematics. The program builds understanding, fluency, and confidence by providing differentiated instruction focused on each student’s strengths,” explained Marion. Marion adds that the program’s technology enhances the learning experience for students.
A Math Expressions classroom is comprised of four pivotal phases:
Guided instruction – the give-and-take needed for the conceptual development of a new topic. Through collaboration, students and the teacher identify different solution methods.
Learning unfolds – during this phase, various teaching methods are used to promote explicit/active learning (rather than implicit/passive), thus enabling students to become proficient in the subject matter.
Knead knowledge – the practice stage during which students gain fluency in mathematical strategies, methods for computation, and problem solving.
Maintaining and integrating fluency – as teachers present problems, they facilitate instructional discussions and dialog to reinforce what students have learned.
“The goal,” said fourth grade teacher Brenda Neundorf, “is to create a positive, effective learning experience that will lead to math confidence and an enriching math experience in the upper grades, in college, and in life.”