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Education
How It All Adds Up Learning to Love Math at The Children’s School
By The Children’s School

Aug 2, 2018 - 2:03:47 AM

contributed photo/The Children's School
Math is as essential to our understanding and appreciation of how the world works, and our place within it, as the spoken and written word; it has been described as “the poetry of logic.” As Maureen Murphy, Head of The Children’s School, explains, “A practical and needed tool, math is also a language, a window to deciphering the physical world as well as the forces that govern it. It teaches an important habit of mind—problem solving. Children learn how gratifying it is to find a solution, even if it takes several tries or a shift in strategy.”

The Children’s School brings math to life by anchoring it in the concrete, the domain that young children can grasp most easily. At every turn, our program offers opportunities and materials for the development of mathematical concepts. The curriculum has its roots in the work of Maria Montessori, a visionary in her insight that children are capable of understanding high-level mathematical concepts. Like Jean Piaget, she believed that young children learn best by manipulating simple objects, and she designed an array of learning materials that help develop mathematical thinking. By handling and arranging blocks, beads and puzzle pieces, children develop spatial awareness, pattern identification and grouping skills, and grasp concepts like counting by twos and fives.

As children’s understanding of math concepts becomes more secure, the school turns to elements of Singapore Math, which emphasizes inquiry and problem-based learning without sacrificing computational fluency. Throughout, students strengthen their critical thinking skills and practice using mathematical language to explain their reasoning. Areas of study include patterns and algebraic relationships, number sense and operations, statistics and probability, and geometry and measurement.

To determine which skill set best predicts academic success in elementary school, researchers at UC Irvine followed the progress of 20,000 kindergarteners. Their surprising conclusion? Math skills. Children who learned the most math in their primary years tended to have the highest math and reading scores years later.

contributed photo/The Children's School
“With that research in mind, we strive at The Children’s School to develop children’s persistence in problem-solving and a growth mindset toward math,” Murphy says. “There are usually multiple approaches to solving a math or engineering problem, and we encourage children to persevere and try different strategies.” The rush of pride a child feels after completing a binomial cube or folding a perfect paper airplane makes the trial-and-revision process that led up to that moment meaningful. “We’re building a predisposition to enjoy and understand mathematics—and to relish a challenge,” Murphy concludes. Even Einstein believed the key ingredient in math ability was tenacity. “It’s not that I’m so smart,” he famously remarked, “it’s just that I stay with problems longer.”

For more information, visit the school's website www.childrensschool.org, or call them at 203-329-8815.

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