Thursday, July 20, 2017

The creative approach to math education at Trio World School

“Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.” – Albert Einstein

Mathematics is a pivotal part of our lives. Even a person with an absolute dread for the subject will use it throughout his/her life! The alarm that wakes you up, the time taken by the school bus, school grades and running race timings, all involve math.

When classroom mathematics becomes all about plugging numbers into a formula or following a fixed series of steps, it can lead to boredom, lack of curiosity and drastically reduce the thirst for learning.

Prolific mathematician GH Hardy quoted A mathematician, like a painter or a poet, is a maker of patterns.  He also said, Beauty is the first test. There is no permanent place in the world for ugly mathematics.

Traditional mathematics, taught in the classrooms, may not approach the subject this way. We at Trio World School, Bangalore, believe in putting thought and effort into approaching mathematics more creatively, so that it cultivates curiosity and reduces apprehension among students. At Trio World School, our ICSE wing, we have created frameworks for laying a strong foundation for mathematics and language.

We are an ICSEschool, with a difference. We encourage children and teachers to creatively explore mathematical concepts. We integrate math with other subjects including art. A topic on arrays had Rangoli as a part of the lesson. For a topic on measurement, the entire unit on volume, perimeter and area was taught through measuring different objects inside the classroom, as a team, and presented in class.
Our math programme overcomes the rigid confines of a textbook, by adapting world-class approaches to learning. Our ICSE school math programme has 3 aspects:

1.       Alpha Math Programme
2.       Math Lab
3.       Mindspark Math Program

Alpha Math Programme

Trio, in collaboration with Scholastic, introduced the ALPHA Math programme to the ICSE school. Scholastic ALPHA Mathematics combines the learning practices and teaching methodologies from nations that are performing at the highest level in math education. The Alpha math programme is being implemented by more than 50 countries and is tailored to the needs of the Indian curricula.
Alpha Math program teaches through
·         problem solving focusing on the method
·         develops meta-cognition and mathematical thinking
Each chapter is taught over several lessons, with each lesson focusing on a topic.
Each lesson teaches one or more concepts. Each concept is taught using a two-part structure of Let’s Learn and Let’s Do:
·         Let’s Learn introduces the concept using the Concrete-Pictorial-Abstract approach.
·         Let’s Do provides guided practice and formative assessment. 
At the end of each chapter, students are given a problem-solving lesson to consolidate learning. We explicitly follow the four-step UPAC (UNDERSTAND, PLAN, ANSWER AND CHECK) process, which builds good problem-solving habits.
A checklist accompanies every word problem to reinforce the four-step process.

Math lab

The next stage of creative math education at our ICSE school was giving students the opportunity to learn math through a hands-on approach. The math lab gives them an environment that that lets them explore and realise mathematical ideas. We encourage them to make connections with various mathematical experiences and do not constrain them to any particular lessons. The math lab values the students’ individuality, and varied strategies. Multiple outcomes are encouraged, with emphasis on creative representation of their findings. This helps them develop a spirit of enquiry and confidence in their own mathematical abilities.

These are the key features of our Math lab:

·         It helps students visualize, manipulate and reason.
·         It provides an opportunity to understand and internalize the basic mathematical concepts through concrete objects and situations.
·         It enables students to verify or discover several geometrical properties and facts using models or by paper cutting and folding technique.
·         It helps the students build interest and confidence in learning the subject.
·         It provides an opportunity to exhibit the relatedness of mathematical concepts with everyday life.
·         It provides greater scope for individual participation in the process of learning and becoming autonomous learners.
·         It provides scope for greater involvement of both the mind and the hands which facilitate cognition.
·         It allows and encourages students to think, discuss with each other and the teacher and assimilate concepts in a more effective manner.
·         It enables the teacher to demonstrate, explain and reinforce abstract mathematical ideas by using concrete objects, models, charts, graphs, pictures, posters etc.

The math lab programme involves the following steps:

·         The Concrete-Pictorial-Abstract Approach develops deep conceptual understanding.
·         Students learn to make connections between physical materials, visual representations and mathematical symbols.
·         Gaining mastery involves concept development and understanding mathematical relationships.
·         Students learn to inquire, communicate, reason, conceptualize, formulate and solve problems.
·         Developing problem solving skills addresses both the process and the method of solving problems.
·         Students learn to use different strategies and solve problems effectively and confidently.

Mindspark Math Program

The next aspect of ICSE math teaching is the MINDSPARK programme, that enhances the process of learning even further. Mindspark is a computer-based, interactive and self-adaptive learning programme. The programme comprises of math based problem sets, quizzes, games, and activities. Each of these are accompanied by precise explanations.

The benefits of this programme are as given below:

·         Well-designed quizzes to promote critical thinking
·         Games build engagement and interest
·         Offers rewards and recognition to students
·         Helps students practice topics that they have already explored
·         Promotes application towards multiple concepts
·         Builds computational fluency and provides for effective evaluation, thus helping in remediation.
·         Helps in differentiating instructions

Teachers are given professional development courses throughout the year to help them implement these aspects of the programme effectively.