The Vision of Mathematics at PKS

An update from Denise Svenson, Math Specialist

It is always a good time to reflect on mathematics, and perhaps even more so now at the start of the academic year and as PKS advances towards the launch of our middle school in 2018.

As a progressive school, our vision for mathematics has many unifying elements. It is our expectation that students look beyond “doing math” to “thinking like mathematicians,” and to see the potential for beauty, fun, creativity, and trans-disciplinary connections in mathematics.

As a learning community, we provide continuing education for both teachers and parents, knowing that a unified effort best serves student learning. We will be asking all stakeholders to look at mathematical thinking from multiple perspectives, to challenge preconceived notions using research-based evidence, and to be internationally minded while we implement best practices for mathematics education.

My role as a math specialist will be to guide this exploration for our students, teachers, parents, and leadership, while ensuring that what happens in the classroom is consistently in support of our mission as a progressive school. My undergraduate education from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in architecture and building technology, with a concentration in studio arts, has allowed me to think about and use mathematics in a trans-disciplinary way. I earned my MEd from Mercer University in middle grades education with a focus on middle grades math and science education, and have fifteen years experience as an educator.  I have led Mandarin Immersion schools as a model teacher leader, a math specialist, and an IB Middle Years Programme Coordinator.

This year, we are adopting the Bridges Mathematics and Connected Math Project curricula for elementary and 5th grade/middle school, respectively. These programs were both developed through the National Science Foundation to allow students to develop rich mathematical understandings and meaningful skills. Although the Connected Math Project is often used starting in 6th grade, we will begin to use it in 5th grade. These curricula were carefully chosen to emphasize problem solving, reasoning, making connections between mathematical topics, communicating mathematical ideas and providing opportunity for all students to learn.

We will be transparent as we implement this new math curriculum, including how we assess student learning, and will clearly communicate what it means to think like a mathematician at PKS. In addition, we will use protocols from the National School Reform Faculty, a progressive educational think tank, to communicate our vision, our curriculum, and how PKS parents can be partners in our efforts to examine what it truly means to teach and learn mathematics.

P.S. If you’d like to delve deeper into the learning and teaching of mathematics, this is a wonderful article: The Mathematician's Lament, by Paul Lockhart.