Changes in 2010-2011
At Orchard House, we are committed to strengthening our math program continuously. For the last two years, we have examined our own data and researched global math programs, girls, and middle school education. As a result, we are shifting the emphasis in parts of our program. Our fifth and sixth grade programs will offer more opportunities for concept development and multiple paths to solutions. The fifth and sixth grade courses will serve as a foundation to algebraic concepts with a particular emphasis on properties, number sense, identification of patterns, and representative and systems thinking. Increasingly the girls will be asked to study math, to read and write about math, and how to prove what they know. They will work more with data, real life situations, spatial relationships, and geometry. We are working to strengthen their conceptual base so when they get to seventh grade they are competent and confident at the time when research shows that girls associate their overall intellectual competency with their mathematical achievement. Part of the shift in the program will teach the girls directly how their mindset affects their learning and brain development and how exploring multiple paths to solutions is a long-term benefit, even if in the short-term it is uncomfortable. We will emphasize the benefits to the labor of learning so when they are struggling with hard problems they dig deeper to employ strategies for solutions. From these changes, our intent is to cultivate students who are vested in math and in themselves and that the connection between the two is positive and strong.
Orchard House continuously holds its math program up for review. Recognizing that our entering students have significantly different backgrounds and experiences with math, we will pilot a new approach in the upcoming year.
Beginning in 2010-2011, we will offer two distinctly different math programs for our fifth grade students. Our two programs are the Saxon 76, which we currently offer, and Pre-Transition Math, from the University of Chicago Math Project, which we will add this year. We believe by offering these two distinctly different programs, we will more effectively reach each of our students.
There are significant strengths to each program depending on the past experiences, the style, and the interests of the learner. Essentially, if a girl has had past experiences in math that left her wobbly or uncertain of herself as a successful math student, she would likely benefit from Saxon 76. If a girl has met with success in math, is fairly confident of her math ability, and seems to sail through math, she would likely benefit from the Pre-Transition Math. The Saxon 76 program is spiraling; it builds concepts more predictably and concretely, and it provides continual review. The Pre-Transition program is designed more conceptually, and it often challenges and expands a student’s knowledge base.
Attitude, effort, and mindset are chief contributors with girls to later math proficiency, understanding, and success. The aim of the school is to set-up all incoming fifth grade students to maximize their ability and their proficiency- both short and long term. From offering these two distinctly different programs we believe we will target each girl’s learning style and preferences more directly, setting her up for success at that critical juncture in seventh grade. As a result of offering these two programs, we believe more of our girls will be math students who are willing to do their best, who have confidence in their ability through hard work, and who have solid foundations, strong conceptual bases, and increased facility with math.
Figuring out how the pilot program complements our current seventh and eighth grade course offerings will be under examination this year. The current plan is to continue both the Saxon and the Chicago math programs through fifth and sixth grades and then to evaluate carefully the needs of each girl and to place her into one of our three math courses currently offered. As part of the pilot aspect of the school’s approach, we will evaluate continuously what best serves each girl.
In very different ways, both programs offer tremendous benefits to our varied learners. We are excited at this juncture in the school’s development to offer two strong programs to our students. Both programs support the school’s commitment to the development of confidence, long-term understanding, and success in math.