Somerset Times

Academic Excellence in Mathematics in the 21st Century - Part I

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Somerset Times Edition

Week 3, Term One, 2018

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Achieving academic excellence in Mathematics in the 21st century is a unique challenge. Numeracy remains a fundamental part of education, but the teaching of basic numeracy skills has altered considerably over the past few decades.

Even with the ‘return to fundamentals’ approach of the Australian Curriculum, most adults now in the workforce wouldn’t recognise the modern Mathematics classroom.

The teaching of Mathematics in the 21st century needs to adjust ever more rapid changes in technology. How do you teach basic numeracy skills when all of your students have access to calculators and web applications like Wolfram Alpha that can instantly deliver step by step solutions on their smart phones?

To provide academic excellence in an era where technology and big data is being used as a tool to enhance and analyse learning, Somerset College is actively seeking ways to create a personal connection between students and the subject matter they are interacting.

“The Maths journey at Somerset College begins with our youngest members of the College community in Pre-Prep”; says Mrs Margaret Kiddle, Pre-Prep Director.

“At three to four years of age our littlest friends bring knowledge and experiences along with them and through learning experiences embedded in play, we are able to build on this knowledge making links between what they already know and new experiences. Driven by the children’s natural curiosity we embed numeracy learning into daily experiences such as nursery rhymes and songs, nature walks, games, stories and daily routines.”

Mr Ash Abdou, Head of Department – Mathematics, visited the Pre-Prep classroom and joined in the morning routine.

“It was an enjoyable experience, visiting the Pre-Preps and singing the 5 Little Monkeys song with them. What I noticed most about the environment, was that the learning was on display. All around the class room there is evidence of learning, be it student’s work hanging from the ceiling or a partially constructed wooden block tower in the corner of the room. Compare this to senior maths classes, where the evidence of learning is primarily in the student’s workbooks or in the form of completed tests, stored in filing cabinets.”

When children reach Junior School, they have already developed a love of learning by asking questions. Perhaps more importantly, though, they have also learned to communicate, to form and express their questions and to listen to those of other students.

“From the time students first enrol, Somerset College students build the foundation of a personal connection to learning. Children in the Pre-Prep classrooms, are taught that their questions are valuable.” says Mrs Kiddle.

“Immersed in our numeracy rich environment, surrounded by quality resources and skilled educators the students are encouraged to ask questions, explore ideas and work with friends.” In this way, students build the foundation to become independent researchers, and to view the classroom as a safe place to branch out academically.

By the four-year-old level, students in Pre-Prep follow through on investigations based on their questions. As Mrs Kiddle explains; “The broad range of interests, skills and abilities amongst the children requires activities and engagements that everyone can enjoy, supporting those still consolidating skills and challenging those who are ready to explore ideas further.”

Read about our Year 6s and how mathematics teachings have been adapted for older children, in Part II next week.

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