Somerset Times

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

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Somerset Times Edition

Week 5, Term One, 2018

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Around 65 per cent of Somerset students take advanced Mathematics classes. Read how teachings adapted to the modern age have proven successful in Part III, our conclusion to the series.

Somerset College achieves excellence in these mathematical skills, but, as with everything we do, we look to achieve something more, in creating a student who can think logically and critically. "Fundamental numeracy skills are important and very useful, but the transferability of things like problem solving and modelling to other areas of life – there’s huge value in that," explains Mr Abdou.

2018 - T1 - W5 - maths

"Problem solving requires critical thinking skills and it calls for decision making about what knowledge to apply in a given scenario." Students who gather data, critically analyse it and apply it and transfer it to learning new problems and contexts, are becoming good critical thinkers.

Our teachers foster this critical thinking ability by teaching an array of problem-solving strategies, such as formulate, solve, evaluate, analyse and communicate. They encourage students to identify which strategies they are using on a particular problem.

Mr Grocott explains, "Tasks are open ended which provides scope to self-direct their learning and follow a path specific to them. This makes the learning process more purposeful for students.” Students can select different strategies which help them work out what they need to apply in order to work out a particular problem. It could be as simple as guess and check, or it may involve drawing a graph or a table.

“Every time we need to make a decision, we can draw on critical thinking skills, such as logic and deduction, to help us reason and evaluate.” According to Mr Abdou, this problem-solving approach instils more than simple mathematical ability. "This approach sets up students with confidence that they can solve problems, and with multiple strategies for solving the same problem," he explains. "Students can apply this problem solving expertise to all of their classes."

Students at Somerset College achieve excellent results. In 2016 and 2017, for example, almost 70 per cent of our Mathematics C students achieved grades in the A range. Our high achievers in Mathematics also accomplish more than just good grades. For example, Marina Hou, our top performing student in Mathematics from the class of 2016 and member of the Somerset Mathematical Society, has gone on to Oxford University of University in England, reading Law. Other notable graduates from the class of 2016 are Elizabeth Kay and Julia Wright-Smith, who are both Actuarial Studies Co-op scholars at the University of New South Wales.

While we are very proud of our students’ strong IB and QCE performance, at Somerset College, we believe that academic excellence in mathematics includes a more robust set of qualities. By focusing on our students’ personal connection to Maths, we encourage students to fully realise their curiosity, confidence and a life-long love of learning.

We encourage enrolment in a range of Maths classes, encouraging students to strive for and achieve their personal best in this crucial subject. We are very proud that approximately 65 per cent of our students choose to take advanced mathematics classes (significantly higher than the state average of less than 40 per cent). We view this active enrolment as a real success in an environment where many students abandon mathematics as being "too hard".

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