A Unique Approach to Math

At The Sycamore School, we take a different approach to math instruction.  As an independent private school, we are unencumbered by arbitrary year-end standardized tests. Students are free to follow their choice of math concepts throughout the year in a manner that makes the most sense to them and a timeline that works for their brain. 

At TSS, our students learn at their own pace. In a traditional school setting, teachers typically introduce one new math concept per class. The idea is that this pace will be appropriate for the majority of students in the class. The problem is, students don’t all learn at the same rate. Some concepts they might pick up quickly and other concepts, they may need to work with longer. In a traditional classroom, some students understand the concept right away and are bored for the rest of class. Other students struggle with the lesson and still don’t understand it at the end of class, when others are ready to move on.  Self-paced math instruction takes the anxiety out of math. Students don’t have to worry about being behind or being bored. They can take as long or as little time as they need to on a specific concept or lesson. 

Our unique self-paced approach to math also means we demand more of our students. Rote memorization is not sufficient to move on. We expect students to fully understand the concept and demonstrate that to their teacher. But, our students do not have to demonstrate mastery with one “right” method. There are many approaches to math and students are free to explore and demonstrate mastery of concepts in a way that makes the most sense for their brain. As long as students are able to demonstrate that they understand the concept and can apply this concept to novel problems, they are free to move forward. Students find this approach refreshing as they are neither bored in class, nor are they forced to move on when they don’t feel they have a strong grasp of the concept. It provides a strong math foundation for all our students and gives previously struggling students the confidence to embrace math again.

But how does self-paced math work in practice? 

Our math classes begin with a warm-up and class discussion.  After that, each student begins to work on their own lessons.  Our math program has learning strands that students need to complete by the end of Middle School and High School. For each student, they proceed through these learning strands in the manner that interests them and at their own pace. The teachers circulate throughout the room answering questions as needed.  Students are encouraged to complete problems at their own pace.  This allows each student to actually learn and understand the math rather than pass a test.  We assess each student using a problem set, and students have multiple attempts to get the answers correct.  Once students can prove that they understand the middle school fundamentals, they can begin Algebra 1. In high school, students can choose their math track. Students can choose the traditional math track of moving past Algebra to Geometry, Algebra II, Pre-Calculus/Trig, and Calculus. Other students may choose to follow Algebra with Probability & Statistics and Data Science. 

Self-paced learning and student choice are fundamental qualities at TSS that result in happier students who find they love math again.

Learn more about TSS and our Integrated Curriculum.

Posted in: