The goal for the 5-8 mathematics program at Nativity Schools is for all students to understand mathematical concepts and procedures; to be able to apply procedures, concepts, and processes to the solution of challenging problems in a variety of school, home and work settings; and to prepare students for continued study of mathematics and fields that require the use of mathematics. In this regard, the curriculum has a multi-faceted focus. All of the components and goals provide a coherent viewpoint that mathematics is more than a body of knowledge and skills. Mathematics is a way of interpreting, predicting, understanding, and succeeding in a complex world.
At the same time, we realize that students—in particular middle school students—mature mathematically at different times. Therefore, it is important to make sure that all students study mathematics successfully at a pace and depth appropriate to their individual needs. To ensure that all students ultimately master algebra, Nativity offers two groups for student math placement. In middle school, there is flexibility built into the program so that as students mature and gain mathematical confidence, they can switch between groups, as necessary. Both courses utilize the same textbook, but the pace, course load, and rigor varies between instructors and classes.
The middle school math transitions students from elementary math to their first formal course in algebra. Pre algebra courses show mastery of basic skills: order of operations, fractions, decimals, integers, and basic linear equation solving while providing a significant glimpse at core algebraic concepts. Pre algebra courses also introduce students to important basic concepts of plane figures which they’ll use throughout algebra and build on during their study of geometry later on in their mathematical career. Algebra 1 establishes the foundation in symbolic grammar and problem solving skills necessary for all levels of upper school mathematics as well as many science courses.
My goal for the 7-8 science programs is to introduce students to a significant variety of scientific concepts, while continuing to develop their ability to observe and think critically about the world around them. To do this, I support the curriculum with project-based learning to provide a structure through which students can demonstrate mastery of a subject by creating, and presenting, a research-based project that is driven by their own interest in a topic and allows them to work within the same parameters as real researchers. While the projects can assess the students’ knowledge of content, concepts and skills and the level of depth and complexity to which students have understood them, they also allow students to think deeply and analytically and to question a topic which has particular resonance and meaning for them. Over time, I have found that students not only get a deeper understanding of the material through projects, but it also allows them to be creative and hands-on with their learning in a fun way!