Friday, May 25, 2012

Maths in the Mountains

For the past three days the Grade Four students have been up in Wengen in the Bernese Oberland. We are lucky to have use of a chalet up there, which our school owns, and it is a fantastic place to visit. The trip was classed 'Mountain Maths' and the purpose was for the students to experience two and a bit days of fun and challenging maths activities that would give them the chance to showcase their problem solving and logic skills.

The goals of the trip were that:
  • ·      Everyone is challenged.
  • ·      Students return with a good experience of Chalet Bergheim.
  • ·      Students work collaboratively in different groups.

The students and teachers participated in a variety of activities and problems, including: A Knight’s Journey, Pentominoes Problem, The Giant of Wengen, Float the Boat, Code Breaking, Magic Squares, Triangle Pattern, Buy Your Lunch, Chess, Sudoku – plus many more. These were planned collaboratively by our Vice-Principle, one of our IT teachers, the class homeroom teachers and our Maths Coach. It was great to be able to call on the expertise of many different perspectives in this planning process and the result was that we were able to deliver an interesting and differentiated program for the students.

While there are improvements that could be made, overall the trip was an amazing success. We were very impressed with the students’ persistence towards the maths problems they faced, the friendship extended to the peers that they worked with and the respect shown to the Chalet Bergheim facilities. The students' interest was highlighted by the fact that many of them carried on trying to crack the problems during their free time. Another bonus of this experience was that many of the skills that the students were refining during the trip, such as collaboration, time management, dialectical thought and metacognition are transferrable across the scope of the school curriculum.

Personally, one of the best things for me (apart from the students' enjoyment) was that success in this maths experience didn't rely on a person's ability to calculate equations or complete a list of algorithms in the fastest time - although these skills are still important and helped many of the students when generating their answers. It came down to being able to think creatively, with persistence. Many students who aren't always recognised amongst their peers as being 'the good kids' at maths, or who perhaps didn't even consider themselves talented in the discipline, were able to demonstrate their knowledge. It also showed the importance of being able to apply higher level thinking skills to problems that related more closely to real life situations instead of just being able to regurgitate something that had recently been taught in class.

I'm moving to a different grade next year but, given the success of Mountain Maths this year, I hope we have an opportunity to develop something similar in my new year group. The experience for both the students and the teachers was well worth the time and effort that went into planning it.

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