Laying a Foundation of Conceptual Understanding and Remembered Skills
We teach mathematics because it is a fundamental skill our students need to function in life. We emphasize it in Lower Elementary (Grades 1-3) because children at this age are ready to develop the mental rigor and discipline mathematics makes possible.
We have three main goals for our Lower Elementary math program:
- To build math confidence. We want to enable all of our students to view math as a fun process of solving quantitative problems. We want them to graduate with an earned confidence in their abilities to handle mathematical challenges.
- To habituate the right approach for tackling math problems. We teach our students not by rote memorization and drill, but by guiding them to develop a deep, conceptual understanding of the meaning and use-value of mathematics. We also emphasize the importance of paying close attention, of double-checking results, and understanding errors, so we can avoid repeating them. Once introduced this way, our students are less likely to fall into the “memorize and forget” trap later in their schooling, and will approach math problems with the attention to detail they demand.
- To build a remembered foundation of math facts. In her early elementary years, each student has to develop automaticity in a series of basic math skills and facts. As teachers in the upper grades well know, if a student does not learn skip counting or fails to memorize her multiplication tables early, she risks falling behind later in other areas of math. Our students learn their addition, subtraction, multiplication and division tables—and experience how knowing math facts enables them to be faster, more accurate workers, thus motivating their further efforts. They come to crave, rather than fear, the challenge of a sophisticated mathematical problem, implicitly knowing that they’ve developed the capacity to meet such challenges.