Self-proclaimed enthusiastic problem solver, lover of all things numbers, and Inly’s recently appointed Math Integrationist, Elizabeth Joyce, thinks math is “super fun.” “Math is everywhere. Math is for everyone,” she declares.
“It breaks my heart when people say they’re ‘bad at math.’ That’s the result of being told they’re not good enough, that they got to a solution ‘the wrong way.’ That shouldn’t happen. Math is about playing games, playing with numbers. It’s about solving puzzles. If it’s all about the rules, something is lost.”
With the addition of new activities like Morning Math and Math Olympiads as well as the appearance of the highly-colorful and engaging Sidewalk Math installments on the playground and in the hallways, Elizabeth is working hard to standardize an already strong mathematics curriculum and to supplement it with additional, and fun, opportunities for Inly students to connect with their math material and to practice their math facts.
“Having a strong number sense is what makes you a great math student and we know that fluency is better with practice,” explains Elizabeth. “I want our students to move around with math. Math isn’t static. Ultimately, we are working to teach our children how to think mathematically, to help them understand that you run into math in real life, to provide them with a math toolkit. Thinking mathematically is really a life skill. It’s not something you should just do at a set time on a set day.”
Inly students run into math all the time: in the hallways, on the walls, in their classrooms. In fact, Elizabeth and other Inly teachers ensure that math connections are made throughout the set curriculum. Studying Asia and the Silk Route? Then how about exploring fractals and symmetry in Islamic Art? Participating in the World Peace Games? Then why not track and manage multi-billion dollar budgets? Interested in studying the weather? How about using weather data to create a line graph- and then talk about average temperatures in the math problem of the week?
“The integration and interconnectedness of math in everything our students learn and the constant math touch points to which our students are exposed is certainly not the norm. I think it really sets Inly apart,” says Elizabeth, who spent the previous 13 years teaching at both public and private schools in New York City and is a relative newcomer to the world of Montessori.
“I have realized that Montessori math is about hands-on learning all the time. Every child is getting individual attention and a tailored education. I’m amazed by how early Inly students are exposed to more complicated concepts. This exposure and access can be a light bulb moment for some that helps them break into higher order thinking earlier.”
And the benchmark testing, which is done three times a year, shows Inly students hitting all of the state’s standards and in line with national standards as well. “Inly kids are exactly where we expect them to be.”
In addition to monitoring students’ facility with math, the benchmark testing also helps to direct curriculum and to identify which concepts each student has held on to and in which areas they may need additional attention. “It’s a rigorous process. Checking. Observation. Benchmark testing. Individual assessment. And when I say ‘individual assessment,’ I mean one child, one question, one assessment.”
“Overall,” Elizabeth explains, “our mission is to ask good enough questions so that everyone, at every level of math aptitude, gets something out of it. Our tools are scalable. Our problem solving is iterative. We can scaffold if we need to, but we don’t over do it. We want to let our students do the thinking. I think all of these aspects put Inly ahead.”
Elizabeth concludes, “And, as an Inly parent myself, I understand, it’s not always transparent – there’s no worksheet going home that says ‘here’s what happened in math today,’ but you can trust in the process and know that we have exceptional teachers who are leading the way in terms of employing innovative and successful techniques for teaching math.”