We believe that it is vital for students in all grades to understand the importance of mathematics as an interconnected piece of all learning and all aspects of life beyond school. We believe that students must understand the foundations and big ideas of mathematics as well as develop proficiency at basic skills and problem solving in order to succeed now and in future algebra, geometry, calculus, and statistics classes. Students should explore the philosophy and connections within mathematics that allow them to understand underlying principles and application. When possible, students are encouraged to identify and use math in the “real world,” such as buying groceries, running a store, picking teams for tag, learning about their classmates, or observing nature.
Middle School Math at All Saints follows the Saxon Math Curriculum, with its spiral (rather than unit-based) approach and twenty years of research and development to back up its success. Rather than focusing on one specific unit such as fractions for a length of time and then moving on, fractions (and all other specific topics) are interspersed throughout the year in segments that build upon one another. Tests are given after every ten lessons to ensure adequate proficiency, and quizzes are generally given on a weekly basis to track for areas of review. A typical test or quiz in a Saxon-based curriculum might have a few questions about fractions, a few long division questions, some in the area of geometry, and some that deal with place value and number theory. Problem solving is woven throughout all topics.
To supplement the Saxon curriculum and create a venue for creativity in mathematics, students in each grade complete monthly creative projects. These projects might tie in to a theme or event within that month, provide an element of review for a specific skill that students have worked on during that month, or both. For example, approaching the holiday season, Sixth Graders create a Christmas Factorization Tree. They must demonstrate a prime factorization tree of a given composite number, show the prime factorization in its simplest form (written with exponents), and decorate this math concept as a Christmas tree. Projects can change from year to year based on the review needs of the class and the way in which school days fall on the calendar. Some projects are repeated from grade to grade with varying requirements for the project. However, for the most part, each grade completes the same projects each year, and students get the full variety of creative projects as they progress from grade to grade throughout Middle School.
Math in the Fifth Grade is an opportunity for students to improve their facility with basic skills and complex operations while building a deeper understanding and independence in problem solving. The core of Fifth Grade Math is to develop greater efficiency with all four operations including basic facts, regrouping, and mental math, while working with whole numbers, decimals, and fractions. Students also delve deeper into geometry, measurement, graphing, and probability, and learn to describe and explain mathematical concepts in class discussions and in writing. The common Fifth Grade question, “Is this right?” is often met with, “Explain why you think it’s right.” Students learn to look more at the process and algorithms rather than just the answer.
In addition to the textbooks and workbooks, students also work cooperatively and independently with manipulatives (both real and virtual on the SmartBoard) and real-world models as they relate to special projects for their Essential Questions / Community Service. In preparation for Empty Bowls, the Fifth Grade researches minimum wage and the cost of living. Using many of the skills they have worked on during the year, students create a budget to demonstrate that the current minimum wage does not support the cost of living in New Jersey. Students then use problem solving skills to come up with a living wage that will meet the cost of living. Students compile this information into posters to display their findings at the Empty Bowls event. Other creative projects in the Fifth Grade can include: a search for the magic of math in the real world, a tree or menorah of factors, creation of a unique polygon, measuring oneself using one’s own feet, and writing a math riddle.
Sixth Grade Math builds on the independence gained in Fifth Grade as students continue to develop their facility with basic operations involving whole numbers, fractions and decimals, and are introduced to complex systems of mathematics like algebra and geometry. Students develop a fuller understanding of factors and divisibility and extend these skills to working with exponents, square roots, and scientific notation. They continue to explore forms of measurements, both U.S. customary and metric in the areas of weight, length, temperature, and capacity, while extending their skills to include conversions. As they pursue algebra, they investigate integer operations and algebraic expressions.
In addition to the textbooks and workbooks, students also work cooperatively and independently with manipulatives (both real and virtual on the SmartBoard) and real-world models as they relate to special projects for their Essential Questions / Community Service. In preparation for Empty Bowls, the Sixth Grade reads the book If the World Were a Village, and utilizes the statistics within this book (such as poverty, food and water supply, levels of education, access to electricity, etc.) to create circle graphs (also known as pie charts). Students begin their charts by listing the percentage of the world population in each category. For example, 50% of the world is chronically starving, 20% is undernourished, and 30% of the world population consistently has enough nutritious food to eat. Students must display this information on a Fraction-Decimal-Percent chart showing the conversions, and then add a column to show how many degrees of a full circle each section will use. Students then use a protractor to precisely measure each pie piece and complete their circle graph. These posters are presented at the Empty Bowls event. Other creative projects in the Sixth Grade can include: a search for the magic of math in the real world, prime factorization trees, creation and written description of a snowflake using geometric terms, creation and naming of a unique three-dimensional figure, demonstration of the meaning of pi or creating a song or art piece using the first 25 digits of pi, enlargement or reduction of a printed picture using a grid and proportion, student population pie charts, and writing a math riddle.
Seventh Grade Math continues to explore complex systems of mathematics such as algebra and geometry. Students develop a fuller understanding of exponents, roots & scientific notation. They begin to examine geometric theorems and the balancing and graphing of algebraic equations. Students become familiar with coefficients and formulas. Throughout these new explorations, they will continue to improve their facility in working with integers, decimals, fractions, and percents.
In addition to the textbooks and workbooks, students also work cooperatively and independently with manipulatives (both real and virtual on the SmartBoard) and real-world models. During the month of March in celebration of International Pi Day (3.14) students create Pi-Kus. With inspiration from Japanese Haikus, students write three lined poem about math with three syllables, one syllable, and four syllables. Students print their poem in the shape of a circle and demonstrate the formula for circumference by finding the circumference of their Pi-Kus. Other creative projects in the Seventh Grade can include: a math scavenger hunt in the building for Mathematics Awareness Month, calculating the perimeter of their bedrooms, creating and describing an alien made of polygons, drawing a second half of a printed picture using a grid and symmetry, creating a tessellation, creating a graph to help budget their spending and gift giving around the holidays, and creating a math puzzle (like a crossword puzzle).
Eighth Grade Math continues to explore complex systems of mathematics like algebra and geometry. Students develop a fuller understanding of coefficients, formulas & positive and negative scientific notation. They will begin to examine direct variations, inequalities with negative and positive coefficients, slope, and intercept equations of a line. Throughout these new explorations, they will continue to improve their facility in working with decimals, fractions, percents, and exponents.
In addition to the textbooks and workbooks, students also work cooperatively and independently with manipulatives (both real and virtual on the SmartBoard) and real-world models. During their Eighth Grade year, students will be asked to research and write a report about an historical or present day mathematician, including biographical information, contributions to mathematics, how the student has utilized those contributions, and how those contributions have impacted other developments in the world. Other creative projects in the Eighth Grade will include real world math applications.
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