The study of mathematics in the Adolescent Program (AP) focuses on arithmetic, algebra, and geometry; the three disciplines that Dr. Maria Montessori described as the “three-legged stool” of mathematics. All three branches are closely related and overlap daily within our study of mathematics as well as throughout the curriculum. The idea of math as a tool (i.e. the “stool”) that can be used to better our perspective and appreciation of all disciplines and, as itself, a discipline of study is not something that should be overlooked. It is what defines our curriculum and what sets us apart from other math programs offered to middle school students.
We learn skills in mathematics that apply to other disciplines like the arts, humanities, and sciences during our math workshops and projects. We study the progression of mathematics through history, from the creation of the “idea” of the number zero, to the discovery of infinite series and the progression of theories that continue to be tested in modern times to provide an understanding and appreciation for the process of mathematics. We meet every other week in a formal seminar to work together to solve complex math problems and puzzles to cultivate confidence in speaking about math with a growing and diverse vocabulary. One might not expect middle school students to embrace a discussion of how they solved a systems of equations word problem, but it’s something we routinely observe. Adolescents are hyper-social beings and providing them with opportunities for expression on any topic, not just algebra, appeals to the social nature that drives them. In this light, a math seminar can be considered a tool for the mastering of skills both technical and personal, social and emotional.
Montessori always envisioned a holistic approach to education and, hopefully, by taking a closer look at how just one part of our curriculum can provide the potential for such growth, the picture of our overall goal becomes clearer. In all of our curriculum we strive to prepare an environment where students can be unencumbered by the fear of making mistakes, sharing ideas, experimenting, or failing. Mistakes will always be made. It is important for the adolescent to become comfortable with the acceptance of that fact of life, but also for them to experience the important complementary step that comes when corrections are made, the path to improvement becomes clear, and through challenges arise opportunities.
Blog post written by: Ms. Jenna and Mr. Mike, Adolescent Program Directors
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