Middle School Mathematics Options
LAUREL MATHEMATICS PATHWAYS: Each girl follows her own mathematics path at Laurel School. Some examples are found below. Each girl is encouraged and challenged to go as far as her motivation will take her. About two-thirds of Laurel girls take a calculus course before graduation.
*When a student is particularly motivated to move into an honors course, she completes additional preparation over the summer to set her up for success.
Middle School Mathematics
In Laurel’s Middle School, computation skills and math concepts learned in earlier years are applied to new types of problems, concepts and courses. For most girls, the Middle School years coincide with the development of the abstract thinking they will need in higher-level mathematics courses, such as Algebra and Geometry. The shift to thinking abstractly is a neurological development that cannot be rushed or predicted and that operates independently of intelligence. Though a student may be computationally strong, she may not be poised to understand Algebra until her brain is ready. Algebra is the foundation of higher level courses, and a solid understanding of Algebra is predictive of a student’s later success in most cases.
At Laurel, our math teachers encourage girls to take risks and stretch themselves. They also want girls to feel confident and successful in math. Teachers simultaneously help girls build strong foundations of essential concepts while challenging them to explore topics in greater depth to enhance understanding. Each girl solidifies her learning at different rates. The speed with which they move through the curriculum is unique. Some girls come to a deep love of and great skill in math later, while others get there sooner. Our goal is to honor the rate of skill acquisition for all girls while guiding them through a rigorous program that leads to Calculus. Our experience with girls and math confirms the need to be patient while also celebrating the success enjoyed by deep understanding. We do this by providing as much challenging material as a girl can tackle while she matures as a mathematician. Practicing Growth Mindset—the notion that our brains grow stronger through effort and from mistakes we make—is vital during these years. We remind girls that building skills and challenging their minds will lead to greater understanding of mathematical concepts. Girls also need to be patient with themselves and grapple with new material and abstract concepts until they make sense. Asking questions, trying again, and persevering are essential qualities for mathematicians.
Throughout the year, math teachers work side-by-side with students to help them build their mathematical reasoning skills. We aim for each girl to learn at a pace appropriate for her, a pace that challenges her while giving her the time she needs to build enduring understandings. In the classroom, girls work individually and in collaboration to solve real-world math problems. Longer class periods allow for guided practice and deeper connections between former understandings and new concepts. During the middle school years, neurological development, exertion of effort and finding a teaching approach that works best for each girl are three forces that, in concert, lead to girls’ success in math.