Math is alive and well in our Lower School Kulam classroom. A magic teaching moment has turned into a continuing, authentic learning experience for our 4th Grade students. We were able to bring the concept of money and the skills of adding and subtracting with and without decimal points and making change to life in our own classroom store. One day, earning a much deserved break, the students suggested ‘playing store.’ They loved the activity and chose it whenever they had earned free time or a break from learning. The teacher, seeing the enthusiasm for this activity, expanded the experience and the store, teaching important math skills in the process. This is truly authentic learning at its best. Authentic learning is centered on relevant, real-world tasks that are of interest to the learners. As a result, our students are engaged in exploration, and higher level thinking skills such as analyzing, manipulating, and evaluating information. They shop for prices on-line and have learned to divide prices by quantities. The students reflect, collaborate, and problem solve, The required skills and concepts of math instruction is woven seamlessly into the authentic experience. To enhance and make this experience even more meaningful, students now work one day a week in the school’s concession stand, selling lunches and snacks, making change and determining the amount owed. How exciting for the students as they interact with upper school students and teachers. This is math learning they will never forget.
Math is so much more than numbers. Math is a language that needs to be learned and applied. It is virtually impossible to move through life without basic math skills. Think about balancing a checkbook or shopping for groceries. Math teaches logic and order in a world that sometimes can seemingly be without logic or order. In today’s global economy, math is a unifying language. Math is reflective of critical thinking skills sought after by colleges and employers. In Kulam, our students often lack confidence in their math skills. Students need to be provided with multiple and varied strategies to enhance number sense, the foundation of mathematical learning. We create opportunities to see, touch, and genuinely embrace math learning.
One such program that our students in the Kulam program truly benefit from and thoroughly enjoy is TouchMath. TouchMath, a proven curriculum, K-8 and beyond, makes important mathematical concepts and skills engaging and attainable for all learners. The goal of TouchMath is “to banish math anxiety in learners whether from fear, lack of comprehension or a learning disability” states Janet Bullock, Founder and CEO of Innovative Learning Products, developer of the program.
In a word, it is just so simple, the strategy that is. It is all about TouchPoints that correspond to the value of numerals 1-9. As the students touch the points, they develop a true understanding of the value of each numeral. Understanding value enhances number sense. As the students see, touch and say aloud, the process becomes a multisensory approach: auditory; visual; and kinesthetic. Counting becomes the key as all operations are about counting. In addition students count forward or up; in subtraction the students count backwards or down; and of course, multiplication and division in groups and/or sequences. in the upper grades, the students navigate such skills as measurement, decimals and fractions, and pre-algebra.