Today’s students need to be able to interpret their world mathematically. Most calculations can and are done by computers. The world does not need human calculators. But it does need creative, innovative minds that can think and interpret the world using the language of mathematics.
The mathematics of the future will be based in the creative, interpretive process of analyzing and expressing a real life problem in the language of math and logic so computers can solve it. To thrive in this future, students need to know where math came from and how it relates to their life. They need to be able to think like Euclid and Descartes, and other great mathematicians who see math not as a list of rules, but as a beautifully logical language that can be used to describe the world.
This approach makes math meaningful and can spark a lifelong interest for the beautiful connections that can be found within this magnificent language. But it ALSO prepares students for the immediate future (ACT, SAT, college prep) in the process. If a student understands the WHY, meaning, and structure of math by applying it to real life situations, the rote calculations and concepts that are assessed on college prep tests tend to naturally make more sense. It’s like learning grammar by reading stories you love compared to learning grammar by reading a grammar textbook. You might learn grammar either way, but one of the methods is infinitely more fun and will likely sink in more.
Our math courses incorporate the following elements.
Live math classes held twice weekly. In live class sessions, mentors lead students through engaging simulations and modeling workshops that help students discover where math came from, why it is AWESOME, and how to apply it to real life problems. By discovering their own mathematical proofs and studying classical math texts, such as “Geometry” by Descartes, students learn how to think in original and creative ways through experience and example. In the live classes, mentors also assist students in learning the structure of the language of math so that the calculations and grammar of math become natural and logical instead of just a series of steps.
Skill practice in Khan Academy. Learning the grammar of a language is part of becoming fluent in that language. You can’t tell a masterful story without mastering the basics of grammar and sentence structure. This applies to the language of math just as much as it applies to any other language. In order to be successful in math, students need to practice the grammar of math and Khan Academy is a great place to do that. Williamsburg has an arrangement with Khan Academy by which our families can use Khan resources as part of our program. Khan is also free to individual learners. We chose Khan for many reasons, including the following:
- While working through each math problem, students have instant access to step-by-step hints
- Khan’s learning management system uses highly sophisticated algorithms to learn about each student’s level of understanding, and customizes accordingly
- The backend of Khan’s learning management system gives Williamsburg mentors incredibly detailed information about student performance and understanding
- Khan is highly focused on the user experience and is very easy to use
- Khan makes learning fun by “game-ifying” math, for those who are motivated by points, badges, and more
- Khan is recognized as a leader in the industry, and shares our belief that technology is an important part of educational reform
- Khan is flexible and easily integrates with the other components of our program, such as classical math, Math Lab, and our live math classes
But don’t take our word for it. Visit KhanAcademy.org today and set up your own free account.
The Math Lab. Students can get 1:1 help every school day. The Math Lab is a place where students can go to get live 1:1 help any school day. The lab is open during school hours every day of the week. Official lab hours are posted on each course’s homepage.
Students can go to the Math Lab as often as they like, and there’s usually little or no wait. Our tutors are skilled, friendly, and helpful to students. Tutors don’t give students answers; instead, they ask questions that help students discover the answers on their own and become more independent.
The ability to move to the next level, mid-semester. Ambitious students who move through both semesters of their math work in the first semester are awarded credit for both semesters of math, at no extra charge. For example, if, in Fall Semester, a High School Math 1 student completes all of the High School Math 1 topics in Khan Academy for both Fall and Winter semesters, this student will receive credit for both levels of math in the same semester, and will not be charged for the second 0.5 credits awarded.
Students who complete an entire math level early (such as High School Math 1A & 1B) and want to progress to a new math level (such as High School Math 2A) must register and pay for the new math level, and cannot officially begin until the next semester, simply because of administrative logistics. A student can, however, progress in Khan Academy to the next level so by the time they officially begin their next level they are already part way through the Khan topics.
If you want to move on the the second semester of your course during your first semester, just let your math mentor know.