So How Do You Do Math?
It's fair to say that one of the most common questions families, students, and educators ask about Clark Street Community School is very simply... "So how do you do math?"
And it's not really a surprise that after generations and generations of us having 'done math' working on problems and practice questions in sequenced lessons followed by tests, that there is a level of skepticism about 'doing math' in a project-based environment. There's a fear, of course, that projects, don't give you the basics. There's a a fear that maybe applying math to solve problems might not teach you 'how to do math', since, of course, many of us never learned math by applying it beyond our checking account.
So to be clear. We do math at Clark Street Community School.
It's true there are no Algebra classes at Clark Street Community School. No Geometry Classes. No Pre-Calc, High Gap, Stats or Probability. None.
There isn't a math textbook or a single mathematics curriculum that we are following.
There are no math tests. No quizzes.
However, there are most definitely students receiving instruction, practice, feedback, and guidance on moving toward mastery of the skills and applications of algebra, geometry, statistics, probability and calculus every single day. And it's happening in three different ways.
Math Workshop: Every student at CSCS is enrolled in a Math Workshop that meets at the same time every day for an hour. This is a blended learning environment which means that math content is delivered via an online Learning Management System (LMS) and students work in small groups collaborating and learning together while soliciting 'mini' instructional lessons from math teachers as needed. The work is self-paced and when students demonstrate skills competency they move into different groups. Flexible grouping, self-pacing and on-demand instruction creates the framework for our blended learning math workshops and ensures ALL students are developing necessary competencies in mathematics.
Independent Math Models: Math modeling is the process of solving a problem by approaching it from a mathematical lens and applying multiple methods to try and find solutions to the proposed problem. In math models, students use their knowledge and skills in math and apply it to a situation of personal interest. For some students this is sports or games related. For some it includes developing a better understanding of engineering, design, or physics. For others it's about construction, or art, or probability. But for everyone, the possibilities are endless. At Clark Street, student delve into independent math models so they have an opportunity to deeply explore their knowledge and understanding beyond answering fictitious questions in books to practical real-world scenarios. For every student, math modeling is an iterative process asking students to review and interpret results, solicit feedback, revise, draw conclusions, and propose follow-on questions and discussion. Students display their math model learning through presentations, formal written reports, narratives, research projects, interactive displays, online content, 3-D modeling, instructional videos, art and design with more and more ideas and options growing every day.
Seminar-Based Math Models: Within many seminar offerings at Clark Street Community School, instructors propose an overarching question and implement a math modeling process to guide students to multiple solutions. In these environments, students are guided by their seminar leader to shape a math model as a class. In some cases there is a single topic and students develop several questions within the topic or as an alternate the class may choose to work together on a single question. In either scenario, seminar leaders work with math content experts to facilitate the process. At times, community members or organizations are also invited to participate to bring specific expertise or experiences to the class. In the same way students take independent math model learning to a deeper level through this process, so too do the students incorporating math models in their seminars. The difference lies solely in the scaffolding and guidance provided which allows students to learn and practice the process as a community instead of as an individual. This often creates the foundation necessary for students to move to independent math modeling in the future.
So yes, we do 'do math' at Clark Street Community School.
And it just so happens, we're having a lot of fun doing it.