The emphasis in the Middle School math program is on problem solving. Curricula include the middle-school material of the Common Core, but our program extends beyond it. For instance, all students who complete the program take a full-year Algebra 1 course. Most students do this in 8th grade; some take Algebra 1 in 7th grade, and move on to more advanced topics the following year.
The Middle School Math Department aims to follow a few basic principles:
Logic is more important than facts.
We teach students to reason their way through problems rather than merely apply memorized techniques. Although we consider technical proficiency indispensable, we believe that a technique should be an aid to active thinking, not a substitute for it.
Build measurable proficiency.
While fostering deep logical thinking is our highest priority, we recognize that our students’ abilities should be objectively measurable, as far as such is possible. Therefore we aim to raise a student’s standardized test scores over time.
Customize courses to meet students’ particular needs.
At Berkeley Carroll, we do not believe in fixed levels of ability: we hold that reasoning capacity can be increased over time through effective instruction and carefully-designed practice. But not all of our students show the same level of mathematical ability at the same time: students in a single grade will excel at different things, and to different degrees. Therefore we customize our courses, offering to each grade-cohort a set of classes of differing levels of difficulty. We believe that a course designed for a child’s particular stage of development as a math student will maximize her growth as a thinker and her academic success. All middle-school students at Berkeley Carroll are expected to perform at or above grade-level. Our program’s flexibility enables students who become capable of learning at a faster pace to take advanced courses that satisfy their drive to accelerate their studies.
Math should be done for pleasure.
While the pragmatic benefits of mathematical proficiency are beyond debate, we believe that the best reason to do math is for pleasure. To glimpse one of the deep and beautiful patterns by which our universe operates; to discover that two things that at first look utterly different are in fact the same: these are experiences that exhilarate human beings. A math student should expect to be surprised, excited, at times elated; and a good math course should fulfill that expectation.
A core math class meets nine of every ten school days.
Students with a particular affinity for math may choose to join our highly successful Middle School Math Team. The math team has earned multiple top-20 finishes at the prestigious New York State MATHCOUNTS competition.
For additional support or challenge, students can attend Math Lab during morning break where a teacher and generally an 8th grade math TA present. Students can also attend after school study hall, which is staffed by a teacher.
Students in all four grades engage in project-based learning. Of particular note is the annual 7th Grade Math Fair where seventh graders show fifth graders how broad the field of mathematics truly is by creating projects and activities on everything from probability to art.