Park’s curriculum produces independent, resourceful, and rigorous thinkers who succeed in mathematics.
At Park, conceptual understanding and mastery of basic skills are linked, not separated. Students’ learning of standard mathematical procedures is grounded in an understanding of why and how these procedures work. From pre-kindergarten on, students learn strategies to solve problems rather than memorize formulas. The youngest children begin to look for patterns among numbers or in geometric forms. They visualize problems by making drawings, charts, or graphs. They work with manipulatives to understand essential number concepts. They learn to estimate to check on the reasonableness of their solutions. As students move into higher levels of mathematics, these strategies continue, but others are added: for example, taking ideas apart (breaking a large or complex problem into smaller parts or cases) or using inverse thinking (working backwards). In total, we term these strategies habits of mind. They are essential to mathematical thinking.
Students learn and practice habits of mind in a variety of ways, including direct instruction. However, most typically, students learn them through investigations (problems and projects), which they work on in small groups. This active approach to learning involves students in sharing ideas, trying out strategies, and working through problems to find accurate solutions.
Park covers the content common to traditional programs—and content beyond what those programs offer—but in a different sequence. Park’s program integrates different strands of mathematics rather than separating them (e.g., into the traditional Algebra and Geometry high school sequence). The aim is to create flexible thinkers who can draw on different aspects of mathematics in solving real world problems.
Students work on computational understanding and skills, ranging from whole numbers through Fractions and Decimals. They also have extensive exposure to geometric concepts, algebra, measurement, data analysis, and problem solving.
The program begins with an intensive focus on applications of fractions, decimals, and percents, and moves into concepts and interrelationships among arithmetic, geometry, algebra, probability, statistics, programming, trigonometry, and spreadsheets.
Traditional content of algebra, geometry, trigonometry, and pre-calculus is covered. Students then choose from an array of electives such as Calculus, Advanced Calculus, Complex Analysis, Abstract Algebra, Linear Algebra, and Topology and Knot Theory. Other offerings include Statistics, Functions and Calculus, and Discrete Mathematics.
The emphasis on small group work provides flexibility to accommodate different paces and support higher levels of mastery. The Lower School math coordinator and faculty members provide specific targeted enrichment that leads to higher order problem solving and collaborative thinking. In addition, after-school clubs, such as Puzzles and Problem Solving, Destination Imagination, and First Lego League enable students to explore math concepts that further augment their classroom experiences.
Extensions provide opportunities for a faster pace or greater depth in exploring topics. Students are clustered by ability in sixth grade and grouped in seventh and eighth grades according to their facility with abstract concepts and demonstrated work habits. Extension work challenges students and varies the curriculum as needed to accommodate advanced students.
The program has the scope to take students as far as they can go. There is great flexibility in both the range of courses taught and students’ pace in moving through the program. Students are grouped by demonstrated interest and ability; those with particular talent and interest in mathematics cover the standard algebra/geometry/pre-calculus curriculum by the end of tenth grade. This sequence allows students to spend two years studying college-level calculus (Calculus and Advanced Calculus) before leaving high school. Students can carry their mathematics study further by taking advanced college-level courses such as Abstract Algebra, Linear Algebra, and Topology and Knot Theory.
The proof is in the numbers. Park students continue their study of mathematics to advanced levels and perform competitively on a variety of national and state assessments.
SAT subject area tests measure mastery of content taught in mathematics programs.
The Maryland Mathematics League sponsors statewide contests in which approximately 40 schools participate, including leading public and independent schools. The test evaluates mathematical competency and conceptual understanding at a high level. A number of schools coach students for this competition; Park does not.
Teaching an ambitious mathematics program requires exceptional teachers. Consider the following:
Developing an outstanding mathematics program requires extensive professional development work by faculty. Park’s distinctive FACA (Faculty and Curricular Advancement) program has supported 17 intensive summer projects in mathematics. In addition, Park has supported training of Lower School teachers through multiple institutes and in-house workshops. Work has included the following:
Park School has a coordinated Pre-K–12 mathematics curriculum. Opportunities for advanced work are provided in Lower, Middle, and Upper Schools. Inspired by an exceptional faculty, Park students enroll in upper level courses and achieve at high levels on standardized tests and in math competitions. Following graduation from Park, students are prepared and motivated to continue their study of mathematics in college and to pursue a variety of professions which require a strong mathematics background.