Location: Tobaccoville, North Carolina

Saturday, February 05, 2005

Reframing Mathematics

One of the most powerful parts of Salem Academy’s academic program is the January Term Session. During the month of January juniors and seniors participate in internships while freshman and sophomores take classes on campus. There is also a study abroad trip each year. Any student can take part in the trip.

The classes, which are held on campus, are designed to help students view academics differently. The classes are a chance for teachers to show students that learning is applicable to life, that academics affects more than grades, that learning can be fun. The Jan Term Session is a wonderful opportunity to “reframe” students’ views of mathematics. Over the past several years I have taught different Jan Term classes including: Knot Math, Mathematical Quilts, Experiencing Mathematics & Mathematical History. Each of these classes allowed students to use and study math in a manner different from a traditional high school math course. The Knot Math course looked at the basic principles of Knot Theory. These high school students were studying basic topology principles without realizing it. In Mathematical Quilts students studied triangles and trigonometry, spirals, tessellations and rotation as they applied to quilt making. All of this was Geometry in disguise. Experiencing Mathematics allowed students to put mathematics into action by planning their dream trip to a foreign country. The students created a budget, determined flight distance to the country, driving distance to their different destinations in the country, studied currency conversions, researched history and more. Mathematical History focused on three math history topics: the Tower of Hanoii, Pythagoras & his Cult, and the Abacus. After studying these topics, students then had to conduct a math research project and prepare a presentation on their topics. Student topics ranged from origami to topology to probability.

Students’ comments proved to me that these courses helped them view math differently. They felt more positive about mathematics. They viewed mathematics as practical and enjoyable. They experienced more confidence in their math skills. To me this seems to be a type of reframing of their original views of mathematics.


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