Mathematics has presented difficulty for many of our students. A small, though increasing, number are formally diagnosed with learning disabilities in Math. A much larger group struggle in Math because their weaknesses in studentship skills seem to have a proportionately greater impact in that subject. Difficulties with homework, study skills, and memorization cause students to fall behind in Math, and the cumulative nature of the subject often means that a student who falls behind is in danger of being lost. Many of our students have decided early in their school careers that based on these problems, they “can’t do Math,” a perception that can easily become self-fulfilling. In the past, our experience has been that some students desire to drop Math entirely once they have met the minimum requirement for graduation. Over the years, we have made several modifications to the Math program resulting in a larger number of students persisting in Math. We believe it is a reasonable expectation that students with the ability to do so will continue their study of Math until graduation.
The initial goal of the Mathematics program is to help students change their attitudes about both their ability and their interest in Mathematics. A significant portion of the first quarter of every academic year is spent on review and on providing an introduction to basic topics of the course. As students see themselves succeed, their attitudes begin to change. Students are encouraged to persist and to acknowledge that what they accept and easily express as inability is instead confusion or frustration and, in most cases, difficulty identifying and expressing the source of trouble. Teachers work with students to help them develop the language and skills they need to be self-advocates in every Math class.
As students begin changing their attitudes about Mathematics, we seek to continually challenge them. Stevenson has always offered the traditional sequence of Pre-Algebra, Elementary Algebra, Geometry, Intermediate Algebra/Trigonometry, Pre-Calculus and Calculus. It is our goal to engage our students in a study of Mathematics that intrigues them and fosters in them a desire to continue their study after leaving Stevenson. For those students who we identify as having severe difficulties or major gaps in mathematics, we have developed skills classes in Algebra and Algebra II. The goal of these skills classes is to fill gaps and strengthen skills so that students can rejoin the traditional sequence of courses. Regular use of scientific calculators, graphing calculators and online interactive math resources are integrated into all coursework.