Consider this context...Ron Berger, our 2024 Summer Institute opening Keynote Speaker, says:
“When a student finishes her schooling and goes on to adult life, she will be judged for the rest of her life not by standardized test scores, but by two things . . . by the quality of her character and the quality of her work. Imagine what school would be, if the focus of school . . . was creating meaningful, valuable, beautiful, important work. Work that matters in the world.”
Ron believes that “beautiful work” can be done in any subject area. But what about a rigorous subject like Advanced Placement (AP) Calculus? Read on to see how Upper Arlington High School and Tremont Elementary teachers are designing “meaningful, valuable, beautiful, important work” with their students.
When UAHS AP Calculus teachers asked their students at the end of the 2022-2023 school year, “What was the best thing that happened this year?” a common answer was, “When we got to work with the 3rd and 4th graders at Tremont Elementary.”
This work began as an end-of-year, short-term activity involving high school AP calculus students reading and performing stories from the Sir Cumference book series for elementary students after the AP Calculus test was completed. Both high school and elementary students enjoyed the experience very much.
But how could the participating teachers turn this engaging activity into “beautiful and important work”? When your students, enrolled in highly rigorous courses, tell you how much they enjoyed sharing their knowledge with younger students, great teachers decide to figure out how they can do more of it!
This year’s “beautiful work” is being designed by Brian Chandler (AP Calculus, UAHS), Beth McInnerny (AP Calculus, UAHS), Kendall Skelskey (3rd Grade, Tremont), and Angie Wright (4th grade, Tremont).
The design process began with a commitment of the school district to provide release time at the beginning of the 2023-2024 school year for the high school and elementary teachers to plan together. The plan has evolved into a year-long collaboration between the high school and elementary teachers and students, with additional planning time provided for the teachers as needed.
The goals of the work include:
Reinforcing math curriculum standards for elementary and high school students;
Building positive relationships among students;
Enhancing math appreciation for both elementary and high school learners;
Combating the trend that 3rd grade is when many students stop viewing themselves as “math people”;
Developing leadership skills in high school and elementary students;
Enhancing resilience in students who can be OK with struggle—“having fun while doing something hard;”
Nurturing divergent thinkers; and
Creating educational experiences that demonstrate and support characteristics listed in the Upper Arlington Schools “Profile of an Engaged Learner.”
In the next several weeks, high school and elementary students will create and share “get to know you” videos with their new “math buddies.” Their first in-person meeting will be November 20, when the high school students will visit their buddies at Tremont Elementary to share selections from Sir Cumference. Building on their special relationships, the UAHS students will also engage the Tremont students in authentic “math challenges” that reinforce skills and concepts reflected in both the high school and elementary math standards.
Ultimately, the UAHS students and their Tremont buddies will collaborate in developing special math activities for primary students. As “Math Magicians,” they will share their knowledge and enthusiasm with a younger audience—sharing the important message that math can be extremely useful and lots of fun.
Abracadabra—a terrific service-learning initiative has begun! Watch for follow-up articles in future newsletters that will highlight the evolving progress of this partnership, impact on both students and teachers, and lessons learned that can be expanded to other subject areas and grade levels.