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Connecting math with the real world

Teacher Kneels At Table With Two Students In Prep Math Classroom

Math Strategies for Students: Prep Teachers Speak to Custom Approach

Math is one of the most difficult subjects to navigate — if a student excels, they often feel bored in class. And if they struggle, they can quickly feel overwhelmed, defeated, and discouraged.

At Saint John’s Prep, our unique curriculum allows us to cater our approach to math for each individual student. Whether a student is coming from another preparatory school or a public school setting, find out how we set them up for mathematical success.

Placing students in the right classroom for their skillset

When a student arrives at Prep, they are placed into the appropriate level of math based on either a placement exam (grades 6–8) or based on their transcript and a meeting with a Prep math teacher (upper school). This initial placement allows students to learn in a classroom that matches their current understanding of mathematics. And if their placement isn’t the right fit for them once they settle in? No problem — we are able to be flexible and move students to the right classroom that will allow them to thrive and be challenged.

“I have had a number of students who were able to move up to a higher math level once they started school and we saw their math performance firsthand,” says Ms. Ashleigh Severson, one of our teachers for grades 7 and 8.

Once settled into the correct classroom, small classroom sizes allow teachers to quickly get to know each student and what type of learning style they prefer. This helps teachers tailor lessons, assessments, and overall teaching styles to the types of students in the classroom, versus the more generalized approach that teachers of larger classrooms often take to accommodate a large number of students.

Teacher Helps Students Holding Ipad While Sitting At Math Classroom Table

Creating an action plan to improve math performance

Math is often top-of-mind when it comes to state standardized test scores. Unfortunately, this approach often puts the institution above the student. At Prep, we focus on teaching strategies for learning math — not just on checking off boxes on a state-mandated curriculum.

“I always tell my students, you may not enjoy math, but being able to learn something and persevere through a challenge is a life skill that’s more valuable than knowing how to solve quadratic equations,” says Mr. Young, one of our upper school math teachers.

I always tell my students, you may not enjoy math, but being able to learn something and persevere through a challenge is a life skill that’s more valuable than knowing how to solve quadratic equations.

Between our strong efforts to place students in the right classroom for their skillset, and our belief that all students can excel at something if given the opportunity to do so, students often find a way to enjoy their time in the classroom.

“Whenever I have a student who doesn’t like to study math, I ask them to give it a chance,” says Mr. Young, “After all, their comfort level with math can be a combination of where and who they learned it from.”

Supporting advanced students 

On the other end of the educational spectrum are students who outlearn their school’s math department.

“A variety of learning levels in the classroom will always exist,” says Mr. Young. “So connecting with the students is crucial to tailoring how content is delivered to meet their needs. For a student that enjoys math, I can explain the lesson to them more elaborately, adding in details for context. But for a student who needs me to be to the point, I keep things simpler. That all comes from knowing every student as best as I can.”

The reality is that many schools have to look outside of their school network, if they have the resources to do so, in order to support their students who have reached the top of the school’s curriculum. But at Prep, we have the unique opportunity to send students to the College of Saint Benedict & Saint John’s University. This allows students who excel in the subject to take higher-level courses and challenge themselves academically while still attending school with their friends and engaging with their other studies at Prep.

Working across departments to customize educational experiences

Our new Aspire to Excellence (A2E) curricular framework allows students to combine what they’re learning across departments. For example, a Prep student recently worked with teachers from the math and physics departments to calculate the mathematics behind a medieval catapult. This combination of learning is more in line with how students will use their knowledge after they graduate and is a unique way to learn that we not only offer but encourage.

Prep Student In Sweatshirt Smiles At Camera While Classroom Of Math Students Learn In The Background

“When I first came to teach at Prep, I was surprised by the level of support and collaboration among the faculty,” said Mr. Young. “There are so many students in the classroom when you’re in public school settings. But at Prep, the teachers all know the students and can work together to find ways to customize learning experiences for each one. We truly have a community that we can rely on that knows our students.”

This collaboration adds a fun, engaging element to learning where students can see how what they’re learning connects to the outside world. It also helps ensure that each teacher is setting up their lesson plans to prepare students for the next level of math they will learn over the following semesters.

Math resources for students and parents

Chances are you’ve sat with your child at the kitchen table and tried to help them with their math homework. But because math has changed so much over the years, it’s difficult for a lot of adults to offer the level of support their child needs. You’re not alone, and we’re proud to offer multiple resources for students both during and outside of school hours.

At Saint John’s Prep, we offer:

  • Peer tutoring programs, which allow students who excel at math to volunteer to help their peers who need extra support.
  • School support hours, including lunch hours that teachers can meet with students to offer support for classwork.
  • Additional support hours before and after school, during which teachers can come in early or stay late with a student to help them work through parts of the curriculum they might be struggling to understand.
  • An open door policy, which allows students to speak with teachers when they need to. This also allows parents to raise concerns about their child’s learning, ask questions, and keep everyone on the same page to do what’s best for each individual student.
  • Career days, which include inviting STEM-focused professionals to visit campus and engage with students who are interested in pursuing a career in STEM.

Through our comprehensive approach to teaching math, as well as our commitment to individualized learning, and interdisciplinary collaboration, we help students of all experience levels grow and succeed in the classroom.

Interested in making the switch to Saint John’s Prep?