Elementary Math and the Young Mind: Inside Calvert School’s Math Programs

For our youngest students, and even our little learners in Kiddie Calvert, math begins with recognition and awareness. Long before they encounter formal math programs, all boys and girls unknowingly experiment with mathematical principles.
They stack blocks and recognize patterns; they compare their heights and judge spaces for climbing and exploring. As they begin preschool and elementary school, these innocent examples of math transform into counting songs and games, and open-ended experiments become focused lessons.
At Calvert, children in the Lower School learn foundational math principles through the Singapore method, a mastery program that guides them through concrete, pictorial, and abstract understanding. As the boys and girls grow and move up through the Lower School, these lessons gradually transition from hands-on learning using counting objects (ex. removing three objects from a group) to more abstract math principles, which can be communicated with symbols (ex. subtracting three from five in an equation, recognizing this act as subtraction, and finding a solution of two). 
Later, as students move through Seventh through Tenth Age, these math programs become more and more defined before the boys and girls transition to the Middle School, where they begin to use math as a tool to solve complex problems.

Importance of Mathematics for Students

In Fifth through Eighth Grades, the students dive into math programs focused on whole numbers and decimals, fractions, statistics, and variable formulas that prepare them to tackle pre-algebra and algebra as determined by unique developmental groups. In addition to algebra, our oldest students participate in math activities aimed at solving real-world problems, and these experiences extend beyond the classroom.
In Fifth Grade, students have the opportunity to participate in Money Club, a weekly finance and math program that teaches Calvert boys and girls to properly earn, save, and invest money – paving the way for successful futures with smart saving techniques and spending strategies.
Led by teacher Eric Cowell, Middle School students are also encouraged to combine math and science principles to explore engineering and robotics. Students who participate in the Fifth Grade Robotics Club or Middle School Robotics Team use well-honed problem-solving techniques and math equations to develop innovative solutions to various prompts and builds.

With these prompts, the students are often asked to use division to identify factors like driving distance for their robots, while a baseline understanding of inequities can help the robots move and function on their own, Mr. Cowell says.

“Students are always excited to take on the challenges that programming the robots brings. The programming work is not something that necessarily comes easy to a lot of students, or something that can be picked up in a day or two,” Mr. Cowell said. “It takes dedication and a willingness to work through tough problems. The LS does a good job of preparing the Fifth Graders to be resilient and willing to tackle the challenges, regardless of the setbacks they might have along the way.”
While making these machines, the students routinely test their robots and make alterations based on the results, utilizing complex calculations and the scientific process to debut top-notch creations. In 2020, these skills earned Calvert Fifth, Sixth, and Seventh Graders a slot in the First Lego League (FLL) State Championships.

At Calvert, a core piece of our mission is to meet each student exactly where they are in their development, and our math programs are no exception. Between our academic classes, solid elementary math curricula, and extracurricular clubs, Calvert is full of math resources for students of all ages and needs, and the School prides itself on educating young learners who can confidently utilize math principles in creative ways.

“Math is inherently connected with science. Whether you are doing quantitative or qualitative observations, understanding the fundamentals of math allows a science student to dive deeper into investigations and discover deeper meaning to the content,” Mr. Cowell said. “It also isn't limited to the classroom. Both traditional and social media are full of claims, charts, and statistics associated with scientific studies that can misrepresent the facts. Having a strong science and math background can allow students to critically analyze these claims for themselves and be able to determine whether something is factual or not.”
Calvert School is a coed independent lower and middle school.