The JCCS math program uses a constructivist approach to help students learn to enjoy working with numbers at a young age. Using the 2012 Alaska Mathematics Standards as a framework, the JCCS approach seeks first to ensure students understand mathematical concepts and can employ a variety of problem-solving strategies before beginning to learn particular algorithms and methods.
JCCS believes students learn best when they are asked to think for themselves in small groups focused on relevant, real-life problems. Math is particularly well suited to a constructivist approach; students can figure out important mathematical relationships and generalizations when given an effective structure – time, an interesting problem, classmates with whom they can engage and collaborate, and an overall questioning approach of “Does it make sense?”
The JCCS approach to mathematics leverages a set of notable mathematics curricula and approaches. For our younger students, these include TERC Investigations and Cognitively Guided Instruction (CGI). All curricula stress conceptual understanding, communication, reasoning and problem solving. Students K-6 do extensive hands-on learning about the number core and operations across the strands, including geometry, algebra and probability.
Connected Mathematics Program 3, which is aligned with the Common Core, forms the core of our Middle School math program. We use the rigorous and varied problems of Continental Mathematics League (CML) for multi-grade problem solving. By the time they leave the program after 8th grade, more than half the students will have completed the equivalence of two years of algebra.
JCCS math groups are small, multi-age when appropriate, and part of a whole school program implemented by all classroom teachers and specialists. Our outcomes align with the new Alaska mathematics content and practices standards. Our constructivist approach through Algebra I focuses on critical thinking and deep understanding of mathematical processes and procedures.
We keep abreast of developments with the math sequence at the high school level in Juneau. As a result, the JCCS curriculum was adjusted to include a 2-year study of Algebra in 7th and 8th grade, allowing for greater depth to the students’ knowledge and understanding of the fundamentals of algebra, which will play out well for them in Geometry, Algebra II and beyond.
An example of students working cooperatively can be seen in the photo below, where middle school students work together and share in the excitement of learning, in this case, struggling, persevering and, ultimately, discovering an algebraic pattern: