Gifted children are often visual, conceptual learners who intuitively understand math concepts well beyond their years.
At the same time, their ability to write numerals or memorize math facts may be average or lower. Because of this, we customize our math instruction to keep our students challenged and engaged, while at the same time supporting them where they may struggle.
Students have math class for one hour daily, in addition to the math concepts encountered in their Expedition work. Lower school students begin with Singapore Math. In comparison with typical math programs, the Singapore Math curriculum covers foundational concepts in much greater depth, which is ideal for gifted learners. Singapore Math also makes extensive use of concrete objects and model drawing to visualize problems. This is perfect for our many visual-spatial learners, and promotes flexibility in our symbol-oriented students. When they are ready for Pre-algebra, students progress to The Art of Problem Solving. This textbook series, specifically written for gifted students, emphasizes deep understanding of mathematical concepts. Students then apply the concepts to complex, non-routine problems.
Students work in mixed-grade groups according to their readiness. It’s typical to see a third grader learning alongside a first or sixth grader. Teachers customize lessons for each group according to its strengths and needs.
Every Friday at Helios, we feature Math Circles, which are complex, open-ended math challenges that students solve as a group. They work together to define mathematical questions, notice patterns and test solutions, often discovering multiple approaches to the same problem. Students are doing the real world work of mathematicians; beyond writing and solving symbolic math problems, they generalize, prove, and investigate unusual mathematical questions. This type of problem solving is particularly compelling for gifted learners. While many schools in the Bay Area offer a version of a Math Circle as an enrichment activity, Helios includes it in the regular curriculum.