Gifted children are often visual, conceptual learners who intuitively understand math concepts well beyond their years.
At the same time, their math fluency may be at grade level. 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. Singapore Math, used for 5th and 6th grade level math, 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, which is a math curriculum specifically designed for gifted and high-performing math students in grades 6-12. This curriculum covers foundational concepts in much greater depth with less repetition than typical programs. 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 fifth grader learning alongside a seventh or eighth grader, a lower school student, or both. 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 Math Circles as an enrichment activity, Helios includes it in the regular curriculum.