Ursuline's Math Department is thinking outside the box.
Students recently experienced a special Week of Inspirational Math. The objective — to make math visual, creative, and hands-on — was an extension of what teachers started in Ursuline summer school classes.
"Our students worked in multilevel groups on low floor/high ceiling tasks," said Claudia Mathison, who teaches Algebra II. "These tasks challenged all levels of mathematical thinking and enriched the learning experience by having multiple perspectives shared."
The inspiration started when seven math teachers attended the Teaching Mindset Mathematics Workshop at Stanford University. The workshop, led by math education expert Dr. Jo Boaler, emphasized that visualization is key to making mathematical connections, and you can't learn math without making mistakes.
Math teachers Katie Hayes and Hailey Lainer adapted Dr. Boaler's "Week of Inspirational Math" curriculum to best suit Ursuline students.
- Fewest Squares Activity: Students attempt to fill an 11x13 rectangle with the fewest number of squares possible. They must fill the entire rectangle (no overlapping) and can use different dimensions (as long as it is square). How can you minimize the number of squares required?
- Painted Cube Activity: Students visualized dipping a 4x4x4 cube made up of sugar cubes into a can of paint. When they pull the cube out of the paint, how many sugar cubes have one-side painted? Two-sides painted? Three-sides painted? No sides painted? Can a general formula be developed for an n x n x n cube?
Math Department Chair Tammy Yung said plans are ongoing to continue to make math more relatable to students throughout the year.
"The Math Department is re-envisioning what is valued in mathematics," she said. "We are seeking greater understanding and deeper thinking from our students rather than memorization of formulas and rote arithmetic. We want to give our students many opportunities to obtain mastery and to feel confident in their ability to problem solve."