The MathScape curriculum reflects the following principles about teaching and learning mathematics:
Humans naturally order, quantify, sort, and describe, and mathematics is a language that serves to organize and make sense out of our human experience. All children possess the ability to think and learn mathematically.
When students are able to connect their learning to something that has meaning to them, they both understand it and retain it better than when the learning is disconnected. By relating mathematical investigations to middle school students’ experiences, MathScape promotes meaningful learning for students.
Students learn by constructing knowledge from an experience and relating that new knowledge to the existing body of knowledge they have. Within mathematics, this means that students must grapple with concepts by formulating their own ideas and by examining, discussing and testing them. Students’ mathematical thinking is a vital component to MathScape lessons.
By analyzing different solution methods for a problem, teachers validate students’ different ways of thinking. This affirmation can motivate students and encourage further learning. In addition, students gain flexibility in solving problems and develop a repertoire of mathematical methods from which to draw when faced with a new problem.
A study of topics in depth involves:
In order to base instruction on students’ understanding of the material, a teacher needs frequent formal and informal ways to assess that understanding. Curriculum materials can provide a variety of methods for teachers to use in gathering such information. These methods include whole-class discussion, small-group work observed by the teacher, students’ narrative written work and mathematical problem-solving. Curriculum materials must also provide evaluative tools to measure what students have learned.
When a curriculum presents interesting contexts and views for working with mathematical concepts and skills, there is the opportunity for both students and teachers to make new connections between what may be familiar pieces of content.