Our Math Philosophy
At Wonderland Math, we’re passionate about elementary mathematics education. This shows up in everything from our program design to how we hire and train our teachers. We’d like to share with you some of our philosophy around building students’ motivation and conceptual understanding in math:
Common Core Alignment
The sea change in mathematics education in the Common Core era is exciting- we feel it better reflects the depth of learning and reasoning ability required for college and career success in the 21st century. The Wonderland Math program was launched in 2017, which allowed us to connect with teachers experienced in successfully leading Common Core elementary math in the classroom, and learn from schools and districts around the country. Based on this, we structured the “bones” of our math instruction and approach on the EngageNY framework, a highly respected and class-tested set of materials. Since we only work with students for an hour each week, we’ve selected key concepts and skill areas that are extensible across grade levels, and built our weekly curriculum accordingly.
In each Wonderland Math session, students get to participate in guided instruction in a group of no more than 4, which allows our teachers to explore the concepts at hand. By asking questions of students, our teachers utilize varied representations and scaffolds to support the development of conceptual understanding. Each student receives a learning kit with manipulatives that are leveraged in these discussions, and they use the drawing tools in our online classroom to work questions out, draw diagrams, and deeply engage with the content. In addition to these instruction segments, students experience two interactive math games per session, which are not only a fun time- they provide ample opportunity for students to practice their skills and hone their automaticity.
Building Motivation and Mindset
Ample research exists to support the idea that a student’s attitudes towards mathematics are strongly predictive of their future success in the subject. In one large study, the authors found that the portion of students saying they liked math declined by 43% between 3rd grade and 11th grade. This problem is, in many ways, at the very core of why we launched Wonderland Math: to build a love of mathematics in every student. One of our main methods to accomplish this is through our fantastic story, tying the obstacles and challenges to the math needed to push forward and save the day.
The other key component is our attention to Growth Mindset, as researched and promulgated by Dr. Carol Dweck of Stanford. Our teachers are trained thoroughly in the right ways to praise and identify mindset in Wonderland Math students, and we present frequent challenge as an opportunity to cultivate the right approach. In every session, students are put into positions where they can make a mistake, and those mistakes are not just normalized, but celebrated as integral to the math learning process.
To do this, we have shifted forward the EngageNY pacing guide by about 3-4 weeks, meaning that students will often encounter concepts before they see them in school. This allows them to make mistakes in a safe environment, building their confidence when the material is introduced in their regular classroom.
Singapore Math & CGI
Wonderland Math is deeply aligned to the instructional principles laid out by the Common Core Standards. Our teachers are trained to ask questions that guide students to a more complete understanding of how math works together, and how different skill areas are interconnected. With that in mind, it’s a great fit for students whose schools utilize the Singapore Math framework, a program that also emphasizes a high level of math rigor and a fundamental understanding of core concepts such as place value, fractions, and spatial reasoning. The respected non-profit research group Achieve (achieve.org) found that “…the Common Core State Standards and the Singapore Mathematics Syllabus share many key traits of coherence and focus” and “…both (frameworks) place a heavy emphasis on number concepts and skills in the primary grades.” Since Wonderland Math was built to align to the Common Core, we’ve found it to be a tremendous fit for students whose schools use the Singapore Math syllabus as well.
Cognitively Guided Instruction for Mathematics, known as CGI, is an increasingly popular approach to elementary math instruction that’s employed in classrooms across the United States. A core principle of CGI is that students should be encouraged to solve problems in multiple ways, and that no particular pathway to solution is favored. This allows each student to develop their own meaning in connection with the math concept, strengthening its place in their mind and allowing for different learning styles. In Wonderland Math, our teachers immerse each student into a rich story-driven context for math problem solving, allowing them to really provide their own impetus for “cracking the code” of the math concepts at hand. We let each student find their own way, utilizing a Socratic approach that guides them to their own discovery and understanding. For students whose teachers utilize CGI in the classroom, the Wonderland Math program will be a natural fit; and for those who don’t experience it during their school day, the program is an outstanding outlet for creative problem solving and for developing individual understanding.