A final entry of the school year from Resident Teacher Henry Emerson, with a look into mathematical thinking here at UCDS. -Ed.
As a resident, my introduction to UCDS was the Math Workshop in early August held for teachers. The workshop is run by UCDS faculty and attended by local teachers looking for different ways to teach math. For me, it was both an introduction into the ways UCDS teaches math and a time to reflect on the way I learned math and how I still think about it.
Within the first five minutes of the workshop my mind was blown as I learned that the base 10 system of digits and decimals we use was a societal choice most likely based on the number of fingers we have and not a natural fact of the universe. From that moment I was captivated. We practiced, like the students at UCDS do, using different base systems of counting to better understand place value. It was here that I was introduced to the practice of “Build, Draw and Record.”
Build, Draw, and Record is the process of recording math used throughout UCDS. For any abstract theory students use some sort of manipulative to build and visualize the problem. Children use units, rods made of 10 units, flats of 10 rods, and cubes that are 10 flats to understand place value and practice the addition, subtraction, multiplication and division operations. After students find a solution by building, they draw their solutions on graph paper recreating what they built. Finally, they record their solutions numerically having demonstrated they understand the process behind the numbers.
Math comes naturally to some students, and they move beyond building and drawing as they quickly show their conceptual understanding. But for many students, using manipulatives opens the door to processes that seemed vague at first. As students begin to understand their processes of learning, they gain confidence in their abilities. It has been a pleasure to go from an introduction of ‘Build, Draw, and Record’ to seeing the access it enables in students.