Maths…one tiny word that can cause very strong emotions, not only in students, but also in a lot of parents whose own experience of learning mathematics is not looked back on fondly. When a lot of people think of maths, they might see images of strict, regimented classrooms, students sitting quietly in rows and columns, going about their maths with authoritarian structure.
I don’t see those images when I think of maths. It might be because of who I am and the way I bring my passion to mathematics teaching and learning. Or it might be because I work at Cornish College, where the 100 acres become a versatile ‘classroom’ where students are encouraged to find wisdom and inspiration from their natural surroundings…I believe it might just be a perfect combination of the two.
When I think of mathematics, I picture students writing on classroom windows with whiteboard markers; I think of students wading in the lake to take water samples and create graphical representations of what they find; I see groups creating mini-golf courses out on the island and then enjoying testing their golfing prowess – these are all things that I see happening regularly at Cornish College.
In Years 7 and 8, maths is dynamic. It’s formed by the passion and expertise of exceptional educators who guide our students to show their best, most authentic selves. We build on the inquiry-based learning foundations formed in primary years and create a wonderful blend of inquiry, group collaborative tasks and explicit teaching to allow each individual to thrive within the particular year’s maths curriculum, but to also prepare them for the demanding nature of senior years. We are supported beautifully by the Individual Needs team for those students who might need extra support and to offer enrichment programs for those who need more challenge.
In Years 9 and 10, we have implemented a program that involves fluid learning groups. This means that students are placed, via teacher recommendation and student agency, into a foundation, applied or advanced level class. All three classes work on the same topics at the same time, but at a different level of depth and complexity, ensuring that students are working on their weaknesses, developing their understanding and stretching themselves to grow and increase their confidence. Several times throughout the term, students have the opportunity to move classes, either by their own choice or upon the recommendation of their teacher. This allows us to constantly ensure that students are accessing the content, learning style and level of complexity that best suits their level of aptitude.
In our Year 9 advanced class, we have implemented an online teaching and learning program that allows students to learn at their own pace and have increased agency over their own progress. The entire Year 9 Mathematics curriculum is online with teacher-created videos on every topic, complemented by teacher facilitation and support in the classroom. Students follow a set task pathway through each topic, completing assessment tasks when they feel ready to do so. Obviously students must complete all of the year’s content within the school year, but this program provides opportunities for students to complete the topics much quicker, which will then allow them to move on to Year 10 content prior to being in Year 10. The opportunity this provides for fast-tracking into Victorian Certificate of Education (VCE) Mathematics classes is a huge bonus and our students benefit greatly from this program.
At VCE level, students have many opportunities to continue to do the hardest maths possible for as long as possible. We have small class sizes, expert teaching staff and a collaborative culture that permeates through our Senior Studies Centre. We combine expert teaching with online video content and utilise online resources such as Mathspace and Edrolo to provide our students with the best opportunities to achieve the best results possible. It is not unusual to see students out for recess or lunch a little late because they were keen to work that little bit longer.
Maths at Cornish is different in so many ways… It’s the same content and the same progress pathways, but it is so much more. I, for one, am very lucky to be leading such a great team in such a unique and bountiful location, with exceptionally talented, driven and enthusiastic students.