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Community Conversations: Mathematics at McGillis

Community Conversations: Mathematics at McGillis

by Melinda Kaufman, Lower School Director and Tim Campbell, Middle School Director


Paul Chung, Middle School Math Teacher, and Emmy Lowe, 1st grade teacher, joined us to discuss Mathematics at McGillis. Here is the Zoom recording and below are key takeaways from the conversation. 


Our Guiding Beliefs about Mathematics*

  • Everyone can learn maths at high levels.
  • Maths is often associated with memorizing and getting the right answer. We believe maths is about learning, piquing interest, and encouraging students to wonder and ask questions.
  • Problems can be solved with many different insights and strategies.
  • Mistakes are valuable, they encourage brain growth and learning.
  • Depth and understanding are more important than speed. We want students to think deeply and take their time.  Rote memorization is less important.
  • Maths is a subject of connected ideas, not a list of disconnected topics.


* You’ll hear us say “maths” instead of “math” because “maths” is short for mathematics, and mathematics is plural because it reflects the many parts of mathematics - drawing, modeling, asking questions, communicating, generalizing, connecting, etc.  “Math” sounds more singular and narrow.


We Want Our Students to:

  • Approach maths with curiosity, courage, confidence, and intuition.
  • Embrace a “growth mindset” and realize our brains can grow and learn.
  • Work hard and persevere.
  • Explain and discuss their mathematical thinking and process.
  • Have strong number sense. Number sense is the ability to work with numbers in flexible ways, understand how numbers relate to each other, and be able to do mental math.
  • Think quantitatively, creatively, and critically


Our K-8 Curriculum

  • We use i-Ready in Kindergarten-3rd grade and Eureka Math in 4th-8th grades.
  • We formed a committee in Spring 2019 to research curriculums and with the hope of selecting one curriculum for K-8.  As we explored different curriculums and talked about what we were looking for, we realized that there wasn’t one curriculum which met the needs of all grades.  In Spring 2020, the committee recommended i-Ready for K-3 and Eureka Math for 4-8, and we are in our second year of these programs.  The programs have a similar approach to mathematics, and teachers work to find connections and ensure a smooth transition, especially between 3rd and 4th grades.


How We Teach Mathematics

  • Standard algorithms are not the only way to solve problems. We introduce different strategies and tools, such as number lines, number bonds, area models, and tape diagrams.  We allow students to choose their own strategies.
  • We encourage students to draw pictures and use manipulatives.
  • We value the different ways students see mathematics and solve problems. Maths is a very creative subject, and the beauty of maths is that every question can be seen and solved in different ways.
  • In Middle School, the teachers actually give students the answers and then students share how they solve problems.  Every middle school student will experience Algebra and Geometry in preparation for the most options in high school.
  • Showing work is important because it deepens students’ understanding and develops their ability to effectively communicate their thinking.


How Can Parents Support Their Child(ren) at Home?

  • Ask your child(ren) to explain the strategy they’re using and ask them questions.
  • Always be encouraging and never tell kids they are wrong. Instead, find the logic in their thinking (there is always some logic to what they say).
  • Never associate being good at maths with speed.
  • Build number sense - being able to flexibly work with numbers and do mental math.
  • Encourage a growth mindset - instead of praising them for being smart or good at math, praise them for working hard, learning, growing their brain, and making mistakes.
  • Helpful Websites:



Join us virtually for our next Community Conversation on March 23 for a discussion on Diversity, Equity, Inclusivity, and Belonging.