The British International School of Washington’s Secondary School Mathematics Department has provided students with exciting opportunities throughout the 2021–22 school year. Offering inquiry days, project days, mathematics competitions, and more, the Mathematics Department strives to make this school year extra special.
During the Fall term, Year 8 students in Lower Secondary at BISW enjoyed weekly “Inquiry Days” that gave them a chance to explore broad topics through the lens of mathematics. They kicked off the year by discussing what it means to work in a group. During that particular exercise, the students worked with a sheet of numbers that let them see the benefits of working together rather than alone. The students then thought about the traits of an effective group and wrote them down. Finally, they collected those traits on a bulletin board and carried them forward into future activities.
“We often talk about students working collaboratively, but this starts with them knowing what good collaboration actually looks like,” explained Head of Mathematics Eleanor Bram.
One week, the students focused on communicating mathematical calculations to one another. They had to share that the product of two numbers divided by their highest common factor (HCF) is their lowest common multiple (LCM). Through this inquiry, the students learned the mathematical rule and how important it is to consider whether or not an answer works every time before someone presents it to others. Having to prepare their arguments in a way that would convince a sceptic meant that students had to dig deep to prove the rule.
“This inquiry allowed our pupils to explore factors, multiples, HCF, LCM and prime factors, providing high levels of challenge for everyone,” Ms Bram said, adding that the students thoroughly enjoyed the experience. “These low-floor, high-ceiling activities allow the students to work on their collaboration and communication skills as well as develop their mathematical thinking.”
The first Project Day of the year took place in the Fall term. Students worked in groups to develop escape rooms that utilized various mathematics principles. Read more here.
In addition to inquiry days and the escape rooms, the Mathematics Department has offered opportunities for students to participate in multiple mathematics competitions. These included the UK Mathematics Trust’s Senior Mathematical Challenge in November 2021. This organization also provides the Intermediate Maths Challenge in February 2022 and the Junior Maths Challenge in April 2022.
Then, the Centre for Education in Mathematics and Computing also offered several competitions that BISW students joined.
“We were delighted to give special congratulations to Andre W in Year 12, who not only earned the top spot for all BISW students but also achieved the Gold Award that goes to the top 10 percent of students globally,” Ms Bram said. “Furthermore, Taimoore and William in Year 12 achieved Silver Awards and Michael G, Annalise T, and Eva A in Year 12 and Rahul in Year 13 earned Bronze Awards.”
Another form of competition has also been taken up this year, with the Maths Department entering students for the Math Video Challenge conducted by the organization Math Counts. In this national competition, groups of middle school students develop original videos that highlight math in the real world. The judges review the videos and score them based on mathematical content, communication, creativity, and real-world scenario.
The BISW student groups produced clever skits to illustrate a chosen mathematics problem. For example, a question involving a pie chart was approached by one group through a short video about figuring out who had the biggest piece of a pizza.
As an advocate for the inquiry approach towards education, Ms Bram and a colleague from the British International School in Houston are in the process of running a course on using an inquiry approach in teaching Secondary Maths. It is available to all Nord Anglia educators through the Global Campus and is intended to help the development of the approach by exploring practical inquiry exercises.
It has been a busy year so far, and we look forward to seeing more remarkable things coming out of the BISW Mathematics Department in the future!