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The Foundation of Mathematical Instruction at Lorien Wood School, Part 1

November 15, 2021
By Abigail Reynolds, Form 4 Math
The Foundation of Mathematical Instruction at Lorien Wood School, Part 1


Mathematics is often seen as an exception— the  one subject that cannot be taught holistically, conceptually, or creatively because of its seemingly rigid nature. At Lorien Wood, we challenge this perspective and believe absolute theorems and conceptual, innovative thinking are not mutually exclusive. In fact, a long-lasting ability to solve mathematical queries and prove axioms depends on one’s ability to critically think and analyze, not just on one’s ability to memorize or answer quickly. While memorization is important and at times essential, if a student can learn how to think critically about mathematics, he may approach all other subjects with a unique ability to reason and discern, and a keen awareness of his abilities and how to use them. A proper Mathematical instruction depends on a few key factors, all working in tandem to teach students the language of mathematics, a language which informs how they see the world. 


The Teacher and Not the Textbook

Lorien Wood is founded on the importance of living ideas— thus much of our curriculum centers around excellent literature, written by those with such a profound and thorough knowledge of a subject that they are most able to holistically impart essential truths. Math textbooks are not profound displays of living ideas, as helpful as they may be. Though they are exhaustive displays of theorems and mathematical topics, textbooks are bland illustrations of the patterned, ordered, complex, and beautiful subject at hand. An instructor, having become an expert on the subject himself, is better suited to illustrate mathematical complexities differentially and understandably than a standard textbook. Mathematical instruction, according to Charlotte Mason, “depends upon the teacher and not the textbook” mainly because of an instructor’s knowledge of each child’s learning preferences and their ability to “give the inspiring ideas, what Coleridge calls the ‘Captain’ ideas, which should quicken imagination.” While textbooks are excellent resources, it should be the instructor’s desire to present truth in such a way that it comes alive to each student. Mathematics comes alive when it is presented to students imaginatively, integrally, and holistically—  as a small part of a grand design.