Singapore Math is a math education program which is centered on problem-solving and critical thinking. As part of their continuing professional development this summer, six of our Lower School teachers were able to attend the SDE National Conference on Singapore Math. While there, they explored best teaching practices with some of the developers and master teachers of the program. Lower School Math Coordinator Gail Moskowitz shared, “We have such a collaborative orientation as a faculty; we’re constantly sharing ideas and strategies with each other. Going to this conference as a group was a phenomenal experience. And this program, with its focus on developing collaboration and the critical thinking skills so necessary for future success, just seems like a great fit for us.”
Math Department Chair Jalaj Desai added, “Our Math curriculum in Middle and Upper Schools has changed significantly over the past few years and many students are now taking advanced classes in their junior and senior years. This school year we have 75 students enrolled in AP Calculus, 40 in AP Statistics, and 25 in Differential Equations classes. All our students in 6th grade take Pre-Algebra, giving them an opportunity to advance early on. To better prepare our lower school students for these successive classes, I strongly believe in utilizing the Singapore Math program. Not only does Singapore Math teach our students to work on math skills but its unique approach helps students retain what they learned.”
Rutgers Prep is now in the process implementing Singapore Math (Math in Focus) as the core of our program throughout our Lower School. Singapore Math builds mathematical understanding through concrete (manipulatives), pictorial (visual models), and abstract (symbolic) representation. It emphasizes the “why” before the “how,” which leads to a deeper understanding of mathematical concepts. Problem solving is central to the program. Students are encouraged to think of several alternative ways to solve each problem, sometimes individually and other times with a partner or in small groups. Reading strategies and comprehension skills are also sharpened as students analyze word problems in a logical manner. This, in turn, helps develop metacognition (the ability to monitor one’s own thought processes). All of these skills are of paramount importance for our young students as they prepare for a future filled with jobs that may not even exist yet.
Sepehr Gharavi ‘16 wasn’t expecting to be asked to help with a Middle School art class. But when the call came, he was ready.
RPS Middle School Art Teacher Susan McCloskey took in an exhibit at the Met a few years ago that included some incredibly beautiful bowls from ancient Persia, dating all the way back to the 9th, 10th, and 11th centuries.
The bowls were primarily white, and in many cases the decorative element on each was created through a calligraphic inscription. After seeing the exhibit, Ms. McCloskey wanted to find a way to invite her students into that spirit of inspiration. And she remembered having a conversation with one of her students whose family origins were Persian.
When she reached out to Setareh Gharavi ‘22, the RPS sixth grader in turn recommended that the teacher reach out to her older brother, Sepehr (“Seps”) Gharavi ‘16. When Seps learned of the possible project he was immediately interested in helping. “I know how to write in Farsi, so I thought I could maybe help students develop their own designs.” Seps went to the eighth grade class and essentially took over, teaching them about Farsi, serving as a scribe, transcribing students’ names for them, and helping to translate quotes into Persian. The students then studied examples from history and created their own pieces of pottery, which were carefully kiln-fired here on campus.
“This was a cool opportunity to express part of my culture to other people, and it also gave me a chance to realize how long its been since I really used my “Persian” muscle,” Seps reflected. “In some ways it was a warning for me that I need to look for more ways to keep my Persian up to date! And then of course it was great to see the finished products and feel like I was a part of making them possible.”
Art gives us a window into lives long since past, and transports us to parts of the world that we may never visit in person. Throughout our own history, art has been a vital part of the Rutgers Prep curriculum, and sometimes, art becomes a bridge within our own community… in this case, between a classroom full of eighth-graders on the cusp of becoming Upper Schoolers, and an Upper Schooler who is himself about to move on to the next stage of his journey as a life-long learner.
Rutgers Prep Upper School faculty members have an even clearer idea of how to help our students stand out in the competitive college admissions landscape thanks to a presentation which featured Admissions Officers from The George Washington University, the University of Pennsylvania, & Princeton University. The Admissions Officers “pulled back the curtain” from their long years of experience, and candidly shared with faculty members in an on campus workshop. The program included analysis of anonymized letters from past admissions cycles – of both the very helpful and less helpful varieties – which were distributed and discussed.
After the workshop, our Dean of Faculty shared, “I loved the session! I have been a teacher long enough that I think knew many of the things that they talked about, but I still liked being reminded. I really appreciated the advice that the counselors had to give, and just being face-to-face with the very people who read every word (apparently) of what we so painstakingly write was a very helpful thing. So this big bad thing called college admissions that we always talk about became more humane, more plausible, and ultimately more do-able. It was also empowering to know how much the admissions people rely on our knowledge of our students in making their decisions. I think I will see the face of each one of those people in my mind the next time I start writing a recommendation letter.“
The members of the Rutgers Prep faculty are proud to support and facilitate the development of our students as life-long learners, and welcome the opportunity to share their insight as a part of the college process. Workshops like this one provide our faculty with powerful and specific tools to compose compelling communications. These tools also help us ensure that admissions representatives are able to translate our unique perspectives into an appreciation of what each of our students will bring to their next learning community.