The way to creative thinking passes through Math by Mail, a distance learning program for inquisitive children. A teacher and her class from Australia talk about how it works
At home or in the school classroom, Math by Mail and Science by Mail provide learners with a the chance to challenge themselves by learning enrichment math or popular contemporary science with mathematicians from the Weizmann Institute. Available in Hebrew, Arabic, and English, these are online programs that can be accessed at any time and from anywhere, so students from throughout the world can participate. One location of impressive program participation rates is the Loreto Kirribilli Junior School in Sydney, Australia.
Students gather in the computer room once a week for a joint lesson, and then do the exercises on their own at home. Photograph: Desilee Tait.
Teacher, Desilee Tait says: “In our school, we have 8-12 year old female students, and have been involved in Math by Mail and its sister program, Science by Mail, for four years. Both Ms. Peta Jauncey and I meet the students in our computer lab every Tuesday morning at 8 am for a Math-by-Mail session. During the session, the students work either independently or in groups, solving age-compatible exercises”.
“During the week the girls work online at home on the various activities and we then meet to discuss maths challenges, unpack new problems from the site and learn from each other. The students really enjoy the friendly interface of the web site, and we, the teachers, enjoy their progress”.
Amelia, a fifth grader, says that participating in the program was an amazing experience: “I have grown so much in mathematics from this program. I am now able to think ‘outside the box’ and solve different mathematical puzzles. I now understand there are many different ways to problem solve.
Earlier in the term, my school had an online chat with Dr. Yossi [Elran, until recently, director of the program in Israel], and we learnt about surfaces, tessellating patterns, and dimensions. From the workbooks on the website, I have learnt things like how to find mistakes and figure out paradoxes. Overall, doing Maths by Mail has been an amazing experience for me. We can enjoy group work or work on our own. [The program] is so much fun and I would definitely recommend it if you want to extend yourself in maths”.
The program exposes the participants to topics that are not always found in the syllabus and help them develop original and creative thinking. Photograph: Desilee Tait
“Math by Mail has been very informative and has taught me about many interesting topics including ratio, paradoxes and a few others I have not heard of such as cryptarithms”, says sixth grader Georgia, and her classmate, Molly, adds: “Math by Mail every Tuesday morning has been really good for me. I have particularly enjoyed working at my own pace.” Similarly, fifth grader Natalia noticed a change in the way in which she deals with the various subjects at school: “I joined [the program] this year and l think it’s a great way for me to start the day and to get me thinking. It helps me think outside the box when I face a challenge”.
“There are a few similar programs for learning science and math creatively, and yet, we chose Davidson Institute’s program since it challenges the students and us, the teachers”, Ms. Tait concludes. “What is so beautiful is that the students work together in class and then continue working at home at their own pace, and do so with enthusiasm, thanks to the great interface of the website and the graphics”.