How many candles do we need for all eight nights of Hannukah? What geometric shapes are found in a Magen David (Jewish star)? If I spin my dreidel 20 times, how many times will I see gimel?
At the Perelman Jewish Day School, the wondrous nature of math integrates seamlessly with the miracle of Hannukah.The school’s mathematics curriculum is strongly influenced by the work of outstanding math educator Marilyn Burns. Proficiency in computation alone is insufficient. Math fact memorization, mental math, identification of operations, accuracy versus estimation, methods of calculation (mental, paper and pencil, calculator), and mathematical reasoning compose the many parts of a math curriculum that transcends the operations of addition, subtraction, multiplication and division.
Students use web-based IXL exercises accompanied by immediate feedback from teachers. Through this program, our teachers are able to monitor how long it takes students to master problems, how many they did correctly and what skills they have practiced during a homework or classroom session.
In class, teachers use hands-on exercises to foster student inquiry and discovery. Students develop logical thinking skills in order to derive formulas and rules from their findings.
Early on, Gan children (kindergartners) begin learning math concepts by manipulating concrete objects. In first grade, activities become more abstract when children graph what they ate on Thanksgiving. Second grade students use logic steps to determine how many candles are needed for the eight nights of Hanukkah.
Third graders study fractions by using pattern blocks. Through research, they discover fractional parts of a whole: halves, thirds and sixths. After comparing, ordering and adding, they are able to see equivalencies.
Third graders also study probability by spinning driedels and predicting how many times each Hebrew letter will come up. In fourth grade, students use “M and M” math to study probability, more sophisticated graphing, division, square numbers and symmetry. They use boxes of Hannukah candles as manipulatives for exploring fractions, identifying what fractional part of the whole each candle color represents. Fourth graders also have an “enlightening” experience using coordinate geometry to graph a Hannukah menorah.
By fifth grade, students are able to extract information from story problems to express the problems algebraically, preparing them to make the leap to middle school math. Fifth graders also delve more deeply into geometrical thinking. Recently, they used their geometry skills to determine how many triangles, quadrilaterals or hexagons make up a Jewish star.
Though the Perelman mathematics curriculum is closely aligned with local, state and national standards, mathematical instruction is not confined to math classes. Last week, I visited a Hebrew class and watched students measuring the length of Gingi, their new pet snake. Speaking Hebrew, they proudly reported Gingi’s length in inches and in centimeters, before continuing to measure the length and width of the snake’s cage. After comparing their results (still in Hebrew) to their research on what size cage is required for a 70 inch snake, they concluded that they needed to procure a larger cage.
A fall fifth grade art unit taught students to use formulas and a grid system to enlarge a still-life picture. Forman Center art specialist Lauren Meakim also taught geometrical principles while introducing circles, triangles and trapezoids in Gan and hexagon honeycombs in first grade.
Stern Center music specialist Elana Obstfeld incorporates math into music lessons. Younger students count notes and decipher patterns, while older ones use their knowledge of fractions (quarter notes, eighth notes) to interpret more complicated rhythms.
How many candles did we need for all eight nights of Hanukkah? I asked a fourth grader how she figured out the answer. She said: “I used mental math to count one candle for each additional day plus a shamash each day. That means 1+2+3+4+5+6+7+8+8. Or, we can use the algebraic formula n(n+1)/2 + 8. Either way, the answer is 44. Pretty cool!”