A nearby after-school math program has different strategies to teach children math, and even get them to enjoy the subject that so many dislike.
The Russian School of Math has locations around the nation, including one in Belmont that started this fall. Principal Sona Antonoyan said her teachers try to “break the fear of math,” show students strategies to tackle math.
“We want them to understand concepts, rather than memorization,” Antonoyan said.
The school serves students in grades K-12 and attracts students from many towns including Watertown. The strategies allow them to start complex problem solving at a young age. While they don’t call it algebra, even as young as kindergarten students learn the concepts behind the complex math.
Visual examples are often used. One example, Antonoyan said, is having two dominoes. The kids are told each one has the same number of dots and one domino has three dots on one side and three on the other (for a total of six). The second domino has four dots on one side and the kids have to figure out how many are in the blank spot … two. As they get older, the same problem would look like 3 + 3 = 4 + X.
The classes attract both students who struggle in school with math and those who don’t find their normal work challenging enough, Antonoyan said. Classes are split into different skill levels.
Classes meet once a week, and students go home with a few pages of homework each week and will take quizzes – even the youngest pupils. There are after school classes, Saturday and there are summer classes, too.
The teachers have to learn the Russian School of Math’s strategies before they work with kids.
“We teach them how to derive rules, how the formula works, before they teach,” Antonoyan said. “It is not just strategies, it is a way of thinking. We are teaching you to solve puzzles by analyzing.”
Students from the Russian School of Math have excelled in math competitions and on nationwide tests. The school has two posters filled with dozens of students who have received honors in these competitions.
The school uses three classrooms in a former church school in Belmont, but with a long waiting list the Russian School of Math seeks to expand for next fall, Antonoyan said.
For more information go to www.russianschool.com/location/belmont