Frequently Asked Questions

If Investigations is a K-5 math program and CMP3 is a 6-8 math program, why does Milton Academy use CMP3 in grade 5?
We use CMP3 starting in Grade 5 because our students are ready for its heavy emphasis on rational numbers (e.g., fractions, decimals, and percents). Research indicates that a strong understanding of rational number concepts and operations provides the foundation for success in formal algebra. The CMP3 units we use in Grade 5 focus on concepts and skills related to fractions, decimals, and percents. In Grade 6, the CMP3 units focus on developing students’ proportional reasoning skills (including formal methods for solving proportions). As a result, our Grades 5 and 6 math program prepares students well for their Algebra I course in Grade 7.
When do students take Algebra I at Milton Academy?

All students at Milton Academy begin their formal Algebra I course in the fall of Grade 7. The Middle School mathematics faculty worked with Gregg Reilly, chair of the Upper School mathematics department, to develop the scope and sequence of our Algebra I program.

Are students grouped for math?
No, students are not grouped for math at any grade level, kindergarten through Grade 8.
My child tells me that she spends a lot of time talking in math class. Why is discussion such a big part of math class?
There is a large body of research indicating that students learn math by talking about it. The mechanisms via which talk supports the development of mathematical understanding are varied. First, talking about math wakes our brains from “standby” mode. Whereas lectures and teacher demonstrations put students in a passive role, class discussions require students’ brains to work hard. When students explain their thinking in class, they engage in effective learning practices including recalling prior knowledge, connecting ideas, and eliminating faulty conceptions. Student talk can also help them learn more mathematics by allowing the teacher access to their internal conceptual frameworks. As teachers listen to students talk about what they know and don’t know, teachers can adjust their instruction so that it adheres closely to the needs of individual students. Finally, classroom discussions can help students learn more math by providing models for students’ thinking. As students practice giving explanations in class, they learn how to formulate convincing justifications and engage in productive debate. These habits of mind can then inform their own work as mathematical thinkers – even when working individually.
What can I do to help my child have a successful relationship with math?
Here are five things every can parent do – starting today – to help their child succeed with mathematics.

  1. Emphasize hard work – not ability – as the key to success in math. When talking to children about math, we must be sure to emphasize the role of hard work – not ability. Success in mathematics is the outcome of effort and persistence, not innate ability. Please try not to tell your children, “I was never good at math,” as this may propel the harmful myth that only some people were “born” to do well in math. (See the article, “The Genetic Effect of School” for more information about the negligible effect of genes on our success in school.)
  2. Embrace confusion and errors as essential to learning. When children talk about their struggles, reassure them that the confusion they feel is a sign they are learning. Recast mistakes as solutions-in-progress. Tell students that successful math learners use their mistakes to figure out how to reach the correct solution. Try a math problem yourself (similar to one your children are studying in class), make a mistake and ask your children to think about why you might have made that error and how you might correct it.
  3. Take the Stanford online math course, “How to Learn Math.” This course describes new evidence on the best ways to learn math effectively and knocks down harmful myths about mathematical learning (e.g., the myth that only some people are “math people”). You can find more information here:
  4. Use enrichment materials that support the principles of our Milton math program. Board games and puzzles that promote logical thinking are wonderful resources for developing students’ reasoning and problem solving skills and promote a lifelong interest in mathematics. If your child wants to solve more math problems at home, choose problems that allow them to “tinker with numbers,” develop persistence, and think deeply about the ideas they are studying in class. (See the text box below for specific suggestions.)
  5. Talk to your child’s teacher. When we look at children’s written work or listen as they talk about how they solved a particular problem, we parents learn so much. And as we look and listen so intently, we often find ourselves asking questions that seek additional information. Questions such as, “Is this an efficient approach?” and “What can my child do to improve?” are good questions to ask. Your child’s classroom teacher is the best source for answers to these questions. I encourage you to keep the lines of communication open between you and your child’s teacher. Milton math teachers know your children well. They also know the curriculum, how children come to understand the “big ideas” within each unit of study, and how those ideas connect to ideas on the mathematical horizon.
What opportunities are available for students who want additional math challenges?
At Milton Academy, we believe that the best way to challenge students is to encourage them to explore a topic in greater depth. Classroom teachers are ready to help students dig deeper into the math at their grade level by providing them with rich, challenging problems. Teachers choose problems that help students develop specific content knowledge, general mathematical skills, (e.g., exhaustiveness), and invaluable habits of mind (e.g., justification). Here is an example from Grade 1: Lottie has 15 pennies in four separate piles. Each pile has a different number of pennies. How many pennies might be in each pile? Can you find all the ways? How do you know you have found them all? And here is an example from Grade 5: What is the least positive integer that has only 1’s and 0’s as digits and is a multiple of 75? (Source: NCTM)

Students also have the opportunity to explore challenging mathematics outside of math class. Lower School students can participate in our after-school mathematics club. In the Middle School, students can join the Math Club that meets during the Wednesday activity block and participate in math contents including Math Counts and Math Olympiad.

My family is interested in doing more math at home. Can you provide us with some helpful resources?
First, be sure to talk with your child’s teacher. He or she may be able to suggest specific games and activities from our math program that can be played at home as well as school. Second, see the link, “Problem Solving” under “Additional Resources” for fantastic resources that promote problem solving and reasoning. A personal favorite of many Milton math teachers is from the Universtiy of Cambridge. Spend some time navigating the site and choose a problem to dig into. You may need several members of our family and several days to tackle the problem… and that’s good! There’s no better way to promote the persistence and mindset needed for long term success in math than working together as a family to solve challenging math problems and puzzles.