Math is foreign language, in the sense that few students have much explicit experience of it before coming to school. Counting, is not math, it is memorization. One-to-one correspondence is a foundational skill that does occur naturally: One cookie for you and one for me; two cats and one dog, but beyond that, for most children, the foreign language of math starts once they begin school. It is an abstract, ordered, logical and convergent language that, in the earliest years, requires a connection to the real world; it needs reference to real objects. Otherwise, math is intangible and mysterious, abstract and untouchable at a time of life when much of experience and understanding is concrete rather than abstract, and in the absence of experience, meaningless.

At Sparhawk, students of all ages are given the opportunity to solve practical, real-life problems as well as those found in math books. In other words, we combine traditional skill- development and practical applications. The applications, often called “hands-on” or “experiential” learning, allow students to use and practice their emerging toolbox of skills, in context, and in ways that are intrinsically interesting and make sense to them. The result is greater enthusiasm, sustained interest and, ultimately, comprehension.

Experiential math activities are the foundation for our PreK and Kindergarten students, and as children move through early elementary grades, more time is devoted to abstract reasoning and increasingly formal instruction in the standard scope and sequence of math concepts. Number facts are reinforced and students develop skill in solving mental-math challenges. The combination of traditional skill development, the tools, and enticing challenges to solve, makes for a successful and fear-less approach to math learning. Both text and touch are essential and synergistic ingredients in early math learning.

Our curriculum integrates the complimentary values of back to basics and constructivist approaches. In other words, the program helps children to build a toolbox of traditional math skills and to use those tools to solve real-life problems. It is an evidence-based program, created with the cognitive science of math learning in mind. It is designed to meet Common Core and National Council of Teachers of Mathematics standards and is deeply rooted in a belief we have that everyone can succeed at math and have fun doing it.