MEK Learning Circles: Math
How it helps students master Common Core State Standards
Our MLC Math program for 4th-8th graders puts students in small groups with an expert teacher to help them master core grade-level and above grade-level mathematics. Our program is especially designed to align with Common Core State Standards so students can excel in the classroom.
Read our blog from expert MLC teachers Jessica Conlon and Elise Kim to learn what to expect:
#1. MLC Math Curriculum
Each MLC Math class was designed to align with the existing Common Core and New Jersey State Standards, targeting the key set of skills and concepts needed to improve students’ mathematic achievement at every grade level.
A standard essentially defines very specifically what students should understand or be able to do. Standards are specific to each grade level, but related standards are grouped together into clusters, and clusters fall under broader domains. Usually, these domains are recurring throughout grade levels so that students are consistently reinforcing and building upon foundational concepts as they advance through each grade.
It is therefore essential that students are exposed to the breadth and depth of content outlined for each step of the learning process, or they might find themselves with gaps in knowledge that hold them back as topics get more difficult.
The MLC Math curricula condense almost the entirety of a school year’s worth of CCSS math content into a 16-week to 20-week (depending on the semester) program. Each grade level is split into two courses: an Operations and Number Sense (ONS) class, which primarily targets calculation skills, and a Problem-Solving Math (PSM) class, which focuses on word problem comprehension.
Because the two classes have different goals, they approach the standards from different angles. The curricula for each grade level were organized to ensure that all domains and clusters are covered, with few exceptions, meaning that almost all standards are covered when a student takes both the ONS and PSM classes for a specific grade level. It is usually recommended that students take both classes if they want to master all domains and clusters for their grade level.
Example of domains & clusters
One of the CCSS domains for Grade 5 is Number and Operations in Base Ten. This is split into two clusters:
- A) Understand the place value system
- B) Perform operations with multi-digit whole numbers with decimals to hundredths.
Each of these clusters are then split into even more specific standards. This is a good example of the standards that are covered in MLC Math.
#2. MLC Math Structure
MLC Math is set up similar to a traditional class setting, optimized for online learning. During each class session, students receive a 20- to 30-minute lecture on a new topic, covering at least one CCSS cluster in a single lesson.
MLC Math lectures are dynamic and engaging by design. Students are called on to read definitions, to walk their classmates through solving difficult questions, and to brainstorm possible solutions to new problems. Because of the small class size, capped at no more than 8 students, teachers are able to spend more time with each individual and no student is lost in the crowd.
After the initial lecture, students receive a short in-class quiz to test their understanding of the new material, called Classwork. The Classwork is graded instantly, and teachers use the results to determine what parts of the day’s lesson need to be reviewed.
After reviewing the Classwork and relearning any relevant strategies, students will have another opportunity to practice their new skills on their homework through the Practice and the Exercise. The Practice covers the most recent topic, while the Exercise contains questions from previous lessons.
Students have a final opportunity to show how well they have learned new skills on the weekly Assessments: quizzes that test how well they have retained the lesson they had the week before.
This emphasis on repetition and review gives students many opportunities to hone their skills through practice, and many opportunities to review strategies with their teacher.
The sessions in an MLC Math course are divided into four units, each of which covers at least one domain of knowledge. At the end of each unit, students receive a Cumulative Test to gauge how well they have learned the material in a unit. Students who do well on the Cumulative Test are more likely to retain the material long-term, and to be able to use it as a foundation for future learning.
Cumulative Test 4 reviews all the material presented in the course, and acts as a final bellwether for student progress.
Our MLC Math teachers instruct their classes in a variety of methods and strategies, so that students are able to solve many different types of problems in the most efficient ways possible. With a variety of strategies to choose from, students are well-equipped to solve difficult problems, even if they have not seen that specific problem before.
#3. Why MLC Math Works
We keep students engaged in their own learning through a consistent emphasis on immediate application.
Because the structure of our classes always consist of a Classwork assignment following the new lecture, students get a chance to immediately practice putting new strategies to use. And since students know what to expect, we often find that they are able to ask appropriate and thoughtful questions in anticipation of the Classwork.
Teachers are also able to see each individual student’s results. So when we review the questions, we address their needs specifically.
Also, each MLC Math teachers use the same lecture materials for each class but can choose which problems to go over, allowing for flexibility in moderating the difficulty of the class based on the needs of the students.
Furthermore, classes are set up to ensure lots of opportunity for voluntary participation, individual attention, group work, and frequent reinforcement of vocabulary and concept understanding.
Overall, MLC Math works because it is designed to align its progression of topics and difficulty levels with CCSS standards. A student who masters the objectives of one class should have the tools necessary to succeed in the next level, and so on.
What’s more, our class structure aids in reinforcing these tools, since each class and homework assignment allows practice with a new topic and review of an old topic. Plus, the immediate feedback and repeated application of concepts during class time, allows students to master those new concepts and retain previously learned skills.
Each teacher also holds weekly Office Hours sessions to meet with students individually outside of class. This is helpful for students who may be struggling in class, as we tend to move at a fast pace. It’s also an option for students who are doing well but still want to be more proactive in their own learning to get their questions answered. We’re able to use these sessions as a way to address individual needs.
Get Your Child Started in MLC today!
Want your 4th-8th grader to have fun and excel in the school classroom. Join MEK Learning Circles today! Reach out to us and we’ll get you started with a student evaluation and our expert recommendations for which Learning Circle is perfect for your child.
We can’t wait to hear from you!