A Parent’s Perspective

Mrs. McCullagh just wrote in:

cropped-2015-10-02-10.31.04.jpgI am grateful to be a member of an extraordinarily strong math department within this wonderful Williston faculty. During the whirlwind of Family Weekend I had one particularly uplifting and gratifying conversation with a parent that gave me reason to appreciate my colleagues even more. This parent shared the story of her daughter’s experience in math as a six year student at Williston. I would like to thank her and share her story here.

Our daughter entered the middle school in 7th grade with very little math ability and even less math confidence. Numbers just did not come easy to her at all. As her parents, we were very concerned about her lack of math abilities, knowing that math is extremely important not just in math class, but in many other future classes, and in day-to-day life. The very thought of math was a source of much anxiety for all of us.

Mrs. King

Our daughter’s first introduction to Williston’s math department was through Mimi King. Mrs. King basically held her hand through 7th and 8th grade math. She broke all concepts down so completely, that there was little room for misunderstanding. Math started to become logical! Our daughter began to get A’s, and though her success was incredible given where she had started in 7th grade, she again had anxiety when she entered the Upper School. Would she be able to manage in a high school math class, particularly when grades were becoming so important?

Mrs. Conroy

In 9th and 10th grade, she was assigned to Monique Conroy’s Geometry and then Algebra II classes. Mrs. Conroy continued precisely with the same philosophy that Mrs. King had already instilled, making the transition to the Upper School math program seamless. By the end of 10th grade, she not only began to feel confident about math, but she could even help her classmates. Through projects and word problems, math actually became practical and applicable in everyday life.

Mrs. Whipple

This continued into Janine Whipple’s 11th grade Pre-Calculus class, and now into Martha McCullagh’s Calculus class. In each class, our daughter worked hard, and her effort was supported and nurtured by her teachers. It is absolutely amazing to us that throughout our daughter’s 6 years of math at Williston, her learning experience has been incredibly consistent because these four amazing teachers have very similar teaching philosophies. This consistency is why she is so successful, and allowed her to raise her own expectations for herself. Though the math concepts continue to get more difficult, her foundation is now so strong that she is not scared anymore, but feels ready for the challenge. She now calls herself a “math student”!

Mrs. McCullagh

Finally and most importantly, our daughter has experienced that hard work and perseverance can truly create success. She was not born a natural math student, but she has become one. To us, she is an example of true academic success at Williston. She has learned how perseverance pays off, and this lesson translates into all areas of her life. As her tennis coach often reiterates to his students, natural talent is not the indicator of success, but hard work is. Her math success is a testament to this! We sincerely thank Williston’s math department, and particularly these 4 exceptional teachers!

Mr. Matthias Talks Robots

This just in from Mr. Matthias!

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The challenge Table

The Mathematics Department’s Engineering & Robotics I course introduces students to the fundamentals of the engineering process, robots and robotics sensors, and the computer programming skills required to make robots interact with the world.

This trimester’s students have learned how to make their robots move in a straight line for a specific distance and how to make their robots execute swing and point turns for a specific number of degrees. With these foundational skills under their belts, it is time for the students to show-off their knowledge and have their skills assessed!

In Engineering and Robotics I, major assessments rarely use traditional testing methods. Tests are called “Challenges” and present a three-dimensional environment in which the students’ robots must successfully negotiate a “test course” on the classroom’s Challenge Table. Challenges are scored based on how accurately the students’ robots accomplish their task on the Challenge Table and by the quality of the students’ computer programs.

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The Mindstorms Robot

Students are now working on the “Labyrinth Challenge” as their first major assessment. The Challenge’s goal is to have the robot move from the red start line (on the lower right) into the black and red goal box (upper center). Along the way, the robot must travel to each of the three red crosses. To achieve this goal requires the students’ robots to combine a series of highly accurate, straight-ahead movements with precise 90-degree point turns executed on each of the red crosses.

The following video shows the students practicing on the Challenge Table as they develop the computer programs.