Abrams first to adopt Israeli math program
Teacher Joan Lamkey teaches a math class at Abrams Hebrew Academy
February 14, 2011
Mathematical puzzles, brain teasers, and topics that enhance the regular curriculum are part of an Israeli mathematical enrichment program being adopted by the Abrams Hebrew Academy in Yardley, Pa.
The program, known as Math-By-Mail, was developed at the Davidson Institute of Science Education of the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot more than 30 years ago. The program’s goal is to encourage creative thinking among students who show interest and talent in mathematics. Abrams will be the first school in the United States to use the program.
“Our goal is to bring more mathematics to school in more challenging ways,” said Dr. Irene Eisen, mathematical consultant to the school. Eisen is running the Math-By-Mail program with fellow consultant Jim Rubillo, former executive director of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics. “My hope is that students will gain more knowledge of math and learn to apply problem-solving skills and mathematical thinking at higher levels.”
More than 2,000 students in Israel and another 1,000 internationally participate in Math-by-Mail. Participating countries include Romania, Mexico, Canada, Australia, and Brazil. The program is available in Hebrew, Arabic, English, and Spanish.
Throughout the year, the program sends out a series of booklets on different topics.
At Abrams, students will work independently on the booklets at home as well as in school, with guidance from Eisen and Rubillo through the more challenging problems. Weizmann mathematicians and program directors Yossi Elran and Michal Elran will interact with the students via the Internet.
Any student in grades three-nine who wants to participate can, according to Eisen. Math-by-Mail was introduced to students on Feb. 9, following teacher training and an orientation for parents.
The program will launch more fully in September, adding an on-line forum through which students can interact with international peers.
“Problem solving should not be done alone but in groups,” said Eisen. This program gives them an introduction to doing just that with engaging, rich math problems.”
Can you digit?
One example of the kinds of exercises students will find in the Math-by-Mail program booklets is the “linguistic-mathematical black hole.” Here’s how it works, based on a description at the Abrams Academy website:
Count the number of letters in the word “twelve” (6).
Count the number of letters in the word “six” (3).
Count the number of letters in the word “three” (5).
Continue writing the word name for the number of letters in each number name until you reach the same number word (four = 4). That number represents a linguistic-mathematical black hole.
According to the curriculum, “black holes” lay the foundation for the study of recursive sequences and explicit formulas, both topics in Algebra I and II.