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Top Six Reasons the SSSAS Math Program So Successfully Prepares Students for College

Posted by Jon Kunz on Jan 15, 2019 1:38:32 PM
Jon Kunz

Each year, SSSAS sends graduates to college armed with the tools necessary to succeed in college and in life. The secret? A faculty dedicated to ensuring that each individual student develops an appreciation for the process of learning and mastering the 21st century skills necessary to lead in a complex and changing world.

The math program at SSSAS, in many ways, personifies this dedication. Through a wide range of courses with multiple levels and electives, the math department strives to foster deep understanding in all students. Our math teachers create learning experiences that challenge and inspire students, build confidence and skills, and emphasize the relevance of mathematics in the real world. So where does this success take root?

Here are the top six reasons our math program so successfully prepares students for success in college-level STEM courses and beyond:

1. The Foundation: Nothing breeds success more than a strong foundation and the math department dedicates itself to ensuring the foundational strength of every student. Recognizing the variability of math backgrounds, the department works tirelessly in an effort to understand the strengths and weaknesses of every single student. This includes placement testing, standardized test scores, and curriculum review. Often, the department will identify specific areas that a student should work to strengthen prior to the start of the school year, thereby ensuring that they have the same strong foundation as other students to build on during the year. The impact of this detailed undertaking is felt by the majority of students progressing through the Upper School as they find themselves appropriately challenged. Here is how one of our former students described the derivation of his foundation during his time at SSSAS.

Admissions Video

 2. Breadth of Courses: Our math curriculum offers something for everyone. No matter how you perceive your math ability, we have courses and teachers willing to work with you every step of the way. Our goal is to help our students grow in both understanding and in confidence. Are you looking for a challenge? It is not hard to find. This year, more students than ever (44) have chosen to take at least two math classes. Many are doubling up in Calculus and Statistics, or Calculus and Economics, or even all three AP math courses. Juniors and seniors also have the option to explore electives such as “Mathematical Logic, Reasoning, and Statistics” as well as the “Mathematics of Finance”.

3. AP Scores: You want proof? You can’t handle the proof! The math department is proud of the consistent success of our students on AP exams (as they should be). The following charts compare our recent scores with the national means.

BC Calculus

2018

2017

2016

2015

2014

SSSAS Mean

4.40

4.71

5.00

4.71

4.78

National Mean

3.74

3.78

3.80

3.72

3.81


BC Calculus – AB Subscores

2018

2017

2016

2015

2014

SSSAS Mean

4.90

4.86

5.00

5.00

5.00

National Mean

3.97

4.00

3.98

4.04

4.02


MicroEconomics

2018

2017

2016

2015

2014

SSSAS Mean

4.88

4.82

5.00

4.93

4.86

National Mean

3.21

3.26

3.11

3.15

3.07


MacroEconomics

2018

2017

2016

2015

2014

SSSAS Mean

4.88

5.00

4.75

4.86

4.93

National Mean

2.96

2.89

2.89

2.79

2.89


4. Hands-On Activities:
Are you the type of student that thrives with hands-on activities? At SSSAS, our students work collaboratively and engage in hands-on activities that help them master mathematical skills and concepts. These activities encourage the active discovery of mathematical concepts and provide contexts for students to understand the applications of the skills they practice in their textbooks. Algebra 2/Trig Honors students use M&M's to explore exponential equationsFor example, Algebra 2/Trig Honors students use M&M's to explore exponential equations. Although, the data are often compromised!
Students also test bungee cords they had to construct (using mathematical predictions) for beanie babies. In AP Statistics, students experiment with goldfish crackers. And in AP Economics, students review for the AP exam outside with sidewalk chalk.

5. Math Contests: Because of their foundational confidence, our math students love to compete and challenge themselves. Every year, a select group of students compete in the annual American Mathematics Competition. You can find out more about the competition here.

Speaking of challenges, are you a Master Grapher? In many schools, student use of the TI-84 graphing calculator is second only to one’s iPhone. While the graphing calculator is certainly useful and in many cases necessary, SSSAS students also learn to draw graphs....by hand. In fact, one of the most prestigious honors a student can achieve at SSSAS is that of a “Master Grapher”. In order to achieve this status, students sketch 20 complicated graphs in 45 minutes or less with an accuracy rate of 90% or more without the aid of a calculator. The Master Graphers’ names are engraved on the plaque in the Math wing. Be forewarned, this challenge is not for the faint of heart!

We also have Junior Varsity (grades 9 and 10) and Varsity (grades 11 and 12) math team who compete six times a year in math meets. We have traditionally done exceedingly well in the "Fibonacci Division" in Northern Virginia. Go Saints!Desmos Rosie the Riveter

6. Student Work: This article would not be complete without showcasing our students amazing creativity! Here, you will see how Advanced PreCalculus students use Desmos to create a picture using all the different types of graphs they study during the year, including conic sections, polar and parametric equations, and exponential, logarithmic, rational, polynomial, power, and trigonometric functions. The students write hundreds of equations to create these pictures! Here are some examples.

Aladdin
Wacky Races
Rosie the Riveter

Fractals

Honors Geometry students choose their own math topic, research it, create a website, and teach the class an interactive lesson. Here's a website that three freshmen created on Fractals last year. #Mindblown.

So there you have it. We know a solid mathematics foundation helps students succeed in college majors and in their careers, from Math and Engineering to Science and Medicine to Business and Finance. But we also know certain skills transcend the traditional STEM fields. Problem-solving, collaboration, communication, and critical thinking are important 21st century skills no matter what major or career you choose to pursue. Embrace the rigor and the challenge. We are here to help you succeed!

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