It’s Monday morning math class and 12-year-old Daniel Barr has transformed into an alien who must describe a new base number system to earthlings.
That’s right, an alien.
Barr and his Grade 6 classmates were tasked with creating their own base number system. To help the boys process and demonstrate their learning, math teacher Scott Manning had each student explain his particular system to “visiting humans” while pretending to be an extraterrestrial.
Creative teaching techniques such as this help make math one of Barr’s favourite classes. This also illustrates the unique approaches to teaching provided through the International Baccalaureate Middle Years Programme (MYP) that Upper Canada College is adopting.
UCC Grade 6 math students have always learned about concepts such as ratios, percentages and fractions. But under the new MYP curriculum, they’re encouraged to view them as different examples of “proportion.” As they set out to solve math problems, boys are given the opportunity to choose one of these examples of proportion to use in their problem-solving. Flexibility is one of the MYP’s traits.
Phasing in the IB Middle Years Programme
UCC is taking steps to introduce this well-rounded liberal arts program for students in Grades 6 through 10, starting with Barr’s cohort in 2019. UCC students are already reaping the benefits of two International Baccalaureate (IB) programs. The IB Diploma Programme was adopted in 1995 for students in their last two years of high school, and the IB Primary Years Programme was introduced in 2003 for Senior Kindergarten through Grade 5 students. The MYP is the ideal bridge for offering a continuous education experience between these programs.
UCC will become the first boys’ school in North America to deliver all three IB programs when it’s authorized to offer the full MYP program in 2019.
“The MYP is an outstanding program for boys in early adolescence,” says UCC academic dean Julia Kinnear. “It encourages students to make practical connections between their studies and the real world.”
The MYP doesn’t just teach facts, it teaches the essential skills for learning how to learn. It develops skills for communication, collaboration, organization, self-management, reflection, research, media literacy, and creative and critical thinking.
“It fosters intercultural understanding and global engagement — essential qualities for young people today,” adds Kinnear. “It also teaches tools for lifelong learning and helps students discover how to use what they learn to make a difference in the world.”
New offerings and approaches
In the MYP, boys will study eight subject groups: math; design; arts (visual art, media, music, drama); sciences; physical and health education; a second language; language and literature; and individuals and societies.
The new design course teaches boys to apply practical and creative thinking skills to solve design problems. Grade 6 boys like Barr will research, design and build mechanical wooden models. Their devices may not work the first time out and they’ll need numerous modifications.
The boys will learn to solve problems as they inquire, develop ideas, create a solution, and evaluate the solution. As they become familiar with the design process, they’ll begin to appreciate that success often takes time. They’ll also learn to take great photographs, use software to design and print in 3D, operate power tools, and write computer code to help robots complete tasks — exciting opportunities for any 11-year-old.
“It’s a curriculum that tries to get the best out of students,” observes Barr, who in his first year of MYP studies is already demonstrating the critical thinking, reflection and communication skills that are among the program’s goals.
Please visit www.ucc.on.ca/myp for more information.