What is a Noetic Challenge? According to Merriam-Webster’s website, the combined definition of these two words would translate to “a difficult task relating to intellect.” This may be true, but to a group of 13 fifth-grade math students, the term Noetic Challenge means logic puzzles, math games, and a collaborative effort to determine how many pencils make up a “gross!”
Meeting weekly with our math enrichment specialist, Mrs. Feldman, these top math students finished their successful elementary school years by competing in a national math competition. The Noetic Math program is designed to challenge students’ mathematical thinking by strengthening problem-solving skills. All Lower School math classes incorporate a variety of challenging word problems to Posnack’s already advanced math curriculum in order to prepare students for an accelerated rate of learning in mathematics. Since their introduction to Singapore Math last year, students in grades K-5 are focusing on the importance of relating math to real-world situations and identifying problem-solving strategies to tackle higher-order thinking word problems. Whether it’s preparing a shopping list to stay within a given budget, or calculating the square footage of classrooms in our new Fischer High School building, students are learning to recognize that math touches everything in their lives. Posnack students have become quite adept at using bar models and algebraic thinking to solve authentic problems with a variety of strategies and as a result, have learned that success in mathematics IS something to brag about.
When presented with the idea of a math contest, Mrs. Feldman’s fifth-grade groups were excited at the idea of showcasing what they’ve learned. Over 24,000 students from more than 600 schools in 47 states participated in this contest, and Posnack students received commendations in the categories of participation, national honorable mention, and team winner. The celebration began with the awarding of certificates by Mrs. Feldman, followed by ice cream and the presentation of mini calculators to the fifth-grade math team. Certificates, ice cream, prizes? When I asked one student what the best part of the afternoon was, he replied, “We get to do even harder math now!” This student’s enthusiasm reminded me of the accomplished mathematician Paul Halmos who was quoted as saying, “The only way to learn mathematics is to do mathematics.” I can honestly say that it’s been a thrill and an honor to watch these talented students “DO” mathematics.
Click here for more information on the Noetic Math Challenge and to see a complete list of national winners.