At Nanjing International School, learning looks different than what you would find at traditional schools in China and abroad. One of the areas where this is most evident is Maths in Primary School, where we take a leading-edge, inquiry-based approach. Why is this? A growing body of research on how children successfully learn mathematics shows that every student must become an active learner that investigates and explores, often as part of a team.
At NIS, Maths is taught in relevant, realistic contexts, as opposed to imparting fixed knowledge directly to students. Our Inquiry-based learning is a model of education where teachers use questions, problems, and scenarios to help their students learn through critical thinking and investigation. This structured inquiry is the preferred methodology as it supports broad and inclusive teaching that provides a context where a wide range of strategies and styles can be accommodated for each individual learner.
“If you look at more contemporary approaches to Mathematics, this is the way of the future,” explained Mr. Gareth Jacobson, Deputy Primary Principal at NIS. “It’s very different to the experience that many parents themselves have in learning Maths, but our standardised assessments justify our approach. NIS students are where they should be in terms of their mathematics development – the difference is that they don’t just learn the facts and skills – we go beyond this and provide a more authentic experience for them to learn Maths and understand the concepts behind it.”
Our innovative International Baccalaureate (IB) Primary Years Programme (PYP) views maths as global language that we use to make sense of the world we live in. Mathematics is a vehicle that drives our inquiry-based approach. NIS teachers encourage students to talk about a problem and draw on intuition to understand it, instead of simply presenting facts and rote memorisation.
“It’s the idea of going deeper,” Mr. Jacobson said. “It's going beyond surface understanding and digging deeper into what you know. It’s using what you know until you come across challenges and problems where this doesn’t work anymore, and you need to acquire new knowledge and skills. That's where great learning happens.”
In Maths, the natural curiosity of students and mathematical understanding is built upon by our teachers, which drives them to problem-solve, collaborate, think critically, and make mathematical connections among situations both in and beyond the classroom. Our learners develop mathematical understanding by constructing their own meaning with ever-increasing levels of abstraction, starting with exploring their own personal knowledge and experience.
“We give our youngest students the opportunity to challenge their own representations of an understanding of what they think matters, and how it works by providing them with opportunities to use to through practices like self-talk, problem-solving, sharing, understanding, looking at conjecture, and looking at errors,” explained Mr. Jacobson. “Then they're truly expanding their mathematical understanding.”