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Charlotte Amalie
Tuesday, April 23, 2024
HomeNewsLocal news@School: Summer Sessions Stretch Mathematical Skills

@School: Summer Sessions Stretch Mathematical Skills

From left, Annette Bopp of Texas; Michelle Humphries, Antilles; Vigbah Bonsai, St. Croix; Tom Tutor, consultant; Analine Acosta, St. Croix, at the Calculus Institute. (Photo provided by Nils Hahnfeld)The livin’ may be easy in the summertime, but the learning doesn’t stop – not for students and teachers working with Antilles School math teacher Nils Hahnfeld.

For the 10th year, the school is hosting a Math Summer Camp for elementary school students; Hahnfeld and teacher Andy Gever are coordinating that. Additionally, this year Hahnfeld introduced a weeklong Calculus Institute for high school teachers.

Hahnfeld received authorization from College Board to direct a summer institute in St. Thomas. The institutes are only for teachers of advanced placement courses; the College Board sets curriculum and manages the assessment process for AP courses.

“It’s a nationwide program,” Hahnfeld explained. “I myself have attended previous institutes in the states.” The training they provide “makes a big difference” in the classroom.

His role was director of the program. A College Board approved consultant, Tom Tutor, was the instructor. The fee for participants was $600 each.

Three teachers from the Virgin Islands and one from Texas participated in the institute, which was held in mid-June. Hahnfeld believes he could have attracted more stateside teachers if the program had been held a little later. Those who work in districts where the school year runs late into June simply aren’t able to take training earlier.

“Next year we’ll do it in July or August when all schools are off,” he said.

Math camp students at Antilles School. (Photo provided by Nils Hahnfeld)And next year he plans to expand the offerings to include institutes in English and in U.S. history as well as calculus.

Hahnfeld seemed to have no trouble switching gears from AP teachers to elementary students.

The math camp for first to fifth grade students began last week and continues through this week at the Antilles campus. Students come from public schools on St. Thomas as well as from Antilles; there are even four from the British Virgin Islands this year, Hahnfeld said.

“We capped (enrollment) off at 20,” he said.

“We do an initial assessment of every student, a 10-page assessment. We know exactly where they stand,” he said. Students run the gamut from those who need extra help to those who seek enrichment with advanced studies.

Besides his training and his years of classroom experience, Hahnfeld can draw on more personal resources in reaching his students. He has two daughters, one who just completed second grade and one who finished seventh grade this spring.

“I also know typical mistakes” young students make in math, he said, and tricks to help them avoid pitfalls.

When adding sums of multiple digits, for instance, some children fail to observe the placement of each individual digit and so don’t realize the value changes with placement. In the three-digit number “285” the “2” represents 200 units, but in the figure “427” the “2” represents “20” and in the figure “902” it represents just “2.” Seems obvious, but it can get confusing, especially when adding two different three-digit numbers together.

“It’s not a math problem, it’s a visual problem,” Hahnfeld said. But it can hold a child back if it isn’t recognized and corrected.

Another stumbling block for many young students is learning how to “borrow” from an adjacent digit when subtracting one multi-digit number from another.

“We show them techniques how to check their answer,” Hahnfeld said.

There’s also help for more advanced students, and challenges at all levels. But it’s not all work at the Math Camp.

“Because kids need to run around, we do physical activities,” Hahnfeld said. There’s also time set aside for things like chess tournaments and playing math games on the internet. And lunch, of course.
 

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