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School finds innovative ways to improve literacy and numeracy among students

Published:Wednesday | March 25, 2015 | 12:00 AM
The numeracy garden that was opened at the Goshen All-Age School.

With students performing below the national levels in numeracy and literacy, the Goshen All-Age School has taken a creative approach towards getting their students to the goal of 85 per cent numeracy and 100 per cent literacy that has been set by the Ministry of Education for 2015. Principal Dr Yvonne Perriel-Mapp said the school was one of 10 schools in Region 5 of the Ministry of Education that was selected for operation turnaround, based on the need to improve the numeracy and literacy levels at the school.

"In Region 5, they have selected 10 schools on operation turnaround; they want those schools to raise the bar higher than what they have been doing, because too many students have been lagging behind in those two subject areas," she explained. The school, which is in the process of phasing out the all-age component, has 390 students in grades one to six and grade nine.

Recently, the school opened a numeracy garden which the principal said is aimed at getting the students more actively involved in learning math. "Practising math is important, so if they plant something in the garden or see something being planted there every day, then they will get to be more familiar with maths. If they work the problem out, they will be getting a reward at the end of the day. It is getting students aware of how math is important in their everyday life. "The numeracy garden, at present, has formulas of how to work the problem. We also have a math tree to go along with the garden. So the questions are asked on the math tree, then the formulas and the tables are in the garden: the students will get a chance to see the formula and apply them to the problem right away. Also, if they come up with a problem that they would like someone to solve, they place it in the garden and challenge other students with the problem," Dr Perriel-Mapp told Rural Xpress.

She went on to say that many students were unable to do math because they have a fear of the subject, and this was one way to build their confidence. "Math is a doing subject, so [using the garden] they will better understand how math applies to everyday life and take away the phobia, because some individuals do have a phobia for math." The principal said they opened their literacy garden last term and, already, have been seeing improvements in the students' literacy levels. She said their expectations were the same for the new numeracy garden.

While the problems in the math garden are planted by the teachers, the students were the ones who planted in the literacy garden. " [In] the literacy garden, the child reads a book and plants a word in the garden. If the child comes across an unfamiliar word while reading or doing comprehension, she writes out the word, looks for the definition, and plants it in the garden. So they are not only helping themselves, but they are helping the other students. They are reading more. "[Literacy] moved [up] about 15 percentage points. I have the results from the mock exam that was given before the [literacy] garden. For example, if a child got 45 per cent for comprehension, that child is now getting 60 per cent," she explained.

She said students were also rewarded for reading a certain number of books for the month and for the number of words they plant in the garden.