Chandler’s Math Curriculum Prepares Students for Success

Math Teacher Mr. Pete Carlson Teaching

Chandler’s mathematics curriculum provides a sequential program that challenges each student to develop their fullest potential as analysts, problem solvers and critical thinkers. Students learn to see mathematics as an elegant and logical whole rather than a series of random operations and disconnected ideas. The K-8 curriculum progresses from concrete arithmetic thinking in the Lower School to abstract geometric thinking in the Middle School.

As Harper Umfress ’09 describes it, “I came out of Chandler with an intuition for algebra, which is so important in math. Algebra can be very non-intuitive, but my teachers guided me through in a way that made it second nature.” Harper attended Flintridge Prep, where he felt “more than prepared. In fact, the initial coursework was easier than Chandler math.” Now Harper is a senior at the University of Washington, majoring in aeronautical engineering with a minor in math.

As Harper’s story indicates, Chandler’s math program is future-focused. Students learn today’s math by learning the “why” as well as the “how.” Chandler graduates build on this foundation as they move into secondary and university-level math. Later, many alumni enter and rise to the highest levels of prominence in math-oriented careers in science, engineering, technology, finance and medicine.

K-5 Math

In 2013, Chandler’s Lower School adopted Math in Focus, Houghton Mifflin’s version of Singapore math. The program gives students a foundation, as they learn math facts, build number sense and develop mental math abilities.

Following the Singapore approach to math – beginning with concrete math learning – teachers often introduce topics by using objects such as cubes, dice, or beads to give students a model they can see and touch. After working in the concrete phase, students work on “pictorial” learning, solving problems using images of concrete objects, before moving on to more abstract applications, using numbers and algorithms.

In this way, students learn the “why” of math before progressing to the “how” of math. As a result, students build a deeper understanding of math concepts, which leads to greater proficiency in problem solving.

Additionally, teachers introduce students to a variety of experiences that develop their flexibility with numbers. Students are always encouraged to ask themselves, “How do I know?” and “Does this make sense?”

Chandler’s Lower School teachers help students engage eagerly with math. They become confident in their math facts, and flexible in applying that knowledge. They are able to discuss math with their peers, and do not shy away from unfamiliar problems. Lower School students are well prepared for continued growth in Middle School math.

Middle School Math

Chandler’s Middle School teaches a carefully-designed curriculum that is proven to engage students with the joy of math, and to prepare them for rigorous high-school math coursework. In the content and delivery of the math program, teachers challenge students to learn ways of thinking that eventually can carry them far beyond high-school math.

Corah Forrester ’13 shares her experience: “As a junior as Westridge, I’m enrolled in honors pre-calculus and AP statistics. I’ve been earning A’s in math and it’s one of my favorite subjects. Math at Chandler really provided me with all the necessary skills to excel in my high school math classes. I especially felt very prepared for Honors Algebra II.”

Chandler’s math teachers in grades 6-8 follow a sequential program that covers major foundational topics, including graphing linear equations; solving and graphing the systems of equalities; solving and graphing systems of inequalities; exponential functions; trigonometric ratios; factoring quadratic equations; graphing quadratic functions; solving quadratic equations; applying rules of exponents; and investigating midpoint and distance. As in the Lower School, Chandler’s Middle School students are asked to learn more deeply than simple pattern memorization and repetition.

Assignments require students to find solutions and then explain their rationale for an answer, and to consider multiple approaches to a single problem. In this way, students build logic and reasoning skills that serve them well as math gets more complex.

Additionally, math teachers in Middle School challenge and engage students with project-based learning that strengthens their fundamental skills and whets their appetite for learning more advanced concepts. Through first-hand experiences, students also get to explore technology, design and engineering skills such as software coding, financial modeling and architectural rendering. When students see purpose behind the process, their excitement for math grows.

For example, reflecting on a design project that required using slope-intercept form (y=mx+b) with graphing software and the use of limits and inequalities, an eighth-grade student writes,

“My final impression of this project was definitely that it was extremely beneficial. I’m not talking about, “yeah, it’s nice to know this,” but as in, “Oh my gosh, this helped me so much and I really understand slope and limits better now. I think that not only was it really beneficial, but it was also challenging. In a way, the process of writing limits in the beginning took so long and I really felt like I would never finish. But, as soon as I passed equation number thirty, BOOM. It finally clicked. I really understood all the brackets and the inequalities.

This project turned out really well. In addition to pushing us to practice more with slope, the physical process turned out very nicely. Mentally, I felt like I really strengthened old concepts and gave new concepts such a great introduction. I’m very glad I could do this project because it was very hands-on as well as a mental task. Through limits, slope and coloring, I can clearly say this is a memorable project and one that is very, very helpful when dealing with linear equations.”

Because Chandler’s faculty teaches many concepts that are typically covered in an Algebra II or geometry course, Middle School students are prepared for successful entry into demanding high-school math programs.

Chandler’s math department keeps current with how Chandler graduates fare in local high-schools. Colleagues at these high schools consistently tell us that Chandler students are well-prepared, well-placed, and thriving in the most challenging math programs.

Chandler faculty stay informed about the range of math programs at local high schools to ensure that our students are prepared to adapt and succeed when they enter their chosen secondary school.

For Katherine Sobota ’08, math at Chandler gave her an advantage when she entered Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy. “I was really well prepared. I placed into the highest math class and continued performing well, eventually taking the most advanced class the school offered during my senior year,” she recalls. “Mr. Carlson and Mrs. Owen at Chandler were so committed to making sure we fully understood what they were teaching. Since math concepts build upon themselves, it was helpful to have such a strong foundation.”

Today, Katherine attends Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, where she is completing a bachelor of science degree in both aeronautical and mechanical engineering, and a minor in economics. She recently finished a seven-month co-op with American Airlines in Dallas, working on the Boeing 777 fleet engineering team.

Chandler’s math program asks much of students. They master essential concepts and also learn to think flexibly and apply their learning to difficult real-world problems. Students are primed for success in higher levels of mathematics, and for careers that increasingly call upon adults to use mathematical problem-solving skills.

Chandler School, 1005 Armada Drive, Pasadena, (626) 795-9314 or visit










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