Math & Sciences
"Euclid alone has looked at Beauty bare."
--Edna St. Vincent Millay
Each grade level is divided into two sections for math, though at times the sections may work together on particular units or projects. Students are grouped into sections considering their previous math backgrounds, learning styles, and individual needs. We often tailor the challenge level and teaching methods to the specific group and individuals through differentiated instruction, self-paced assignments, and individualized projects, so the content and depth covered can differ considerably from year to year or even from student to student. Narrative reports will reflect the actual content and projects successfully undertaken by each student. The following course descriptions give the overall developmental goals and content focus for each year. Students pursuing topics in significantly greater depth and progressing at a faster pace will earn an "extended path" designation on their transcripts.Our goal in teaching students mathematics is threefold:
- The development of abstract thinking is the overarching achievement of the teenage years. To experience your own reasoning as a powerful and trustworthy process is central to adolescent development. We bring mathematical thinking alive with dynamic, imaginative work that requires fluid thinking and creative solutions integrated with step-by-step problem solving.
- Practical, “real-world” knowledge of the physical and social worlds is deepened through mathematical modeling and thinking. The connection between abstract math and real world utility is mysterious: Why should the seemingly chaotic real world be amenable to mathematical description in field after field? This profound connection is of practical interest for students no matter what field of study or career they pursue.
- The wonder of math: Some students arrive at WHS believing that they are not capable at math or that math is a dull and dry subject. An essential goal of the math program at Waldorf High School is to reveal the beauty and joy of mathematics.
A spiral of science
Science at Waldorf High School is an intensive exploration of the main branches and areas of chemistry, physics, and biology through all four years, in addition to the study of earth science in ninth and tenth grades. We return to each of these fields every year as our students' intellects mature, and they can approach the subject matter with increasing sophistication and depth. The opportunity to explore each field repeatedly also provides students the time to reflect on these topics and to integrate their understanding with newly acquired knowledge in other sciences and subjects.
We study all the sciences with a phenomenological approach. In general terms, this approach is as follows: Class begins with the consideration of a phenomenon. Students observe it intently, and then describe their observations verbally or in writing. The class and their teacher share their observations, consider the details they have gathered, and perhaps repeat the experiment. Students' observations lead to questions about why these results have occurred. They discuss possible causes and reach a probable conclusion that is compared with accepted scientific theory. Throughout, their thinking is engaged in the process of accurate description and disciplined inquiry in order to make sense of phenomena. They derive scientific principles from careful observation. At all levels, even as the subject matter grows ever more complex and imperceptible to human senses, observation and discovery precede theoretical explanations.
Our science laboratories are both in school, where we have a well-equipped lab for a wide range of experiments and discovery, and beyond. Frequent field trips to natural settings to study biology, botany, hydrology, marine science, and wild life ecology are an integral part of all our science courses. In addition to hands-on experimentation and fieldwork, students study the history and development of the physical and biological sciences through research assignments and independent experiments.
At last, understand
By the end of their four years of science at Waldorf High School, our graduates are able to reason analytically and quantitatively. They understand the relationship of science to human activity. They have become keen observers of complex events, and have ample capacity for creative imagination in support of their ability to make sense of new phenomenological situations. Through their study of science at Waldorf High School, they have learned to ask, and answer, the profound questions: "How do we know what we know?" and "What is the foundation for knowing?"