BY ZACHARY THOMPSON
10th grade, NCSS
When I started my first year at NCSS in the sixth grade, one of the things that I really looked forward to was independent learning, especially independent mathematical learning. Ever since I had started my elementary schooling, math was taught at the pace of the book. While this method and pace was great for other students, it never quite worked for me as I never really felt as if I was learning something completely new that I didn’t know some part of before.
As I always have had an interest and a passion for mathematics, I liked to keep myself a pace ahead of what we were doing through independent studying. The problem wasn’t that the book taught it too slow; it was that fact that I had no option to learn higher mathematics, other than what my grade level taught. Thus the independent setting of NCSS enticed me so much. Little did I know all of the other amazing learning that was going to take place as a result of this setting.
My middle school math experience was based around a computer program called Larson Learning. Here, I was able to work at my own pace, set independent goals for myself, and was fully responsible for the things that I learned and for my progression. The experience that I had with Larson Learning taught me some very valuable life lessons, such as being independent. It wasn’t about the quantity of learning but the quality of learning.
In seventh grade, I continued to work on Larson Algebra having almost completed it by the end of the year; interestingly however, my path in learning math was about to change. One month before the start of my eighth grade year, the advisor with the strongest background moved out of Rhinelander. As part of the reorganizing four of our advisors prepared to teach middle school math using direct instruction. It was sort of a small class and tutoring group all in one. Up until this point I had known that quality was important over quantity, but these kinds of lessons really helped to show the meaning behind this saying as they taught the best of both methods.
Finally, in the past two years I have taken geometry, and currently algebra II in direct instructional settings at Rhinelander High School. The variety of instruction that I had was very good. It’s important to spend more times on things you struggle with while also being able to move past things you already know. However, in a complete independent setting, you may think that you know something, when you really don’t. At the same time constant repetition doesn’t teach you anything new past a certain point. This is why I believe my eighth grade year, was the best setting of these two. It allowed me independence along with guidance when I needed it.