Divergent thinking should be encouraged, supported, and intentional in all classrooms, but especially those in primary and middle schools, and through mathematics education. As part of Barry University’s Master of Science (M.S.) in Curriculum & Instruction – Early and Middle Childhood Education online program, teachers will gain the expertise needed to design curricula using diverse differentiation techniques, data, and growth-driven instruction. By looking at mathematics skill sets from a different perspective, curriculum writers recognize the benefits of analyzing how a student solves a math problem, not necessarily if they get the correct answer.

One of the many courses offered through this program, Problem Solving in Early and Middle Childhood Mathematics, “provides methods and instructional strategies for teaching early and middle childhood mathematics” by challenging elements of traditional pedagogy. Instead, it utilizes an interdisciplinary approach to learning objectives that helps math students both synthesize the skills required to both solve and analyze math problems.

High school and higher education students are less likely to use divergent thinking in their day-to-day activities than are students in primary or middle school. This difference is a consequence of highly structured testing, more responsibilities and less leisure time for older students. However, teachers who write curricula with this in mind in early childhood and middle school education are invaluable to encouraging divergent thinking well into university-level classes.

In fact, those in Barry University’s program will assess the way in which young students attempt a math problem and learn how to use math as a vehicle for teaching children about problem-solving, not just finding the right answer. This foundation helps to guarantee a multifaceted and inventive approach to all academic challenges.

Current research in curriculum and instruction supports this ground-breaking course, and those in the program will stand out as pioneers amongst specialists. Writing for the National Association for the Education of Young Children (AEYC), Allison Master notes that “when children focus on problem-solving rather than on getting the right answer, they learn more.” NAEYC argues that learning by discovering the wrong answer is just as valuable and, in fact, is even a prerequisite to understanding why problem-solving skills supersede the solution itself. If the instructional focus is on “problem-solving and using mistakes as an opportunity to promote growth mindset,” students are more willing to keep trying and less likely to quit upon their first mistake.

Math is the vehicle through which these skills are best practiced. A healthy problem-solving mindset is especially helpful for gifted and talented students who are more easily defeated after one mistake. A specialist in advanced academics or on a Transfer Admission Guarantee (TAG) campus will act as the expert on inserting such problem-solving skills into the curriculum. Barry University’s M.S. in curriculum and instruction program will prepare primary and middle school educators to fulfill these expectations professionally and creatively.

Mathnasium calls middle school the perfect time to “build persistence, increase motivation, and prepare [children] for future success in mathematics.” It is difficult to break bad habits in the classroom once they appear in high school or beyond. For older students, any erroneous approach to learning has been practiced with limited constructive feedback. Therefore, Barry University’s program particularly focuses on the power of curriculum and instruction for mathematical problem-solving skills in primary and middle school education. If educators can build a healthy math mindset in the classroom, it can have exponential effects on students’ ability to learn and increase academic confidence as they pursue a degree. Mathnasium maintains that developing “a strong understanding of math concepts in middle school can lead students to greater success down the line, while a lack of understanding will hinder motivation and growth.”

The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics provides evidence that “young children in every setting should experience mathematics through effective, research-based curricula and teaching practices.” Barry University’s M.S. in Curriculum & Instruction – Early and Middle Childhood Education online program is for educators who want to be at the forefront of a new and more experiential way to produce mastery and growth in the classroom.

Learn more about Barry University’s online Master of Science in Curriculum & Instruction – Early and Middle Childhood Education program or Master of Science in Curriculum & Instruction – Mathematics Education online program.