Over the past four years, the CAC middle school mathematics department has worked to fully implement an innovative mathematics curriculum. Challenge by Choice (CbC) was designed and first implemented by David Suarez, a mathematics teacher at Jakarta International School (JIS).
Abedin “Dino” Bajagilovic taught at JIS for several years and helped to implement Suarez’s curriculum. When Bajagilovic came to teach mathematics at CAC in 2012, he brought CbC with him.
In a CbC classroom, a teacher provides a short lecture on the material and then students break into groups to work on practice problems. Students can choose from three different levels of problems grounded in real-life situations; the levels are ranked like ski slopes. Green problems are standard-level math, blue problems are slightly more challenging, and black problems are highly complex. At the end of a unit, students choose the level at which they want to be tested.
“I actually fell in love with the idea… You have three levels in the same grade level and then you offer three different choices to kids,” Bajagilovic explained. “Challenge by Choice gives students “the opportunity to have ownership in their learning. They really decide how fast they want to go, on which page they want to work, and how far they want to extend their knowledge.”
Adopting the CbC curriculum at CAC involved an adjustment process for teachers, students, and parents, but it has ultimately led to positive results. The school’s MAP test scores have improved, and in Spring 2016 CAC performed at a higher level than other regional groups of international schools.
In class, students are more engaged in the learning process. “They’re working in small groups. They are teaching each other. They are helping each other to understand,” Bajagilovic explained. “For 80 minutes all they do is talk about math, and sometimes they become very loud because they get into debates.”
Currently CAC is only one of five schools implementing this innovative curriculum. As Bajagilovic and his colleagues from JIS and CAC have travelled to teach at other schools, they have brought the CbC method with them. Former CAC teachers Stacey Breckel and Michael Christensen brought CbC to their new schools in South Korea and South Africa, respectively. Through such connections and CAC’s membership to several associations of international schools in three regions of the world, our teachers participate in a community of learners that spans the globe.
Over the summer, Bajagilovic connected with a friend and former JIS colleague Paul Buckley working as a head of the American International School in Zagreb (AISZ). AISZ is also in the process of implementing CbC, and in September, Bajagilovic travelled to Zagreb as a consultant, to share CAC’s materials and strategies for implementing CbC. Last week, teachers from AISZ came to Cairo to see how our math teachers implement CbC in the classroom.
CAC’s partnership with AISZ will continue to thrive in the coming months. Bajagilovic will communicate with AISZ as its teachers adopt the Challenge by Choice curriculum in their classrooms. He has also begun working with his colleague at AISZ to develop a two-level CbC curriculum for ninth grade mathematics.