A math program has gone online, creating a virtual classroom to keep its students learning during the pandemic.
Spirit of Math, a mathematics education company with offices across North America and Pakistan, has developed an online curriculum as well as a virtual classroom environment using Microsoft Teams.
The service offers a 10-month program with a 90-minute class once a week. The program is geared towards high-performing students, and aims to give them an edge when applying to any university or college in the world.
Kim Langen, CEO and co-founder, said it’s important they maintain the classroom environment as much as possible.
"We’ve tried to mimic the in-person experience as much as possible. I think many people, when they talk about education, (they say) ‘oh it’s about getting this content to the student,’" Langen said. "What’s just as important was having consistency for the (students,) giving them a sense of normalcy. We’re finding that (students) will say ‘hey, we’re lonely,’ and they enjoy getting to meet and talk with one another. It’s critically important for their mental health."
Langen added that the classroom environment has a number of benefits, including helping their students retain information, and keeping their staff employed.
Langen said their staff have worked hard to keep as much consistency as possible in their instruction. Students log on to Microsoft Teams, joining a video call with a teacher, who then greets the students and teaches as normal. Teachers use everything from physical whiteboards, drawings and education apps to give their lessons, with children being able to ask questions or break off into groups during class time.
The staff keep their lesson times the same, aiming to provide a sense of stability to their students.
Schools across Manitoba have adapted to the pandemic in a number of ways. For example, schools in the St. James-Assiniboia School Division uses learning apps like Showbie for assignments and tests, while sending take-home packages for parents who might not have access to a laptop or smart device.
So far, students and families in Winnipeg have adapted quite well at Spirit of Math.
Nathan Krahn, campus director for their 1420 Portage Ave. location, said families are starting to get creative about sharing assignments.
"They’re in (a) classroom, still asking questions, responding to other students with the chat function, it’s been working out surprisingly well so far," Krahn said. "For example, our Grade 3 and 4 (students) are doing a poster project, some parents got extra cameras and they were helping their child present their work, almost like they were hosting a weather report."
Krahn said the transition has not been without issues. Some families were able to adapt easily, others required more attention or some creative solutions to get online for the courses. He added that teachers needed to learn how to use the software in a short amount of time, and how to help their students continue learning during the shutdown.
Langen has some tips for students and parents during this time.
"Number 1: Keep a schedule. Number 2: Set goals, track your progress so you can feel like you are (moving) forward. Number 3: Keep in touch with others, try to get a team or one other person you can work with," Langen said. "For parents, maybe you could get a team of parents together and split the work. Have one parent focus on one area, another focus on something different. It’d be a different type of home-schooling, but it’s not all on just one parent."
Langen added that it’s important students and parents stay connected with their peers. Everyone needs to support each other during the pandemic.
For more information, or to inquire about classes, visit spiritofmath.com
Community journalist — The Metro
Justin Luschinski is the community journalist for The Metro. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org