St. Helena Elementary students tackle calculus at Beaufort High

rheaton@beaufortgazette.comDecember 20, 2012 

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Beaufort High student Molly Clark, 16, works with St. Helena Elementary student Omarion McKinnon, 10, on a math problem Thursday morning inside Beaufort High School.

SARAH WELLIVER — Sarah Welliver

Forget fractions, division and multiplication tables -- these fourth- and fifth-graders want to learn derivatives.

The high-flying St. Helena Elementary School students -- 17 students who have already surpassed grade-level standards on the Measures of Academic Progress exam -- got a dose of Advanced Placement coursework Thursday when Beaufort High School students taught them some basic calculus.

The high school students said they were impressed with how fast the elementary-schoolers picked up the lessons. Senior Emani Alston and junior Molly Clark said fourth-grader Ariana Watson and fifth-grader A'Mya Singleton needed only one or two examples before the girls were solving problems like professionals.

"I knew math was adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing (when I was their age)," Alston said. "I had never heard of a derivative."

The high-schoolers simplified the math a little -- for example, often using shapes instead of "x" or "y" because the elementary-schoolers were used to variables. Otherwise, it was the same lessons the high-schoolers had learned at the beginning of the year.

Watson said it was hard at first, but "once you learn it, it's easy."

The students also played a math game, shared their college and career aspirations, and toured the school after class.

St. Helena Elementary principal Kay Keeler said this is the second year students have come to learn calculus in the classroom of her daughter, Beaufort High teacher Lillian Aldred.

Aldred said her students enjoyed working with their younger colleagues last year, so she agreed to do it again. For many of the high school students, working with young children was a new experience and one they were eager to have, she said.

Keeler said the field trip helps to foster the students' love of math. She hopes to expand the program this year -- bringing the students back a second time this school year, and eventually expanding the idea to other subjects.

It seemed to work last year, she said. The students came back to school and were eager to teach their classmates what they had learned.

That seems to be the case this year. Watson said she wanted to share the lesson with her classmates. And Singleton said she couldn't wait to tell her mom.

"I'll show it to my mom, and she'll say 'Where did you learn that? I haven't even learned that!'" Singleton said.

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