IST : The International School of Toulouse
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Mathematics
 

Around 350 years ago, Toulouse town councillor and amateur mathematician Pierre de Fermat posed what was to become the world's most celebrated math problem: Fermat's Last Theorem. In the year 2000, the International School of Toulouse Mathematics Department is ideally placed to take mathematics education into the future.

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Our laptop programme gives IST students unrivalled access to various tools for learning in mathematics, and the opportunity for the use of these tools to be fully integrated not only in the mathematics curriculum but across other disciplines as well. In our first year, the "Maths Sans Frontières" week involved collaborative projects with the Humanities, Design Technology and Art departments. The use of technology as a tool for learning, not as a replacement for understanding is a key philosophical distinction for us. Whether using Cabri Géomètre to discover results in geometry, or programming a probability simulation with Excel, our aim is to empower students to achieve authentic learning in mathematics: learning that they own, understand, and will remember.

This much would have been unfamiliar to Fermat - what of more 'traditional' mathematics?
Core mathematical themes in which are prioritised at IST include Number and Algebra and Problem Solving. Recognising the progress made by the Numeracy strategy in England and in Wales, we emphasise mental and pen and paper methods of arithmetic and regularly revise, test and maintain our students' skills in algebra. However other skills are also required to succeed in mathematics, not least in IGCSE and IB exams: building a 'problem solving culture' in our school, in which we support our students in using their mathematics to problem solve and investigate is therefore a key objective. Towards this end, each student undertakes, with teacher guidance, an individual project each year.

Fermat would doubtless also notice that even before the "white heat" of technological progress, Mathematics curricula and teaching methods were being modernised in any case across the world. Mainstream curriculum initiatives across the UK, the US and also within the International Baccalaureate organisation are re-shaping the modern mathematics classroom as a place for discovery, investigation and problem solving and away from the limitations of rote learning. The learning environment at IST is enriched by these initiatives and by the diverse experiences of our students.
Our ambitions and optimism are high. Perhaps the next Fermat will also hail from Toulouse ?