Math and the 21st Century Learner

By Beth Morris, Math Resource Teacher

Our world has been transformed dramatically over the last few years, and so has the way in which we teach math. No one really knows what the lives of the next generation will look like. So how can we best prepare our children for a future that is largely unknown? We need to teach them how to think. Thinking is universal and will transcend any amount of innovation to come. If children know how to think and reason logically, then they will be able to adapt in a world that is rapidly changing.

Math Blog

Recent mathematics reforms call for a much different approach to teaching math in order to meet the needs of the 21st century learner. Students are exploring the math that they are learning, testing their beliefs, grappling with tough questions, and reflecting on their thought processes. They are collaborating and communicating with each other and exchanging ideas. Teachers are guiding their students to refine their thinking and to make connections between concepts and ideas. The goal is for children to build a deeper understanding of the math that they are learning that is useful for them now, but also in the future.

Conceptual understanding is now a major focus in math. Students are not just learning procedures. In fact, research shows that when procedures are introduced too early, children lose their curiosity about numbers and their enthusiasm for learning math. Instead, students are digging deeper and investigating why and how procedures work before those procedures are formally taught. They are being exposed to various strategies for solving a problem and discussing which of those strategies is most efficient and effective. They are modeling problems and using other tools to see those strategies in action. When math is taught like this, children are given the opportunity to make sense of the math that surrounds them. They are thinking like mathematicians.

Mathematicians use estimation, look for patterns, and utilize mental math strategies when solving problems. This is exactly how we teach our students here at Langley to think. For example, we encourage our students to look for number relationships. Children often learn their doubles addition facts first, and they should recognize 7+7 and 6+8 as related facts. Using manipulatives, our students learn that by taking one away from the first addend and giving it to the other that the sum remains the same.

Our students are also thinking about “friendly numbers.” Multiples of 10 and 100 are easier to work with. When subtracting 98 from 276, our students might start by subtracting 100 and then adjust their thinking accordingly. We urge our students to think about numbers in a variety of ways. For instance, 564 can be 560+4, which is helpful when adding 126. Or 564 can be 400+120+44, which is helpful when dividing by 4. This sort of flexibility with numbers leads to learning procedures with authentic understanding, makes computation much simpler, and lays the foundation for future success in algebra and beyond.

For more information about math instruction at Langley, current parents may view the presentation from the September 30 Math Curriculum Coffee by clicking here and logging in to our CampusNet site. As always, parents are also welcome to approach their child’s teacher or division head with any questions or concerns.

The Importance of Summer Reading

By Amy Jones, Director of Resource

As I recently said to a rising sixth-grader, summer reading isn’t something that teachers devised to torture students – it’s advice from practitioners, coaches if you will, who know what it takes to keep the mind in shape. Most teachers would argue that reading also nurtures the imagination and even the soul.

The brain is a muscle that needs exercise. No one would expect an athlete or musician to train without practice. Musicians play their instruments or train their voices daily; athletes practice at least a few times a week along with playing games.  Without frequent use, skills wither and die. The same holds true with reading. One doesn’t become a stronger reader without reading.

Langley’s summer reading program is designed for students to practice the skill of reading over the summer. Instead of drills, however, students get to “play” each and every day. They are the first string; they’re starring. Each rising first- through eighth-grader should be reading almost daily. Primary School students have a Summer Enrichment Calendar that provides daily activities, many of which are literary in nature. At this age, parents or other adults should read to their children daily.

For older students, particularly those who are moving from the learning-to-read stage to the reading-to-learn-and-enjoy phase, choice of text is the name of the game as it serves to provide more pleasure and motivation for the reader. Students should be reading texts that interest them and are comfortable, not too difficult; reading at a child’s comfort and skill level builds fluency and confidence and is essential for growth. Reading text that is too hard defeats the reader and does not strengthen skills. If you see your child not making progress with a book, give him or her permission to abandon the book; it may be too hard, or just not engaging. Ultimately, reading should provide new knowledge, pleasure, or both!

Thanks for supporting our efforts to encourage your child to exercise his or her reading brain! Ask to see your child’s Reading Time Log and list of completed books. We’ll be looking for these in September, with your signature!

For more information about Langley’s summer reading program, current parents may click here to log in to CampusNet.

How Our Family Handles Online Safety

By Karen Frana, Current Langley Parent

I was one of many parents who attended the PALS presentation on technology in April. It Karen Franawas an informative discussion of our children’s use of technology laid against the backdrop of child development. Thus, it helped me understand what online content my son was being exposed to and what content was appropriate for my child as he ages. Once I was armed with a sense of “age appropriateness” of content, I set out to learn about the various ways in which parents can help manage our children’s use of technology. As a result of what I learned, our household has implemented a multi-tiered approach to technology safety. I wanted to share what our family is doing as a way of starting the conversation at Langley and spreading knowledge.

Home PCs, Macs, iPads, or Tablets

The first level of security or “filtering” that our family implemented was on the device itself. We set up individual user IDs for our child on all devices that enter or remain in the house. Each user ID has its own password and user controls which can be set with the highest degree of filtering for young children and with more flexible filtering for older children. Parents can use user ID controls or settings to keep our children from accessing undesirable applications or websites, while still having access ourselves.

This was a bit cumbersome at first. We were all used to using our PCs seamlessly. However, I can see how the extra effort will help protect our son as his eagerness to explore grows.


YouTube has its own privacy settings or filters which we set. I just logged in to our YouTube account and used the settings at the bottom of the first page to filter out some of the inappropriate content. This filter is not very sophisticated, so it doesn’t filter out everything we would want. It should be used in addition to what’s called an “advanced YouTube filter” which can be found in third-party software.

YouTube expands and changes daily. So while I know we are using filters, I am careful not to trust any video that I haven’t seen and heard myself. This gets harder, of course, as our children get older and more tech savvy. 

Third-Party Software

Free and fee third-party software applications add additional protection to our son’s exposure to content. We use K9 Web Protection software from a company based here in Vienna, VA, which actually monitors a device’s usage at what’s called the subdirectory level. This means that it will know the actual YouTube video that our child watches on that device. It also limits usage at the same level. I am told that this software can be implemented in such a way that it will e-mail the parent with historical data showing all of the websites and YouTube videos our children have visited.

Separately, if your children like to use an application called “Steam,” which is a company that sells many online games, there is software called Steam Nanny at that helps monitor and filter usage of the Steam-based games.


The games that our children play using Internet access and multiple players are referred to as MMOs, or Massive Multiplayer Online Games. Games like Minecraft and Roblox are MMOs. These MMOs are either something we have to buy (or pay a monthly subscription fee) or they are free.  The games that we have to pay for are potentially safer for our children for two reasons:

  1. There is a company behind them that is trying to make a profit, so appropriate business standards should apply.
  2. That company does not allow access to the game source code so the game’s original content cannot be changed.

Minecraft requires buying a subscription and setting up an account; Roblox does not. Roblox is free or “open,” meaning that the game’s source code (software) is available to anyone who wants it which means anyone who wants to can change the content. This doesn’t mean that all content in Roblox is bad. In fact, Roblox is like building with Legos, but online, so our kids are naturally drawn to it. Some of the Lego-like worlds that have been created in Roblox are fun and appropriate for our kids. But it requires supervision because if our children don’t understand the risks, they can end up playing in a stranger’s world with strangers interacting with them.

The safer option for playing Roblox is in a “hosted” environment where our child or a child we know has created the world. As parents, we can do a couple of things proactively. First, vet each game for its content. Then, determine whether or not the game’s content is customizable. Many of these games have “filters” or privacy conditions imbedded in the user account. I had to work hard to find it, but I actually set up a user ID of my own for Roblox and found a way to set the privacy settings to keep strangers out of my access. I’m just not sure how well it works.

With summer starting this week, I am fighting the fear of screen time becoming a threat and instead trying to think positively about the skills our child can be building while doing something he enjoys.

 Click here for more resources from Langley’s April PALS meeting about online safety.

Some Things Never Change

By Peggy Evans ’85

The Langley SchoolI have been asked more than once, “What is the same about Langley now from when you were a student here nearly 30 years ago?” Athletic Director Jim Gleason (totally not fair!), the Field Day and Fall Fair traditions, and the Primary School and administration buildings are all the same. Most importantly, the sense of community has stood the test of time.

One example that stands out was my first Langley tradition where the whole school went ice skating. Just before my kindergarten year, I had lost my mom to cancer. My dad could not make it to skating day for some reason, but I insisted on going anyway. Even though my parents weren’t there, I did not go around the rink once without one. Parents, whether they had a child in my grade or not, took turns holding my hand and ensuring I was included and not forgotten. Event after event, parties and playdates, I was looked after and cared for by the teachers and parents at Langley.

Fast forward 30 years…my son, Mark, entered Langley in 2011 as a kindergartner and my daughter was born the same week. She was a DISASTER! She screamed all the time with colic, allergies, and general overall nastiness. For Mark’s first year of Langley, I was pretty much absent – no field trips, parties, or playdates. Mark didn’t skip a beat. The community knew that Mark was new to the school and needed to be included and not overlooked. When I finally resurfaced, Mark was settled in a new school with good friends. This was the same sense of community my dad and I experienced 30 odd years ago.

Langley has new buildings, teachers, and strategic plans since I was a student, but thankfully some things haven’t changed. The wonderful community here is just one reason Langley is imprinted on my heart. The whole community and “every child” have been a constant since my enrollment – something I am so proud I can share with my son, and hopefully soon, my daughter.

The Power of Service

By Brent Locke, Interim Dean of Students

“Every individual matters. Every individual has a role to play. Every individual makes a
difference. And we have a choice: What sort of difference do we want to make?”-Jane Goodall

Langley students impress me every day with their compassion for helping others both at school and within their community. By making acts of Middle Schoolers took part in the Capital Area Food Bank Face Hunger program.kindness both big and small a part of their daily routine, they make this community very special. Every day, I witness the simple, unprompted, thank yous our students give faculty after a class, a practice, an assembly, you name it. Langley students make treating others with kindness and respect a way of doing business.

While Langley students of all ages participate in a variety of service projects throughout the year, we launched Langley’s first-ever “Month of Service” this February to help raise awareness of the many ways students can help others on a daily basis. As the month progresses, I am hoping to harness the collective energy and goodwill our students exhibit by developing their understanding of service and the power of collective impact. Current educational research directly points to the immense benefits to students of participating in service learning. “Students benefit academically, socially, and emotionally; develop skills; and may come to appreciate the value of civic responsibility,” writes service learning expert Cathryn Kaye.

Developing a sense of empathy in adolescents, as they grapple with who they are and their place in the world, gives them powerful advantages in critical-thinking skills and awareness. Dealing with real-life issues, such as hunger and how to solve the overwhelmingly difficult hunger problem that exists within our own greater community, forces our students to see the perspective of others and expand their own problem-solving capacity. Further, students gain a deeper sense of gratitude and fulfillment of self when doing service projects.

As Langley constantly evaluates and improves our program and curriculum offerings for students, we have seen the overwhelming positive effects of collective impact that occur when our community works toward a common good together. For instance, nearly 30 people donated blood to support the American Red Cross blood drive we held on campus last week, donation boxes for the Capital Area Food Bank are already bursting at the seams, and best of all, students are learning the significance of our core values together as a community.

Langley students have embraced service and what it means to them in an inspiring way at school. At the end of the day, though, there is no greater thing you can do with your child than to continue these conversations about service with them at home. There are an abundance of opportunities to get involved within the community to further emphasize the impact and necessity of service in our everyday lives. If you are interested in volunteering as a family, I recommend you visit which lists a number of organizations that could use your help.

Enhancing Learning Through Technology

By Emily O’Grady, Instructional Technologist

Walk into any classroom at Langley, and you’ll see students of all ages using technology to technology2014enhance learning. From laptops and iPads to Smartboards and videoconferencing, students and faculty have access to wonderful tools and resources. But it’s not about the technology – it’s about the learning.

Our goal is for students to see technology as another tool in their learning tool bag. When integrated seamlessly into all aspects of the curriculum, technology can provide opportunities for students that otherwise would be impossible. Using videos, pictures, and audio recordings, for example, students can express themselves in unique ways and communicate with people around the world…the possibilities are endless.

So what are some of the new technologies our teachers are incorporating into the classroom? Langley kindergartners recently started using “Draw and Tell,” a powerful, kid-friendly iPad app for storytelling that allows them to create a picture and record themselves telling a story. As kindergarteners love telling stories, but may have difficulty writing out long sentences, they have really enjoyed this app. The excitement on their faces when they create their very own story is priceless.

Do you remember studying explorers as a kid? I bet you didn’t learn about an explorer by making a voice recording talking about various facts and interesting details of the explorer’s life, like Langley’s third-graders did. These audio recordings were turned into QR codes which were placed on life-sized cutouts of each explorer, making it easy for others to scan and listen to these informative student recordings. It was amazing to see how engaged and eager to write scripts the students were. By using technology, they were able to present their learning to the community in a more personal (and fun!) way.

Students use technology not only as part of their daily life and lessons, but also as a way to connect to the world outside Langley. Through the use of a blog, our second-graders connected with their Massachusetts pen pals. Students “met” for the first time with a “Mystery Skype” session, where the two classes participated in a videoconference and had to guess where the other was located, using only yes or no questions. This Skype session allowed the students to get to know each other a little bit, and sparked their interest to continue the conversation on their blogs. Having an authentic audience has motivated the students to write with more detail and to utilize their writing skills, as well as practice how to be responsible digital citizens and communicate online.

Technology in the Primary and Lower Schools is woven through the curriculum, which is exactly what you will see in the Middle School. It would be hard to find a Middle School student walking around campus without his or her iPad in hand. The 1:1 iPad program for grades 6-8 has changed the way students and teachers communicate. Many classes use Web tools like Google Drive and Edu 2.0 to take quizzes, have discussions online, and submit assignments. These tools allow every student to have a voice and receive immediate feedback. Our Middle Schoolers are also frequently seen in hallways and scattered around classrooms, making videos, taking pictures, and recording audio. They are fully engaged and having…dare I say, fun? Plus, they are clearly learning critical life skills like problem solving and collaborating with their peers.

Technology is a central part of the learning experience here at Langley. By incorporating a wide variety of tools into each subject area, we are not only teaching our students valuable skills, but also making the learning process fun, dynamic, and interactive. I can’t wait to see how technology will continue to shape the way we interact with our students and impact our ability to teach lessons in new and exciting ways.

Off to a Great Start!

By Dr. Elinor Scully, Head of SchoolElinor-Scully-spring-2010

One of the many perks of being the new head of The Langley School is the unbelievably warm welcome I have received from all of the consitutencies of this great community. I have had such fun experiencing the rituals of a new school year alongside all those who are new to the community. There are many highlights of the first month of school, but here are a few particularly memorable ones that I will draw upon in the months ahead.

I was at the airport in early September to bid farewell to our eighth-graders as they began the journey to Costa Rica and Earth University. As their blog posts attested, the experience was life changing for many who ventured out of the United States for the first time. Their exposure to principles of environmental sustainability and stewardship, biodiversity, and cross-cultural communication clearly will influence them well beyond their time in Costa Rica. Many of the students continue to develop their own personal leadership plans as part of their return to Langley. Poised and articulate, these eighth-graders demonstrate on a daily basis why this trip is a fitting capstone to the Langley experience.

While the eighth-graders were in Costa Rica, I had the opportunity to substitute for a sixth-grade science class. These budding scientists built towers out of spaghetti, string, tape, and marshmallows. Despite having an inexperienced science substitute like me, the students managed to build towers that were several feet high without incurring any injuries! Their innovative approach to the project was most impressive, though I am not sure I will be called upon to substitute again soon.

The Primary School students have invited me into their circle time, to read to them, and to attend a music class. One of the great joys of being at Langley is seeing for the first time how much learning takes place in these foundational early years. I have been moved by the joy and optimism our youngest students bring to school every single day.

And finally, thanks to our dedicated fourth-grade Langley school store cashiers, I am in possession of some awesome Langley swag. I have a new sweatshirt, hat, t-shirt, coffee mug, and Langley Spoonfuls cookbook! Like everyone I have encountered in these first weeks of school, they have ensured that I feel part of the school community. Thanks to everyone who has extended this kindness to me and to all of the new members of our community. I couldn’t wish for a better start to the school year!