Bronx Charter School for Better Learning II
Share this school
Unusual hands-on system for teaching math
Far more applicants than seats
Founded in 2015, Bronx Charter School for Better Learning II is based on the school of the same name, located about a mile away. It is based on the teaching of Caleb Gattegno, an Egyptian-born mathematician who developed methods of teaching literacy and math using color-coded charts and wooden rods some 70 years ago. His multi-sensory approach has been used widely in Europe and Africa.
In some respects, the school is traditional, with an emphasis on discipline, spelling and grammar. But teachers are also intent on sparking children's imagination and allowing them to grapple and try and be curious. “You never tell them anything they can figure out themselves,” said long-time math coach Paula Hajar, who has an EdD from Harvard.
Most of the work in class is done in small groups. Children use Cuisenaire rods (brightly colored wooden rods) to learn addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. The rods come in 10 different lengths, each representing a different number and color. Children put the rods together in a way that allows them to visualize arithmetic facts or fractions.
Reading is taught with a program called "Words in Color." In this method, each letter-sound is assigned a different color, and all the sounds in the English language are listed in color-coded charts on the wall. For example, the "f" sound in English may be represented by the letters "f" or "ph" or "gh." Each of these letters or letter combinations is color-coded lavender, to help children sound out words like "rough" or "telephone."
The school occupies a building with two middle schools. Classes have about 25 children each and typically two or more adults working with children in each room.
Music, chess, art and gym are among the special classes offered. After school programs may include robotics, dance, cooking or soccer, depending on the year. Children through grade 3 study Korean and are exposed to aspects of Korean culture like Lunar New Year and martial arts.
ADMISSIONS: A lottery is held in April. Priority is given to District 11 residents. There are far more applicants than seats. (Lydie Raschka, interview, April, 2020)