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A STEM Component to Education at Main Line Classical Academy (MLCA)

Main Line Classical Academy, in Bryn Mawr, instills a joyful, lifelong love of STEM in its K -12 students. 

students learning around a table at MLCA

At Main Line Classical Academy (MLCA), the school motto is “Because students are never too young to learn great things.” Teachers and administrators follow this motto across all strands of the curriculum, including STEM. “From kindergarten onward, courses are taught by specialists in the subject,” explains Dr. Sasha Fradkin, Dean of Mathematics, Science & Technology at MLCA. “I think it makes a huge difference for students when they are being taught by someone who is passionate about the subject they are teaching.” 


Passion for teaching is definitely something Fradkin, along with all of her colleagues at MLCA, possesses. Prior to her current role at MLCA, Dr. Fradkin worked as a research mathematician. Dr. Fradkin has a PhD in math from Princeton University. When mathematicians, like Dr. Fradkin, describe mathematics they use positive words like exciting, beautiful, deep, and joyful. “Yes, mathematics can be joyful!” says Dr. Fradkin. “We strive to make all subjects—including math and science—joyful for our students.” 


students conducting a science experiment at mlca

Mathematical “Secrets”

What is MLCA’s secret for instilling an attitude of joy and excitement towards a subject like math, which is often labeled as boring and burdensome?  It consists of presenting the material in a way that sparks curiosity and enthusiasm. The math curriculum at MLCA is built on both the breadth and depth of the subject. “We focus on making sure there’s a thorough understanding of where everything comes from and why certain things, strategies and tricks are true,” explains Fradkin.


Teachers also place a big emphasis on problem solving. From the earliest grades, students are regularly presented with problems that they don’t immediately know how to solve. Problems that they have to work on. “Grit and perseverance are important parts of the program—that’s the depth,” says Fradkin. “And the breadth is showing students that math is much more than just arithmetic. It covers areas such as logic, spatial reasoning, algebraic functions and more.” This knowledge can then be applied to other STEM subjects as well.


In both the lower and upper school, MLCA students have the opportunity to compete in various math and science competitions. For example, the Math Olympiad is a competition in which students can participate  starting in fourth grade. In the upper school, students have the option of taking a competition prep elective, whose goal is to help students practice  for different mathematical competitions.  One such competition is the international Purple Comet! Math Meet, where students work in teams on problems created by mathematicians. MLCA students have won the first place Purple Comet prize in the Pennsylvania middle school division for the past two years. 



Practical Experience at MLCA

Hands-on experimentation and exploration are emphasized across all science classes at MLCA. Students are introduced to a range of branches of science including meteorology, astronomy, geology, geophysics, to name just a few. “Again, it’s about giving students the breadth of a subject—to introduce them to new things to wonder and think about,” says Fradkin. “As educators, we find that different students are fascinated by different things. If you show them this breadth of different topics, each child will find something he or she is fascinated by.” We want students to try and find reasons for why things are true by noticing patterns and using logic,” says Fradkin. “As students get older they can use proof or deduction to understand these natural phenomena.” 


Students are encouraged to create science projects and compete in local science fairs. “Two years ago, we had a student place first in his category at the Delaware Valley Science Fair,” says Fradkin. “Competing in science fairs is something our students really learn from and enjoy.” 


students learning with colored blocks at mlca

Commands in a New Language

In fourth grade, MLCA students are introduced to programming languages and robotics. “Our younger students get excited by the physical object of the robot doing exactly what you tell it to do,” says Fradkin. In the upper school, students focus on solving problems in programming. They also  have opportunities to compete in programming competitions. “They get to use all their math knowledge and algorithmic thinking to solve complicated problems.”  From the youngest grades, MLCA students are provided with a solid foundation in STEM subjects that allows them to build upon that foundation up until graduation. Lifelong skills that will certainly last well beyond their years at MLCA. 


Continual Growth for MLCA

Since its founding in 2015, MLCA has grown from 4 to 85 students.  Originally conceived as a K-8, a year ago the school opened a pilot high schoolAs the school continues to grow in enrollment each year, MLCA has ensured that students have access to every opportunity to maximize their learning potential. In keeping with this commitment, MLCA has partnered with neighboring Villanova University enabling its upper school students to take higher level courses like Calculus at the university. “Our school is still growing, so we may not have enough students to fill a class for certain higher level math courses,” says Fradkin. “Our partnership with Villanova allows our students to progress on a highly advanced level in math. It’s an incredible opportunity.” 


Read more about Main Line Classical Academy in their various stories on Main Line Parent.

Main Line Classical Academy is a school "where children are never too young to learn great things."