A.J. Elliott Elementary SD#85 Vancouver Island North

By September 2, 20202019-2020 Case Study

School Name: A.J. Elliott Elementary

School District: SD#85 Vancouver Island North

Inquiry Team Members: Melody Watson: mwatson@sd85.bc.ca, Serena Lansdowne: slansdowne@sd85.bc.ca, Lynn Walker: lynn.walker@sd85.bc.ca, Anca Fraser: afraser@sd85.bc.ca, Kathy Hamilton: khamilton@sd85.bc.ca

Inquiry Team Contact Email: mwatson@sd85.bc.ca

Type of Inquiry: NOIIE

Grade Levels: Intermediate (4-7), Secondary (8-12)

Curricular Area(s): Mathematics / Numeracy

Focus Addressed: Indigenous understandings (for example, Traditional Knowledge, oral history, reconciliation), Community-based learning, Core competencies (for example, critical thinking, communication, problem solving), Differentiated instruction, Experiential learning, First Peoples Principles of Learning, Flexible learning, Formative assessment, Growth mindset, Indigenous pedagogy, Land, Nature or Place-based learning, Transitions

In one sentence, what was your focus for the year? On continuing to teach math cyclically, focusing on depth of knowledge and understanding, while incorporating more place-based learning and culture into math, transitioning from grade 7 to high school, and supporting families.

Scanning: As this project has been a continuation of work that has been taking place and growing over several years, we began by looking at our successes and challenges alongside our data and observations.

• Students like math
• Students have good number sense
• Students do well on math assessments
• We work as a team to support all students and really know our learners
• Families are keen and interested to learn math strategies and support their children

• Exposure to different experiences/cultures
• Awareness of the world views/perspectives
• Transitioning to the high school (changes in the way math is taught, as well as going from a very small school to a much larger one and the challenges that come along with that)
• Infusing First Peoples’ culture in math, in particular, has been challenging
• Supporting families with strategies that they aren’t familiar with so that they can support their children at home

Achievement Evidence and Data
• We use: the DMA, our own Supplementary Math assessment (basic facts, How Many Ways, and Problem Posing), an Attitude/Confidence survey we developed, and the FSA as data. We also use the four questions specifically for math learning.
• We also use: DreamBox (K-3) and Mathletics (grades 4-7) online math programs that give teachers assessment data, minute-by-minute formative assessment, three-way conferences, and documentation on learning through portfolio assessment

The four key questions guide our work as professionals and also guide our students’ learning. Throughout the year we all ask ourselves these questions and adjust as we go. Although we have a plan/proposal that we start out with, we know that it is a living document meant to guide us, and that flexibility is key (especially this year with COVID-19). The seven OECD principles of learning and First Peoples Principles of Learning, guide all of our work.

Focus: We chose to continue our math inquiry because we felt that there was still more valuable work and learning to be done. Our learning had deepened each year, branching out to meet the needs we identify through our scanning. Below are the four areas we wanted to focus on this year within our inquiry:

Incorporating more place-based learning and culture into math
• Incorporating First Peoples’ worldview and perspectives to make connections to mathematical concepts
• Engaging in problem solving experiences that are connected to place, story, cultural practices, and perspectives relative to Local First Peoples communities, the local community, and other cultures
*We also got the opportunity to work with Cynthia Nicol, as an Indigenous math inquiry

Transitioning from grade 7 to high school (cont’d)
• We wanted to continue to find ways to work with the teachers at the high school, to make the transition between grade 7 and 8 smoother and help our students to be confident and successful math students at the high school.

Supporting families (cont’d)
• Based on the success of the family math session we held last year, we wanted to have more sessions for parents and their children to share/teach parents the strategies their children are using at school. These are hands-on sessions for parents and their children with families taking away strategies and games they can use at home.

Mindset (cont’d)
• Continuing to develop mathematical growth mindsets — Students, staff and families need to see themselves as mathematicians. They need to believe that they can be successful and that they are “math people”.

– We had struggled to fill our FNEA position for several years
– We find it more challenging to incorporate First Peoples’ culture into math than the other subject areas
– The new curriculum, and our District and personal philosophies, recognize the importance of integrating First Peoples’ culture into all aspects of the curriculum
– We have a fairly high percentage of self-declaring Aboriginal students, but we lack local resources and elders to draw on for support
– Some students from our small school find the transition to high school in Port McNeill challenging
– Specific teaching around mindsets continue to be needed for students, staff, and families to see themselves as mathematicians and believe they can be successful (this will transfer into all areas, not just math)
– Many parents have expressed a desire to learn more about the way their children are learning math, so that they can better support them.

New Professional Learning: We connected with elders in Alert Bay, our colleagues throughout our District, our District Principal of Aboriginal Programs, U’Mista Cultural Centre, Dr. Cynthia Nicol, and the district coordinator for mathematics K-12 in SD37. We gathered ideas and resources to support the incorporation of First Peoples’ culture into math, as well as other place-based opportunities for teaching math and the exploration of other cultures as well. We created shared documents for initial brainstorming and then gathered our ideas, lessons, and artifacts of learning in Google Slides as our work progressed.

Taking Action: For our work around incorporating more place-based learning and culture into math, we decided to focus our learning around themes to provide us with some structure. Our first term theme was berries. We planned together as a school, brainstorming ideas, sharing resources, and creating learning opportunities. The students learned about different berries, traditional harvesting and uses of berries, seasonal rounds, and some Kwak’wala that supported this work. They studied berries, harvested berries, preserved berries, cooked with berries, and used berries for crafts. The students estimated, counted, measured, compared, and ordered.

In the second term, we began our second theme — cedar. This theme would continue for the remainder of the year due to its breadth. Again, we began our work brainstorming together as a staff, but this time Dr. Cynthia Nicol joined us (through Zoom). We brainstormed topics within this theme to guide our work and came up with:

– Introduction: The land and the trees themselves
– Patterns and Shapes (including pattens within the trees, shapes in the forest and weaving)
*This is as far as we got before spring break

We also hosted another very successful Family Math night. A family math session was also planned and had to be postponed due to snow which closed schools for multiple days, including the day of the session. The session was rescheduled, but could not take place due to COVID-19.

Checking: We were very satisfied with the start we made on this new area of our inquiry this year. After the first theme, the students completed self-reflections and they too, enjoyed this learning and found it meaningful. The staff gained more confidence in incorporating more place-based learning and culture into math.

Reflections/Advice: Planning together as a staff helped to make incorporating more place-based learning and culture into math less intimidating. Many heads are definitely better than one. Sharing at each staff meeting also helped to keep us all accountable for trying new lessons and staying focused. This sharing was also an inspiration for each other, often sparking new ideas. Cynthia Nicol was also an amazing resource. We hope that we can continue our work with her next year.

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