Baker Drive Elementary SD#43 Coquitlam

School Name: Baker Drive Elementary

School District: SD#43 Coquitlam

Inquiry Team Members: Denean, Lindsay, Christine Dos Santos:, Mary-Anne Guevarra:, Rory Campbell:, Sarah Lowther:, Dave King:, Kelsey Keller:, Lindsay Tonogai:, Karen Capel:, Sandi David:, Jennifer Whiffin:

Inquiry Team Contact Email:

Type of Inquiry: NOIIE

Grade Levels: Primary (K-3), Intermediate (4-7)

Curricular Area(s): Mathematics / Numeracy

Focus Addressed: Differentiated instruction, Experiential learning, Flexible learning, Formative assessment, Inclusion and inclusive instructional strategies

In one sentence, what was your focus for the year? Explicitly exposing students to mathematical thinking strategies, in order to increase mathematical comprehension and fluency for problem solving.

Scanning: It appeared that students were learning the initial developmental steps in the pathway to multiplicative thinking in a fairly focused and consistent manner across classes – particularly K-early grade 2 – counting, 1:1 correspondence, representing numbers in different ways, skip counting, group numbers, etc. As our inquiry gained focus on the Critical Learning Phases for Multiplicative Thinking (Jen Whiffin – based upon the work of Kathy Richardson), evidence of learning became apparent in many areas of the OECD and FPPL Principles due to the experiential hands-on, collaborative nature and focus on place-based learning. It appeared in the student perspective and core competency reflections, that students generally held a positive mind-set towards numeracy/mathematics and parents reported in surveys that they felt their children were learning as they should. These OECD and FPPL Principles were not as readily evidenced in the absence of the Critical Phases frame.

Focus: 2020-2021 is the second year for this goal AND there was a change in principal. Rationale for the selection for 2019-2020, was that teacher professional judgment of student learning collected from report cards and combined with FSA results (with high participation rates prior to the pandemic), along with implementing the revised curriculum focus on the “Big Ideas” of the K-5 Mathematics curriculum, led to this focus. Report card data indicated anywhere from 15-20% of learners were lagging in their ability to demonstrate their mathematical thinking – particularly in performance based tasks Grades 2-5. Our goal is for ALL learners to develop strong number sense and ultimately be able to apply their learning independently to solve problems that require numeracy.

Hunch: The hunch was that numeracy instruction was highly personalized to individual teachers, classrooms, resources, training and interest, and this lack of shared understanding of how multiplicative thinking develops in young learners was leading to inconsistent student learning both within and across classes.

New Professional Learning:
– 2019-2020 (began)/2020-2021 (continued) – the work with Numeracy Support Teacher, Jennifer Whiffin, on a voluntary basis
– Demonstration lessons
– Lesson design
– Collaborative and PD time at staff meetings and PD Days
– Teacher prep. time available one day a week, scheduled with a teaching partner
– Critical Pathways to Multiplicative Thinking (Whiffin graphic format based on work of Kathy Richardson)
– Classroom sets of manipulatives purchased by the District/school, reflective of Critical Pathways learning cycles
– Over 2020-2021, Critical Pathways Graphic became increasingly overt
– Piloted new resources of lesson cycles designed by the NST, based upon the Critical Pathways
– Grades 2-5 teachers given the District resource of Multiplicative Thinking lesson cycles
– Some teachers in Grades 2-5 participated in a virtual series with Carol Saundry – Teaching Through Problem-Solving
– K-5 numeracy resources were purchased based upon problem-solving series for teachers to support this in-service K-5.
– Some teachers had their students participate in various virtual place-based Math activities design by the NST, offered weekly
– Introduced and initial trial piloting Critical Pathways Assessment tools – classroom “review” based upon Critical Phases AND Observable Behaviours Proficiency Scale

Taking Action: During the 2019-2020 school year, staff began to work with Numeracy Support Teacher, Jennifer Whiffin, on a voluntary basis (demonstration lessons and lesson design) until schools closed Spring Break. Late Spring 2020, classroom sets of manipulatives were purchased, by the District, for all teachers based on newly designed lesson cycles created by the NST based upon the Critical Pathways for the Development of Multiplicative Thinking. All grades 2-5 teachers were given the District resource of Multiplicative Thinking lesson cycles, to pilot as appropriate to their learners for 2020-2021. Some teachers in Grades 2-5 participated in a virtual series with Carol Saundry – Teaching Through Problem-Solving. All K-5 numeracy resources were purchased for teachers to support this in-service K-5. The NST worked side-by-side with other teachers. The Critical Pathways document gradually introduced over the year as the overt framework for observing student learning – still in progress – particularly in the Spring Grades 2-5. A number of teachers had their students participate in virtual place-based Math activities designed by the NST. In May, teachers in grades 2-5 piloted a hands-on performance based assessment designed and implemented by the NST, with classroom teachers and Student Services teachers observing and recording in relation to the Critical Pathways in a “class review format.” Teachers k-5 were then provided with a four step developmental proficiency scale to pilot, further capturing observable evidence of learning and teacher professional judgement. Currently we are exploring whether this can easily be captured in an online format to compare easily over time.

Checking: As 2020-2021 is our first cycle through the Spiral, we feel we have established our “baseline” as a result of this year’s work. We have not yet consolidated the framework across all teachers, as we were introduced to so much that was new and have yet to fit it all together. One significant observation is that many, many students K-5 hold a positive disposition towards mathematics. When asked what they are most proud of learning, it is striking how many choose to talk about Math and describe that they are proud because “they didn’t know how to do…but now they do.” When asked what advice they would give a learner in a younger grade or what they are “taking with them” to their next grade, it is to “learn mathematics because it is important to solve problems and they need it in life.” Importantly, these answers came while not specifically being asked about their disposition towards Mathematics, but were spontaneous. When capturing student perspectives, many students could find the vocabulary to describe exactly what they had conceptually learned. Students are keen to use complicated vocabulary such as “subitizing” and “multiplicative” thinking. Younger learners are VERY excited that they are doing what they understand to be “multiplication” – which they see as something “big kids” do. From September until now, teachers have captured video and photo images of their learners on this journey that we were able to share with parents to help them understand what their children are learning to do, and as observable evidence of learning.

Piloting the performance assessment was important for gathering evidence of learning. Initial scanning of this data indicates that a number of learners reverted to the earlier developmental stages of multiplicative thinking – neither the most efficient nor the most elegant – even if more sophisticated strategies had been previously demonstrated in a weekly task. These observations will inform next year’s inquiry.  Teachers also noted that since we have the assessment tools, we need to use them in the Fall to set our baseline for annual learning and inform instruction for individual students and classes.

Reflections/Advice: What we learned is that we needed, and now have, a focus and framework for our mindset around developing the Big Ideas of numeracy in our learners, and that our outside “expert” – District Numeracy Support Teacher, Jennifer Whiffin – was integral to our success as a learning organization; if not for her, we would still have needed to find a framework (not a program) that resonated with the professional learning community as a shared focus for our learning – with a variety of professional entry points. Her unwavering focus on the latest research and then generating complex instructional designs with clear formative assessment tools, along with graphically representing the Critical Pathways for us to gradually make overt in our community, has given us the anchor and focus we need to be invitational for teachers as continuous learners, as well as our students themselves. The framework also allows teachers to design what suits their approach to teaching, learning and classroom culture, while knowing we are all headed in the same direction in our journey towards a shared goal. It definitely feels like we are “at the beginning,” in a very positive way.

Leave a Reply