Dr. Kearney Middle School SD#60 Peace River North

School Name: Dr. Kearney Middle School

School District: SD#60 Peace River North

Inquiry Team Members:Barb Wagner: bwagner@prn.bc.ca
Kelsey Zabolotniuk: kzabolotniuk@prn.bc.ca

Inquiry Team Contact Email: bwagner@prn.bc.ca

Type of Inquiry: NOIIE

Grade Levels: Secondary (8-12)

Curricular Area(s): Matahematics / Numeracy

Focus Addressed: Other: Perseverance and grit

In one sentence, what was your focus for the year? Building student math muscles through group work on vertical non-permanent surfaces

Scanning: We administered a student survey around attitudes and past experience in math. We also interviewed a random sample of students asking them the 4 questions and analyzed the results from the mandatory Grade 9 district numeracy assessment.
We found that students had negative attitudes towards math and often gave up on math tasks without even attempting the work.

Focus: The DNA results demonstrated more about students’ lack of perseverance than their lack of knowledge. This lack of math muscles and inability to explain their math thinking was evident through observation of math classes at the beginning of the year.

Hunch: We think that the students have had a lot of experience with tasks that were highly repetitive, decontextualized, and had low complexity. These students have been education with mostly old curriculum that did not emphasize problem-solving or explaining their thinking.

New Professional Learning: We explored Habits of Mind research as well as Peter Liljedahl’s research around vertical surfaces, visibly random grouping, and numeracy tasks. We also participated in a book study on “Visible Learning for Mathematics” and “Teaching Math with Meaning”
We also attended the NW-BCAMT conference in October.

Taking Action: We started the year with “Week of Inspirational Math” from Youcubed.org supplemented with some materials from Graham Fletcher and Sarah VanDerWerf. These tasks focused on building a growth mindset around math and developing group norms. A group work rubric was co-developed with the class from these preliminary tasks.
We implemented Vertical Non-Permanent Surfaces with Visibly Random Groups and incorporated group work at least twice a week. After every group session, students self-assessed using the rubric, sometimes as a group and sometimes individually. Tasks for group math were designed to have a low floor and a high ceiling. Students were encouraged to take turns as the writer and to discuss their ideas as they were put on the board. Some questions were selected for their inherent ambiguity. This promoted student discussion and sometimes animated arguments around the math.

Checking: We measured the difference by having students complete an end of the year survey. Also, students that were interviewed at the beginning of the year were re-interviewed. The answers were much more detailed and rich than at the beginning of the year. Student answers demonstrated a higher level of reflection on their experience and learning process. At the end of the year, students were immediately able to respond to the question about two adults. Students shared how they had felt uncomfortable with group work at the beginning of the year. Some of the growth that students attributed to the group work was: better at talking to others, able to ask for help, freedom to mess up, more patience with themselves and others, better at explaining their thinking and improved awareness of different strategies to solve the same question.

Reflections/Advice: The most important thing we learned is to start incorporating group work on a daily basis from Day 1 of class. Co-creating group norms as a class led to greater buy-in and accountability among learners. Students self-assessing on the rubric was essential to keep everyone on track. The time “wasted” making sure the randomness of groupings was VISIBLE to students is totally worth it. When students see the randomness for themselves it eliminates the complaining.
Students felt more successful and capable and confident around their math. The non-permanent surface released kids from fear of making mistakes. The group work forced students to talk it out and communicate their ideas clearly to others.

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