Lakes District Secondary School SD#91 Nechako Lakes

I. General Information

School Name: Lakes District Secondary School

School District: SD#91 Nechako Lakes

Inquiry Team Members: Garrett Shaw:, Steven Little:, Jeremy Gooding:

Inquiry Team Contact Email:

II. Inquiry Project Information

Type of Inquiry: NOIIE Case Study

Grade Levels Addressed Through Inquiry: Secondary (8-12)

Curricular Areas Addressed: Mathematics / Numeracy

Focus Addressed: Core competencies (for example, critical thinking, communication, problem solving), Differentiated instruction, Flexible learning, Inclusion and inclusive instructional strategies, Inquiry-based learning, Universal design for learning

In one sentence, what was your focus for the year? Using the MathUp up curriculum and manipulative use to engage below grade level learners in our Math 8 classes

III. Spirals of Inquiry Details

Scanning: As we get into high school level math classes, concepts become exceedingly abstract and skills become significantly more difficult. We often ask our students to use rather nuanced mental math strategies, sometimes assuming or expecting they are capable and at grade level with such strategies. However, often this is not the case and identifying the areas of weakness and misconceptions a student has, becomes a time consuming and difficult endeavor for the instructor.

Focus: For the school year, we focused on the implementation of the MathUp curriculum for our Math 8 classes. The MathUp curriculum is structured around the fundamental education principles of inquiry-based and hands-on learning. Through the MathUp class model, the reflective and differentiated nature of the course content, and the widespread use of manipulatives and hands-on tools, we hoped to better identify areas of student weakness and misconceptions and further their core understanding of the skills and concepts required.

Hunch: Rural communities are at a disadvantage in a number of ways. Here are just a few things which might be contributing to the challenges we see in student numeracy: difficulty in attracting teachers to the rural community, lack of funds and resources larger communities may have, lack of coordination in vertical alignment between math instruction at various grade levels, de-emphasis on education as gateway to higher careers when trades and other non-academic professions are readily available, exclusive focus on abstraction is a detriment to students in higher grades when math relies more on solidified skills, memorization and procedural knowledge.

New Professional Learning: The MathUp curriculum is consistent in its use of manipulatives to understand difficult numeracy concepts. We had little experience with manipulative use before this proposal and were excited to bring it into the classroom not just for the benefit of our below grade level learners, but for everyone.

Taking Action: We used the MathUp curriculum exclusively for the first three grade 8 math units. We also incorporated manipulative use at least twice in each unit, even after we weren’t using MathUp exclusively. We referred to MathUp for manipulative use ideas, as well as other outside resources.

Checking: Through teacher observation and student conversation, MathUp received mixed results:

  • Useful source material and approach
  • Open-endedness encouraged exploration and creativity but also frustrated students
  • Lack of project-based learning
  • Lack of higher order problems and extension activities to engage high learners
  • Long-term concern that disregard for procedural knowledge and memorization will be detrimental to students in later math classes when material is more abstract
  • Manipulative use was beneficial to all students, but biggest difference was seen with struggling learners
  • Increases engagement and sociability
  • Provides multiple avenues of understanding


  • Decision: run with MathUp exclusively or adapt best parts to a broader curriculum?
  • Continue growing our use of manipulatives
  • What manipulatives can be incorporated in project-based learning?