School Name: MJ Shannon
School District: SD#36 Surrey
Inquiry Team Members: Meg Allan; firstname.lastname@example.org,
Amber Geremia; email@example.com,
Amanda Hooper; firstname.lastname@example.org,
Edward Carter; email@example.com
Inquiry Team Contact Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Type of Inquiry: NOIIE
Grade Levels: Primary (K-3), Intermediate (4-7)
Curricular Area(s): Mathematics / Numeracy, Other: assessment
Focus Addressed: Indigenous understandings (for example, Traditional Knowledge, oral history, reconciliation), Core competencies (for example, critical thinking, communication, problem solving), First Peoples Principles of Learning, Indigenous pedagogy
In one sentence, what was your focus for the year? Our focus is around Math Identity and self-assessment. We have worked to encourage development of student’s positive identities in Math by exploring how students feel about themselves as Math Learners and by challenging ideas of what Math can be by introducing ideas of Indigenous perspectives to Mathematical thinking and through ongoing reflective assessment.
Scanning: We began by meeting learners and asking them the four key questions, as a starting point to check in with them about how they saw themselves as learners, and specifically how they saw themselves as Math learners. Due to the lack of enthusiasm expressed when talking about Math prior to the scanning process, we had a hunch that many of our learners may not have positive math identities. The responses we received from many of our learners, when asking the key questions, helped us to confirm that many of our kids did not feel that they were good at Math and that it would be important for us as a team to provide experiences that would help them to see Math, and their own abilities to engage with it, in a different light.
Focus: We selected the area of Math, as we hoped to foster positive Math identities for our students by framing Math in new ways for them. We noticed that some of the students who identified themselves as not being strong at Math, regularly engaged in Math activities that they enjoyed, such as beading, but did not see the intricate patterning and counting they did in these activities as being connected Math. We hoped that by providing opportunities for kids to engage in Math activities that were different from the sit-down, worksheet-style Math that many of our kids were used to, we might be able to help them to see Math in a different way and further see themselves as capable Math learners.
Hunch: We felt that one practice at our school that may have been contributing to the experiences of our learners was the strong emphasis on Math worksheets and booklets. Our concern was that some of our students may not have been able to develop positive Math identities because the Math opportunities they were exposed to didn’t honour their learning styles and preferred ways of showing their learning.
New Professional Learning: Some new areas of professional learning we explored were using new Indigenous resources from the Pearson Mathology series, exploring Richmond’s Reggio-Inspired Mathematics text and Tluuwaay ‘Waadluxan: Mathematical Adventures and signing up for the UBC Indigenous Math Symposium. One resource that was especially helpful was the book, Acorns for Wilaiya by Nadine McSpadden. It served as a springboard for both teacher and student inquiry. It opened possibilities for the kids to see Math as something that is all around us and led to a series of Nature Walks at a nearby park, which grounded them in place-based Math learning and allowed them to experience the lessons in the book, connected to sustainability, such as the idea that everything in nature has a role and needs to be left where it is found.
Taking Action: We started by working in buddy classes to engage in inter-generational learning and used the book Acorns for Wilaiya by Nadine McSpadden as the anchor book for our project. It was important for us to use an Indigenous author and it was an added bonus that she was local, so the forest and park featured in her book resembled the forest across from our school. We started by pairing big and little buddies together to engage in Math activities where they use natural and natural-inspired materials to create equations, just as the character in the book did. Student buddy pairs published their math stories and were excited to see themselves not just as Math learners but as learners who could take control of their learning by creating their own Math stories. Since they were so interested in connecting Math and nature, we brainstormed examples of Math in nature and explored the local forest and documented examples of Math that they were able to find. Big and little buddies worked together to find examples of Math in nature, such as patterns, multiples and symmetry. They have written about the Math they have found in Nature and their writing and pictures are being printed into a big book, called “We See Math at Mary Jane Shannon” with copies that can be signed out by other classes to support outdoor Math learning. Students are just finishing reflections on how they see themselves as Math learners after becoming Math Authors!
Checking: We feel that the opportunities we provided for our students helped to make a difference in helping to foster positive Math identities. We are satisfied with how students were engaged in Math activities that grounded them in place-based learning and that they were able to see themselves as successful and see Math as something beyond an exercise that is represented on a worksheet. We hope this is just a start in helping our students to create positive, life-long Math identities.
Reflections/Advice: We learned that by opening the possibilities of what constitutes as Math for our students opened up their abilities to see themselves as Math learners. We also learned that engagement increased when we got our students outside of their typical classroom environments and used Nature as our second classroom by engaging in Math activities outside. Our next step will to be to present our student-created math book to the school and introduce it as a resource for classes to read before going out into the forest near our school. If another school with similar interests asked us for advice, we would suggest allowing student interests to guide the learning.