School Name: Randerson Ridge Elementary
School District: SD#68 Nanaimo-Ladysmith
Inquiry Team Members: Darren Brick – firstname.lastname@example.org
Kim Needham – email@example.com
Linda Baldwin – Linda.Baldwin@sd68.bc.ca
Val Martineau – firstname.lastname@example.org
Nancy Burnham – 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
Focus Addressed: Core competencies (for example, critical thinking, communication, problem solving), Differentiated instruction, Experiential learning, Formative assessment, Growth mindset, Inclusion and inclusive instructional strategies, Universal design for learning
In one sentence, what was your focus for the year? For our inquiry, we would like to continue to grow our knowledge of mathematical instruction (year 3), focusing in on how we can teach/assess the curricular competencies with the intention of deepening our students’ understanding of number sense and making our instruction accessible for all learners.
Scanning: During the scanning phase, we focused our assessments on number sense. Although we still do not have a consistent tool in order to look at our school data, we recognize that many more teachers are trying the Island Numeracy Assessment, the NLPS Primary Math Assessment, and the SNAP Assessment to see where our students are at with their concept of number. Like last year, we randomly chose students across grades 2-7 and asked them the four questions. Generally, we found that students had some understanding of what they were learning and how they are doing in their learning; however, we continue to see that they lack mathematical vocabulary which limits their ability to explain their thinking and articulate the specifics of how they are doing. We also asked students the question: What is mathematics? We continue to see that their concept of math is mostly based on number operations, such as “adding numbers together, multiplying, etc….”.
Focus: We selected this area because we would like to continue to grow our knowledge of mathematical instruction, focusing in on how we can teach/assess the curricular competencies with the intention of deepening our students’ understanding of number sense and making our instruction accessible for all learners. We would like to see the students connecting concepts in mathematics, as well as see math concepts across the curriculum and in a real-world context. We want our students to “see” and “understand” the “why” of “doing” math. We want our students to engage in a mathematical mindset where they are self motivated to engage in dialogue and complex thinking to solve mathematical problems. We recognize that many of our students do not have deep enough knowledge of number to successfully apply to other concepts or use as a foundation to build new ideas. Our goal is to find new strategies to meet the diverse range of abilities in our classes and provide learning opportunities for students to practice concepts, deepen understanding and engage in higher level mathematical discussions.
Hunch: Our hunch is that the “one size fits all” approach is not working for the diversity that we see in our classrooms. We struggle to find “resources” that guide us and can help us focus on the “teaching” of the competencies, and not just the content of the curriculum. The older model of “teach/do/mark” is not working for our range of learners, and new structures need to be implemented so that students can explore concepts with peers in a variety of hands-on ways. These newer structures will allow for students’ needs to be met at a variety of levels, create more inclusive environments, and allow for support teachers to come into classrooms and support students. A more inclusive structure will allow for cooperative strategies, peer to peer interactions, and use of hands-on materials/manipulatives which will deepen the learning experience and provide a greater range of depth of knowledge and various experiences, so that all levels are challenged (differentiation). We believe that we need to grow the mindset of “teacher as the facilitator of learning” and “teacher as the program,” rather than trying to find the one resource as the program. We also think that we need to be ensuring that we are building a “balanced” mathematics program where computational efficiency/fluency is not only important and valued, but used and applied to gain deeper understanding of concept and competency learning. Are students being provided opportunities to learn and practice the competencies so that teachers can assess the competencies?
New Professional Learning: Due to Covid, it has been a challenging year for professional learning. All our Pro-D days have been individualized and at home. Also, our Professional Learning Communities were cancelled this year. This has hugely affected our ability to have intentional collaborative conversations around practice and explore/track the impact of new strategies on student achievement. That being said, we know that many staff looked closely at the work of Jo Boaler — the online courses: How to Learn Math for Teachers and Mathematical Mindsets, as well as the grade level books: Visualizing and Investigating Big ideas Mindset Mathematics”. We also know that many explored resources such as Estimation 180, looking closer at the INA collaborative tasks, Box Cars, and how to better utilize and individualize online learning platforms such as IXL.
Taking Action: We continued with growing our knowledge of number talks and facilitating this language experience for math. This came in many forms, but essentially students had the opportunity to “talk” and “explain” their thinking about a math problem. In a grade 2/3 class, we had morning binders which included plastic pages with wipeable markers, where we used a number of the day and explored various number connections (colouring base ten blocks, add 10/subtract 10, even/odd – divide into two groups to show why, etc…). We also focused on developing mathematical vocabulary, by creating word walls and displays with anchor charts and visual examples to support learning. We continue to explore concepts through small group learning opportunities that are game-based and include a range of options for various abilities. Practice duotangs allowed for students to access what they needed for individualized learning and teachers could support students with where they were at. Cooperative activities were designed so that students were matching cards, ordering, and communicating orally around mathematical concepts (clocks to digital time, I have who has, etc…). As a review tool, students created Concept or Mind maps to demonstrate understanding of vocabulary and connections across concepts. Lastly, various technology was utilized. In some classrooms, Google Sites provided links for resources to practice concepts at home. These links provided a range of options for students to access programs such as IXL, Happy Numbers, and Boom Cards. Also, Kahoot was used to reinforce concepts and PowerPoint/Google Slides acted as visual tools for introducing, and reinforcing concepts for oral practice and discussion.
Checking: We are still in the learning phase for inclusive math practices. As we grow this knowledge, there will be more specific examples that can be used and shared to build capacity across the staff. Our hope is that our knowledge of literacy structures will transfer to math and with more time, hands-on materials can be developed for differentiated math experiences. We do believe that strategies implemented are making a difference. We don’t, however, have a solid knowledge of how much of a difference. Our assessment practices are not yet coordinated across the school, except for FSA data at the Grade 4 & 7 level. From individual teachers, we see that students have a richer sense of number, and more fluency to be able to apply to problem solving. We are providing more collaborative opportunities for problem solving and application of knowledge, which also gives us a better idea of students’ ability to communicate their thinking using mathematical vocabulary. We believe that in some classrooms this practice gives students confidence to share metacognition, but we need to grow these experiences across the school, especially at the intermediate level. We believe that our Ongoing Communications of Learning provide valuable opportunities for students to reflect on their learning and connect the competencies to their experiences. We need to share specific examples of this so that all staff members can see the value in this reflection and its alignment to student achievement.
Reflections/Advice: In reflection, we know we need to spend some time looking at a scope and sequence for mathematical concepts. It is important that with our range of learners, we are knowledgeable of prerequisite skills and where to go next. Each learner is at a different place and we need to value that and move them forward so that all learners can experience success and growth. We need to utilize formative assessments to be sure that students are learning in their “just right” zone and gaining the skills necessary for application of these concepts. We need to broaden our assessment strategies so that we have a clear idea of where each student is at with the competencies and not just the content. We need to provide the experiences so that we can assess the competencies “in the process” of learning. We want to continue to gain strategies that are engaging, hands-on and collaborative, because we know that these have the most affect for student learning. If we don’t have the structures within the classroom that are flexible and enable various supports, then these strategies will not be successful. Self-regulation and explicit teaching of the strategies and expectations will enable success. We look forward to having our PLC back so that we have intentional opportunities to collaborate; we need to be brave, vulnerable and ask questions about our practice. We believe that for us to meet the needs of our students, we need to design our math units from a differentiated lens at the onset and plan cooperative strategies that align with the competencies & have assessments to match.