RC MacDonald Elementary School SD#43 Coquitlam

By September 25, 20222021-2022 Case Study

I. General Information

School Name: RC MacDonald Elementary School

School District: SD#43 Coquitlam

Inquiry Team Members: Theresa Roberts troberts@sd43.bc.ca
Kelli Johnson kjohnson@sd43.bc.ca
John Fitzgerald jfitzgerald@sd43.bc.ca
Leona Huggins lhugg@gmail.com (retired!)

Inquiry Team Contact Email: troberts@sd43.bc.ca

II. Inquiry Project Information

Type of Inquiry: NOIIE

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

Curricular Areas Addressed: Mathematics / Numeracy

Focus Addressed: Core competencies (for example, critical thinking, communication, problem solving)

In one sentence, what was your focus for the year? How do we support the building of a common language across the grades that will help students’ development as mathematicians?

III. Spirals of Inquiry Details

Scanning: Students were interviewed using the NOIIE survey questions in October, and then again in April. We changed one of the questions slightly to reflect our curiosity about Numeracy: “What are you learning about in Math?” The students chosen to complete the survey were, as much as possible, “from the edges”. The NOIIE survey questions align with the ideas in Shane Safir’s book on collecting what she refers to as thick data or street data. https://shanesafir.com/street-data

Staff discussed the data collected at the November and May staff meetings. We found it to be personal and authentic in guiding our work and validating our hunches about how students were doing, but also providing a hard lens on what is not yet working for our students.

In the fall, we discovered that many of our students were not aware that they were learning Math. The early primary students could tell us about counting, but if we asked them about math they had no response. The students in grades 3-5 had a limited understanding of what math might entail. The responses did support our hunch that our students are struggling with language of numeracy, perseverance and problem solving.

In spring, the survey responses showed growth in students’ overall understanding about what they might be learning in Math and how they felt their learning was going. Their relationships with the staff had also increased and they were feeling more positive about their school experiences.

Focus: Our data from the NOIIE survey combined with classroom based assessments, FSA results, the Student Satisfaction Survey and report cards, demonstrated that we needed to work on improving student confidence and understanding of numeracy topics across grades K-5.

Hunch: We discovered that staff were making assumptions about where students should be at based on their grade level, and were sometimes frustrated that students did not yet seem ready. We examined our assumptions about the curriculum and our teaching practices, and found that we needed to be more intentional with our students and give more chances for them to access prior learning in different ways. We are still learning that we can do this by finding times to engage students in hands-on problem solving activities, discussions, and games. We are still finding a balance between traditional instructional methods and these types of classroom activities.

New Professional Learning:

  • Team Leaders participated in meetings, learning and discussing the Spirals of Inquiry book with  the Principal.
  • Two Team Leaders took on the role of Numeracy Lead for the school and attended the after school sessions provided by SD43 Learning Services.
  • One of the Numeracy Leads also attended the BC Mathematics Conference in October and then shared the book: Hands Down, Speak Out: Listening and Talking Across Literacy and Math. We purchased multiple copies of this book for Staff.
  • BC Reggio-Inspired Mathematics Project Newsletter was shared to Staff at each publication.
  • SD43 Learning Services Numeracy site continued to evolve for use by all Staff.

Taking Action: In November we all completed a math collection task (every class and their teachers) that we obtained from SD43 Learning Services, and then discussed at a staff meeting. Teachers made time outside of their math blocks to do so, and it was an important step to all try the same task and then discuss together.

At every Staff Meeting the Numeracy Leads shared a math game, or other activity, which we actively participated in as though we were students.

In December, three teachers shared how they had begun engaging students in talking about their learning using strategies from the book Hands Down, Speak Out: Listening and Talking Across Literacy and Math.

From January-June, Number of the Week became an opportunity for students to post number sentences on the bulletin board display across from the washrooms. It highlighted student voice and creativity.

Image Description: Examples of students posting number sentences on our number wall.

In March, four teachers worked with our School District Numeracy Coordinator, Jen Whiffen, in person at the school with their students on a problem solving activities.

Checking: In June 2022, teachers were surveyed about next steps for teaching numeracy. Their ideas about numeracy and their teaching have become much more confident and direct compared to June 2021. They have increased their ideas about how they can help their students increase numeracy skills, and they know what practical steps and activities they can try to incorporate in the future.

Student responses to the NOIIE survey were more detailed, upbeat and confident for all the questions, but especially with math. They had concrete explanations about what they are learning and what they hope to learn next.

Student responses (only grade 4’s participated) to the Satisfaction Survey clearly show that the one area they need help with is MATH. We were able to take that data and convert it to a Wordle form to discuss at the school planning session.

The results are no surprise to the staff. This was only the beginning, our first year of working together with a focus on Numeracy, so we anticipate more work is needed for the 22-23 school year and beyond.


  • Engage with an expert when possible – it increased teacher confidence.
  • Choose something simple to try – try it multiple times and discuss with colleagues as you do, to reimagine and tweak your work.
  • Have fun with students and each other; numeracy does not always have to be serious! Engage and connect in meaningful ways in real time with current events.