Rock City Elementary SD#68 Nanaimo-Ladysmith

By September 5, 20182017-18 Case Study

School Name: Rock City Elementary

School District: SD#68 Nanaimo-Ladysmith

Inquiry Team Members:Sarah Davidson:, Alodie Robertson:, Kaylee Robbins: Eliza Jane Boyd:, Beatrice Bradley:, Jodine Dimter:, Linda Baldwin:

Inquiry Team Contact Email:

Type of Inquiry: NOII (focus on core competencies, OECD learning principles, etc.)

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

Curricular Area(s): Matahematics / Numeracy

Focus Addressed: Core competencies (for example, critical thinking, communication, problem solving), Differentiated instruction, Experiential learning, Formative assessment, Growth mindset, Inclusion and inclusive insructional strategies, Indigenous pedagogy, Inquiry-based learning, Universal design for learning

In one sentence, what was your focus for the year? Mathematical Mindsets (Growth Mindset in Mathematics)

Scanning: During the scanning phase we noticed a large variation between our top achievers and the general population of our students (achievement gap) based on our numeracy assessments. Teachers find it a challenge to meet the needs and engage this diverse range of learners. Many students do not participate, engage or want to persevere; they often shut down and don’t see themselves as mathematicians. When we asked the four questions, we recognized that many students were not able to describe the concepts they were studying and why, and/or how they are doing in the process.

Focus: We chose to focus on growth mindset as it relates to mathematics, centered on Jo Boaler’s work from Stanford University. We chose this avenue because we felt like the change in mindset would profoundly affect both the students and the teachers and would provide enough of a mental shift to change the nature of mathematics instruction in our school. How could incorporating growth mindset instruction coupled with inclusive instructional strategies reduce this achievement gap and increase the achievement of all learners?

Hunch: Our hunch is that over-reliance on workbook style activities in mathematical teaching is leading to student passivity, surface understanding of concepts and failure to engage with learning. In general, we see that many students have weak math foundation skills as well as weak literacy skills which may be impacting student ability to explain mathematical thinking. We are curious to see how incorporating growth mindset instruction coupled with inclusive hands-on instructional strategies could reduce this achievement gap and increase the achievement of all learners. We wonder if growth mindset training would increase student understanding of the purpose for their learning.

New Professional Learning: The members of the group were taking the online course “How to Learn Maths for Teachers” through Stanford Lagunita ( We also read the book Mathematical Mindsets by Jo Boaler. We spent time during our Professional Learning Community time discussing both the course and the book and exploring ways to utilize these concepts within our classrooms. We investigated how this growth mindset approach can be applied to learners of mathematics at all ages at the elementary level and discussed the impacts this change in instruction has on our student’s achievement. We have shared ideas and learned from each other during our PLC time. We collaborated on designing instruction in math that creates multiple opportunities for hands on learning experiences and strives to include deep thinking and understanding of each concept taught. We shared ideas and discussion about our assessment practices – How can we assess this “new and different” approach to teaching math? How can we design assessment tasks so we get more insight into our students true understanding? How can we provide students with opportunities to reflect and explain their thinking?

Taking Action: We created hands-on stations that supported specific skills that needed to be targeted at the primary level (games, etc…) that enables students to engage and work collaboratively in repetitive practice for deeper learning. Teachers used a problem solving approach with their students as a “hook” at the beginning of a math block – 3-Act Problem, Open-ended and numberless problems, Number talks, Which one doesn’t belong? Teachers began to implement inclusive structures in mathematics, much like a Daily Five rotation, where students were working on a variety of concepts, using manipulatives, and working with partners on individualized skills where they needed practice or further instruction. This enabled both peer support and teachers to work side by side individuals and/or small groups of students. Further to this, in one intermediate classroom, oral language played a significant role in growing mathematicians; students were regularly predicting, questioning and discussing various strategies used to solve problems with their peers. Students were given multiple opportunities with open-ended collaborative tasks for the same concept in order to learn at a deeper level. Students were introduced to the 6 mindsets for building a mathematical Mindset community and the “Powerful Questions” we regularly used to guide conversations in order to develop a deep level of understanding.

Checking: Using the four questions, students showed a greater ability to share what they are learning and what they are doing. They were better able to share what they need to work on to improve. Students showed more engagement in hands on activities; they enjoyed “doing” math with their peers. Students showed a change in their understanding of “What is Math?” They “see” math differently. When asked to brainstorm this at the beginning, students appeared to see math as a pencil and paper activity, that occurred mostly on an individual level with right & wrong answers. At the end, their brainstorm showed quite a different understanding of Math – “Math is a big part of our life”, “fun”, “problem solving”, “a key lesson for learning perseverance”, “math is challenging and stretches your brain”, “figuring stuff out”. Students recognized that as they continued to learn and go deeper into a concept, they experienced greater success with the same task. They began to recognize that concepts are multilayered and connected, and one builds upon the other.
Quotes from students: “It’s getting easier now….I can do this now….what’s next…is their an extension we can do?”. When asked “What good math students do?”, students showed insightful answers at the end of the year, because of their experiences – “contributing to math conversations”, “using strategies to understand new concepts”, “explain their thinking”, “thinking, I can do this”, “pay attention in class”, “participate in all activities”, etc…Students became quite comfortable explaining their thinking and justifying their answers, as it became a “regular” part of their math experiences: explaining how and why through lots of oral work, sharing strategies, open assessment tasks, such as drawing pictures, etc…

Reflections/Advice: As a team we had a variety of experiences with our classes at various grade levels. We were all starting in different places. Our work during our PLC enabled us to ask questions, hear success stories, and share tangible examples of math experiences. We were able to continually reflect and share with one another. One point of success and the possible turning point was when our “Inquiry & Innovation” teacher began to work alongside classroom teachers to model and support structures within the classroom. This enabled and helped to facilitate greater differentiated instruction and really jump started some enthusiasm. Teachers were able to “see” the success of small group intervention and targeting of skills. They were able to “see” how math can be structured with a hands-on approach where students can “work together to figure things out”. Although we will not have the role of our “I&I” teacher next year, we have set the ground work for continuing to develop our student support model “within the classroom” approach. We will continue our school wide “growth mindset” focus. In September, we have collaboratively planned multi-age groupings using the “Six Cedars”, both supporting the Core Competencies and building on the work we did last September with Growth Mindset. We would like to expand the number of teachers who take the Jo Boaler Course and continue this work within our PLC time. We would like to continue to build our resources (manipulatives) to make math visual and explicitly teach and reinforce “norms” for mindset in math in more classrooms. We need to work on building strategies to assess student growth in this area and using formative assessments to see the impact of practice on achievement. Our staff would like to put together a continuum of skills for key concepts in math so that we can better track our students and target instruction for intervention.

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