School Name: Nakusp Elementary School
School District: SD#10 Arrow Lakes
Inquiry Team Members: Anita Vibe: firstname.lastname@example.org
Inquiry Team Contact Email: email@example.com
Type of Inquiry: NOIIE
Grade Levels: Intermediate (4-7)
Curricular Area(s): Mathematics / Numeracy
Focus Addressed: Core competencies (for example, critical thinking, communication, problem solving), Flexible learning, Growth mindset
In one sentence, what was your focus for the year? I focused on engagement in learning mathematics using various methods such as Number Talks, Clothesline Math and 3 Act Math.
Scanning: During the scanning phase, I observed students with a range of attitudes towards math. I noticed many students who didn’t know how to challenge their thinking or an understanding into why challenging their learning is important. I noticed differences in confidence in students expressing math thinking or examples of thinking outside the box. Based on the fall Northern Lights numeracy assessment, I noticed a need for students to understand more holistically decimals, fractions and percentages. Based on prior research into the importance of students having a solid foundation understanding of decimals, fractions and percentages, I was interested in maintaining a year long focus in this area of math learning while weaving in all other aspects. I wanted to notice if using Number Talks improved student confidence in discussing their math thinking and Clothesline Math to help improve understanding of decimals and fractions. I was also interested in bringing more real life math examples to students in order to enrich a more solid understanding.
Focus: Last year I focused on mathematical mindsets and used a variety of instructional strategies to help. One of the tools I used was Number Talks. Based on some of the observations of students math understanding in recent years, I have noticed how students are learning to use algorithms well, but are increasingly lacking deep understanding of the math concepts. As my students come from many diverse learning paths, one of my goals is to create activities and problems that have many access points as well as areas for students to continually challenge themselves. Finally, I hope to continue to find strategies that grow my students confidence to take risks in solving problems and overall mindset in mathematics.
Hunch: I wonder what happens when students get left behind in an area of math and therefore don’t build their knowledge up enough for future learning? I believe that the foundations of math are extremely important to build for students, rather than teaching what the curriculum goals are. I’m concerned when students arrive in my class with a negative mindset for learning math.
New Professional Learning: Looking into growth mindsets in math, I leaned on Jo Boaler for her expertise and research. Her latest resources include teacher workbooks laid out specific to grade. These books provided hands on activities with a problem for students to explore each time. Carole Fullerton’s books on using cuisinaire rods provided great hands on tasks as well. 3 Act Math task, an online activity organized into different sections to promote creative problem solving skills, gave students a framework to ask questions and solve creatively. I used 3 act math tasks from Kyle Pearce, Dan Meyer, Andrew Stadel, Jon Orr and Graham Fletcher. Finally, ‘Make Math Moments That Matter’ by John Orr and Kyle Pearce, is an online math community offering amazing explanations why problem based teaching in very powerful in math. Number Talks based on fractions, decimals and percentages by Sherry Parrish and Ann Dominik, was a useful guide in framing open ended questions that allowed students a chance to share their thinking.
Taking Action: When planning my math units, I would look into a variety of strategies to use in order to reach all students learning, knowing that my students learn in many different ways. Some students learnt well with Number Talks, while others enjoyed the hands on tasks of creating and building their math ideas. Teaching from different angles provided opportunities for all students to achieve understanding. I noticed that my teaching wasn’t only content focused; rather most tasks were reaching into many curricular competencies.
Checking: Having an intention on teaching with a growth mindset and with many opportunities to access the content, students noticed and became aware of how they learn best. Throughout the year, it was noticeable how students became more comfortable with challenging their learning. Students were given points to begin their learning with a spiral of challenges to continue their learning journey. Many students showed an understanding that their learning was constantly growing through working at the appropriate level and consistently challenging themselves. There was never an end point to their learning, rather a continuum to grow on.
Using the Northern Lights assessment in fall and spring, students demonstrated more confidence in sharing their learning by spring. This assessment showed growth in content understanding, although not significant. Through reflections as a teacher, I noticed students confidence grow in various curricular competencies such as estimating, modelling, visualizing, explaining math thinking and reflection.
Reflections/Advice: Over the year, I reflected on how students learn in many various ways. If students are not given opportunities to learn and share their learning using their style of learning, students can lose confidence quickly. Providing various opportunities for learning was a focus for my math teaching that I will continue to incorporate in order to reach all students.
Next year, I plan to continue to expand and explore more creative and innovative ways for reaching all my students abilities and styles of learning.
I would like to explore project based learning where students can show their understanding of content and big ideas while continuing to access curricular competencies.
Working together with other staff at school, we will be focusing our math instruction for the year in content strands. I believe that students need access to many content strands throughout the year in order to see the big picture of math of how strands are connected. Although I will not be solely working on a single strand of teaching, there will be more of a focus on a strand for 6 times of the year.