Over the past year, the Math Department has been collaborating with the focus on Promoting Student Engagement in Mathematics. The following areas reflect where the majority of our work took place and give a sample of the activities that were explored.
Alternate forms of Assessment
Students demonstrated their understanding of mathematics by applying concepts to real life situations. Projects related to sports, environment and building were considered. These activities offer student choice of topic and flexibility in presentation. The depth of understanding and creativity demonstrated was rewarding. The criteria and marking rubrics were developed through collaborative efforts and used for personal and peer assessment.
Another evaluation of student understanding was through use of Student Interviews. Here is an example of how a teacher is changing how they look at their assessment of quizzes: “When I hand back the quizzes I give with them a little slip of paper that states the specific skills that were being tested, a mark and a check under one of three levels. The motivation behind this is two-fold for me and my students. For my students, the hope is that this makes it clearer as to what skills are required to solve certain types of questions as well as to give them an idea which specific skills they are already proficient in and which skills require more studying as they prepare for the test. For me, I have found that it helps inform me a bit better where each student’s strengths and weaknesses are and can see where they have made progress throughout each chapter/unit. By tracking progress in this way, I feel as though I can make a better judgment as to whether or not the earlier quiz marks should remain valid or not after doing the test/unit project. Furthermore, by me taking time to think about the skills required to solve specific questions I believe that I am able to build a better final assessment and am myself more aware of what we are working towards. When I have asked students about their thoughts on this they seemed genuinely positive and appreciative for this manner of reporting to them and when asked if they would like me to continue doing this at various points in the year the response has always been a resounding yes.”
Student Use of Technology
Throughout the school year, staff have used a variety of graphing programs to enhance application of mathematics. Some of these programs include Desmos, Excel, and graphing calculators. This technology helps students apply mathematics to the world around them as well as developing transferable skills. Students have been encouraged to explore technology that can be accessed at home and not just in a school setting.
Physical Application & Use of Manipulatives
A variety of manipulatives have been used so students can explore new concepts and reinforce abstract concepts in a concrete way. Some of our lessons have been designed using stations where they are physically weighing, counting, flipping coins, etc. One class has introduced the ‘human number line’. Probability was explored in a number of classes through a carnival where students created their own games and shared their results with other classes. These physical activities are not only fun, but they help students experience mathematics in a tangible way.
For 2017/18, nine teachers from the math department will engage in a book study: Making Thinking Visible by Ron Ritchhart, Mark Church and Karin Morrison. The purpose is to help teachers promote engagement, understanding and independence for all learners. Specific instructional practices that support learning will be determined as the book is read. Strategies will be learned, implemented, and then discussed and reflected upon. Student’s performance will be assessed to see if the strategies are improving performance.
Data will be gathered in Spring of 2018 to determine how teachers and students feel implementation of these strategies are impacting student learning.