The focus of the November Professional Development day was on numeracy. Specifically, the goal was to meet with two other schools and review the numeracy projects that would be going on in those schools and then get a chance to share and create resources.
To begin the day the teachers were given an icebreaker task to use the app comic life to create a introduction of themselves and to identify their superhero abilities. This was a great way to highlight another quality creative app and to allow teachers time to learn how it works. The comic life app could be used in many ways in the classroom to easily allow students to put ideas into a story format. Older students could write on specific topics while younger students could use the app to learn to link ideas together.
Each school then provided a short highlight of what they would be doing this school year in their focus on numeracy. At Pacific Way Elementary the strategies we are trying are simple, focus on basic facts, and increase the vocabulary and language used in math learning.
Our grade 6/7 teacher did an excellent job of explaining the idea of math walls (for both intermediate and primary) and how to assist students in learning the vocabulary of math. Shelly also highlighted some of the math tile examples used by Marcy Cook, (these are available through the HGEC).
As we move forward in making math more visible and important in our daily routines I am reminded of a analogy from the book 5 Levers to Improve Learning, by Frontier and Rickabaugh . In the book they look at the remodelling of a kitchen, how when you change the flooring the countertops, the cabinets, repaint and basically overhaul the entire room the only change you have made is to the appearance. The first meal you prepare in the newly remodelled kitchen will last the same as it did in the old outdated kitchen. To change the taste of the food you need to change the ingredients or the manner in which the food was prepared.
In math teaching this means not just bringing in technology or more manipulaitvies (many problems have been made worse by just throwing money at it), but actually changing the way that you teach math. The endless worksheets of the past need to be replaced with peer to peer teaching, video, creative apps, understanding why the math is important, and real world applications.
One of the best questions of the day was in why are students taught to divide and multiply fractions, this was seen by many as a waste of time on a topic that many students were frustrated by. My answer at the time was not great but in reflection it hit me that really all that fraction work is building a basis for Algebra. That the ability to divide and multiply fractions, becomes adding like terms and isolating variables, perhaps this fractions unit is really important after all.
In the end the day was very productive, teachers from different schools were able to share ideas, to discuss how they teach math, and hopefully reflect on how they could adapt their math lessons to be engaging, important, and stress the importance of the language of math. Our numeracy resource teacher begin her time on Wednesday morning and hopefully we will be seeing the beginnings of something great.
The Professional development at the school continues to impress me as the staff are open to ideas and are having a great deal of enjoyment in learning.