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Mathematics in a future focused school

Maths in the real world

Society can't do without maths. It's everywhere and if our students leave school without the ability and confidence to use mathematical skills, they may well end up struggling with everyday scenarios, including problem solving and financial literacy skills. So what happens when maths in a future focused school becomes meaningful, authentic and real?

The purpose of the mathematics contract is to provide professional learning and development (PLD) for teachers and school leaders embedded within a teaching as inquiry framework. It has a specific focus on capacity building for continuous improvement and accelerating mathematics achievement for students. The PLD is responsive to the diverse needs of all akonga. For more information and impact see the 2014 infographic data.

One school's story so far

Brandon Intermediate School in Porirua has a role of around 145 students, of whom 60-70% are Pasifika and around 25% identify as Māori. The past two years have seen some staff changes, however the school has remained steadfast in the pursuit of raising student achievement in maths.

Julie Roberts (Maths Facilitator) has been working alongside the staff for the past two years. When they initially started the PLD programme, scoping involved 'walk-throughs' to observe practices in maths, and another chosen area of the curriculum, to honour what teachers were doing well already. This reflected the merits of a strengths-based PLD approach. Underpinning the scoping and collaborative planning was the need to nurture strong relationships. Through a series of conversations, it was soon clear that teachers demonstrated overall content knowledge and confidence with number at Levels 2/3 of the curriculum, when students ideally needed to be heading towards Level 4. In addition to number, there was a need to raise content knowledge in other maths strands such as algebra, measurement, geometry, probability and statistics. Observations of current classroom practice informed a need to address how effective pedagogies could be wrapped around an authentic maths curriculum. They also recognised a need for assessment practices that used relevant, reliable data to inform future practice.   

Four clear goals were identified:

  • increase teacher content knowledge
  • pedagogical shifts in teaching
  • use a range of assessment data to inform practice
  • involve parents and whānau in the learning process

What happened

After the initial scoping, a co-constructed action plan was formed and a mentoring and coaching model was established, where the facilitator could plan, observe and reflect on the practice with teachers. Julie facilitated specific content knowledge workshops with the teachers, where rich tasks (problem solving) and valuable resources (see references at the end of the article) were shared to demonstrate and clarify where the big ideas and progressions are for mathematical strands: measurement, statistics and algebra at Level 4. Julie also modelled group teaching strategies in the classroom and demonstrated processes for analysing data (Gloss and ARBs) to inform further teaching practice. In the recording on the left, Julie explains how rich authentic tasks and strategies such as Talk Moves, have become a catalyst for pedagogical shifts for teachers.   

The results

Impact for teachers and leaders

The new leadership team including the principal now have a clearer view of how leadership and organisational structures can support teachers for Accelerated Learning in Mathematics (ALiM). Internal mechanisms such as Registered Teacher Criteria, teacher inquiry, data gathering (student voice, videos) are in place to ensure PLD goals are being met and sustained to accelerate student learning in maths. A mentoring and coaching model has since been adopted by the maths lead teacher for internal intervention and review. More recently in 2015, teachers are using video 2-3 times a term to reflect on pedagogy and practice in the classroom.

Julie quoting teachers

As a result, teachers are able to share and reflect on practice with the facilitator, maths lead teacher and a colleague. Big shifts are now being realised. These include:

  • Improved practices where data informs effective teaching and learning.
  • Increased content knowledge and understanding of the progressions. Teachers now recognise where their students need to be to meet or exceed the national expectations. 
  • Effective teaching and learning pedagogies. While effective teaching practices were honored in other curriculum areas, this has since resulted in transferred confidence and competence into maths.

This includes a move away from solely defined times for maths, to more opportunities where maths is integrated authentically across the curriculum as part of inquiry learning. Teachers now plan for rich, authentic learning tasks that give maths meaningful contexts for learning, beyond procedural problem solving.

In the recording on the left, Julie elaborates on an example of a rich task where students were able to apply their knowledge of maths in a real-world context.

Hamish talking about maths

Impact for students 

Initial student data showed a majority of students working in levels 1,2,3 with a few achieving at level 4 of the maths curriculum. This year Brandon Intermediate students are working 'at' and 'above' standards and some are now working in level 5 for the first time. The school boasts 0.81 effect-size data shifts, which is hugely significant for accelerated progress, when 0.4 effect-size is recognised as highly effective teaching. The school attributes this to 'teachers teaching where their students need to be while challenging them to meet their learning potential.' 

Yr 8 Maths graph 1 Yr 8 maths graph 2 Yr 8 maths graph 3

Eight groups of six students (48 students) who were working below expectation are also given an extra 20 minutes of maths a day to help raise their achievement.

Julie's quotes about studentsAs well as rich tasks that require students to problem solve and connect with mathematics in the wider world, digital tools are being used to help process mathematical problems. The teachers also recognise the students enjoy maths more now. Julie envisions as a result of ALiM, students would now say, 'Maths makes sense to me now, not just in maths time','Maths is all around me', 'I do Maths when I go to Technology space now' and 'I know how to unpack a problem and understand the keys things I'm looking for in a problem.'

Where to from here

The school is exploring ways to engage with whānau and looking for strategies to encourage them to be part of the learning process. They will also continue to grow internal leadership, so that when the Te Toi Tupu PLD steps away, they can sustain and grow these developments. 

** Resources: Developing Mathematical Inquiry Communities- Hangaia i te Urupounamu Pāngarau Mō Tatou and Effective pedagogy in mathematics

For more information about Mathematics PLD, visit the Mathematics project page or contact Gaynor Terrill and Pip Arnold.