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Raising mathematical achievement for target students

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In 2015, the mathematics PLD project worked in-depth with 98 schools throughout the North Island, to help build capacity for continuous improvement and accelerating mathematics achievement for students.

Facilitators worked together to identify key strengths, build on effective practice and respond to the unique needs of each school involved. Senior leadership teams and teachers were supported to: identify teacher and student needs; use data to inform school mathematics PLD plans; inform work with target students/priority learners; challenge existing beliefs and assumptions; and use evidence to inform teaching as inquiry and to plan next steps for learning.

Teachers and leaders were supported to develop mathematical subject knowledge and pedagogical content knowledge. This included increased understanding and knowledge of the progressions of mathematics across the curriculum levels and connections were made to the big ideas in mathematics. As a result of the PLD, accelerated shifts in student achievement have also been realised.

Who was better off?


Effective mathematics leaders have engaged in and led sustainable professional learning, where they were seen to encourage and support their teachers. They have fostered a culture of inquiry mindedness and challenged teachers’ theories, assumptions and beliefs in relation to priority learners and their whānau.

In addition to in-school support, there were 58 mathematics leadership communities across the North Island attended by teachers, mathematics leaders and school leaders. The focus of the MLC meetings was to develop professional leadership and to address the collective and identified needs of each community of schools. Leader: ...The meetings are a significant part of my PD each year, they support me in leading maths across the school.

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Highly effective teachers have been unpacking and applying effective pedagogies through a mathematics lens and using data to inform next steps in teaching and learning. An underpinning principle of the mathematics PLD is teaching as inquiry and teachers have been expected to inquire into an aspect of their mathematics practice, grow pedagogical and content knowledge - in order to accelerate the learning of their students. 


Schools have been supported to have systems and processes in place to support shifts in achievement and outcomes for priority learners. They have identified and prioritised outcomes for those students and used information to develop goals and targets to help raise achievement. The effect sizes for target students are higher than for all students and any of the priority learner groups across both continuing and new schools and at all year levels, indicating that they have made the greatest shifts. These are indicated below.

target student shifts continuing schools      School achievement data new schools

For target students, a greater percentage of students are 'at' or 'above' the standard at the end of the year 2015 compared with a year ago, for students in years 4–8 in continuing schools and years 2–8 in new schools.

Challenges recognised

Professional learning and development shifts become more evident and faster when the following issues are addressed:

  • teacher pedagogical and content knowledge
  • building sustainable capacity and capability of the lead teacher and the principal 
  • capability of leaders and other users to access or use of the data in meaningful ways using SMS systems
  • high staff turnover.


Learning conversations engage students with their progress in mathematics 

A small, decile 2 intermediate school encourages teachers to improve their use of formative assessment to engage students in mathematics and accelerate their progress. As a result of targeted interventions, teachers reported that they had noticed increased engagement, attitude and achievement in maths for their target student (see video below). What happened for this shift to occur? Read more here >>>

5 Practices for Orchestrating Productive Mathematics Discussions

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When one Te Toi Tupu maths facilitator worked alongside a Lead Teacher (DP) in mathematics she observed the teacher demonstrated the skills of an effective practitioner. The teacher had a sound understanding of mathematics, a strong relationship with her Year 7 and 8 students and was very organised with task boards and support material around textbook work. At the time, she felt the best approach to the teaching and learning mathematics was ability grouping. During the PLD the teacher began working through a problem solving approach with mixed ability groupings. Her thinking shifted dramatically, her teaching methodologies changed and so did the learning for her students. What was the process for this change? Read more here >>>

Where to from here?

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The Maths PLD team have identified a continued focus on:

  • effective mathematics teaching and learning for teachers and leaders
  • planning and co-teaching in cycles of inquiry
  • quality assessment practices
  • priority learners and school charter target students
  • student voice, agency, and discourse.

On reflection

Teachers and school leaders focused on raising achievement for target students have used data and student voice to inform teaching and learning decisions and the results speak for themselves. Mathematics PLD will continue to focus on growing teacher/leader pedagogical content knowledge and capacity (through a cycle of inquiry) to raise maths achievement for all students. Key resources to support these developments include:

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