Furthering My Math/Numeracy Learning

As I continue to work with a group of administrators in my district on creating a Numeracy Framework, I have come across some resources to further my own learning and understanding.

Currently, I am reading Jo Boaler’s Mathematical Mindsets.


So far, I have read the first 5 chapters and feel re-energized to help teachers and students be more successful in math.  I appreciated that in her first couple of chapters, she talked about the brain and mathematical learning as well as the role of making mistakes in brain activity and ultimately, learning.  She goes on to talk about some of the misconceptions around math learning and how there is a disconnect between “real math” and “school math”.   She goes on to state that “when students see mathematics as a set of ideas and relationships and their role as one of thinking about the ideas, and making sense of them, they have a mathematical mindset” (pg. 34).  To achieve that mathematical mindset, she suggests that students need to look for relationships and connections as they explore mathematical concepts.  This should be done visually (as often as possible) and teachers should start by presenting applied problems and then as students recognize the need for a method, then teach the method.  Chapter 5 is devoted to discussing the use of “rick mathematical tasks” and in the conclusion, she lists a variety of websites that could be used — one of which is her own “Week of Inspirational Math“.

Jo Boaler’s website: https://www.youcubed.org/  contains a variety of information and resources to help teachers along this journey.  She has a “positive norms in math” poster that she suggests teachers use with their students.

I’m excited to continue reading this book and look forward to sharing these ideas with colleagues.

I’m wondering…

Have you read this book?  If yes, what are your key understandings?  If no, what other professional literature would you recommend?

How do you promote a mathematical mindset in your classroom/school?


March 5, 2017 at 1:28 pm 1 comment

Numeracy Steering Committee Work

This past year, I joined my division’s Numeracy Steering Committee.  The purpose of this group is to develop a common understanding of numeracy for our division.  We have gone through a similar process for literacy over the past several years and now want to move forward with numeracy.  The group is led by our Learning Services team and includes about a dozen administrators from across our division and at all levels, K-12.  I chose to be a part of this group because I’m passionate about mathematics and want to learn more.  Of course, I’ve heard of “numeracy” before but I wasn’t really clear on the similarities and differences between “mathematics” and “numeracy”.  I am curious about this topic and welcomed the challenge of diving into the topics.

Our first job was to define “mathematics” and “numeracy”.  Sounds fairly straightforward, right??  Not so.  We discovered that there are many different definitions from around the world.  Since we are a division in Alberta, we agreed to follow the Alberta Education definition.  What resonated with me about the multiple definitions we explored, was that numeracy is not only about skills, but also attitudes.  In the definition, the phrase “ability, confidence and willingness to engage” remind me that just knowing the skills is not enough.  Students must be able to know how and when to apply the skills in a variety of situations on a daily basis in the world around them.  Many of the definitions we looked at from around the world reflected these ideas.  This video, produced by Alberta Education, is a great little glimpse into the practical applications of numeracy.

From there, our group focused on exploring the research behind numeracy.  We started with some guiding questions which included:

  • What does a numerate rich classroom environment look like?
  • What assumptions can we make about teaching in a numerate rich environment?
  • What assumptions can we make about student learning within a numerate rich environment?
  • What are the best practices (foundational knowledge, skills, attitudes) and resources to guide teachers in creating numerate students?

I chose to focus on the use of children’s literature in the math classroom and read these articles:

Promoting Emergent Literacy and Numeracy Through Quality Children’s Literature by Pat Dickinson  See my summary below:

emergent literacy

Making Informed Choices: Selecting Children’s Trade Books for Mathematics Instruction by Stacey J. Hellwig, Eula Ewing Monroe, and James S. Jacobs in the November 2000 issue of Teaching Children Mathematics  Find my summary below:

informed decisions

Other colleagues read a variety of other pieces of literature, including Jo Boaler’s “Mathematical Mindsets“, which is now one that I would like to explore myself.

Online resources were also explored including:

Alberta Assessment Consortium Elementary Mathematics

Alberta Assessment Consortium High School Mathematics

Alberta Regional Consortia Elementary Mathematics Professional Learning

We also learned that other divisions in the province have begun their focus on numeracy as well.  Edmonton Public School Board and Golden Hills School Division are two that we have started having conversations with.  Golden Hills has created a Numeracy Framework to guide their work in this area.

After all of our research, we refined our guiding questions.  They now include:

  • What is a numerate citizen?
  • How do we define mastery in math?  What does math understanding mean and look like?
  • How do we engage parents?  How do we empower parents to contribute to their child’s numeracy development?
  • How do we develop number sense?
  • How do we develop high level thinking skills in math (elaboration over memorization)?
  • What does high quality pedagogy look like in a math classroom?  What is good math teaching?  What are rich math tasks?  How do the processes fit in?
  • What does assessment (formative and summative) look like in a math classroom?
  • How do we support our teachers?
  • What is the role of technology?  How and when should it be used?

So now the question becomes…where do we go from here?  Our group did some fantastic work but there is always more to be done.  We have all committed to continuing with the group during the next school year and have agreed to 5 meeting dates.  We are planning to gather some data from teachers and students next year to better understand attitudes and understandings on mathematics and numeracy.

We are wondering…

What research has guided the work in your school or district to improve numeracy?

How do you develop numerate citizens?

July 9, 2016 at 11:27 am Leave a comment

Northwest Math Conference — Portland, Oregon; Oct. 2014

view at nwmc2014It was a beautiful trip to Portland, Oregon to attend the 53rd Northwest Math Conference.  This 3 day conference brings together math teachers from the Pacific West, including Canadian teachers from British Columbia to share ideas, strategies and resources.

nwmc2014 name badgeI was pleased to be able to not only attend the conference, but also present a couple of sessions.  Participating in conferences outside of my local area, really pushes me to make many more connections and I quickly realize that as math teachers, we are more alike, than we are different.

afl at nwmc2014The first session I presented was on “Assessment for Learning” strategies that are specific to elementary math.  The room quickly filled up with teachers eager to hear what the research has to say as well as to see a variety of practical strategies that they can use in their classroom right away.  For many teachers, they are already aware of the research, as it has been around for a while.  Across the continent, teachers are embracing formative assessment practices as ways to help their students improve and move forward in their math learning.  It is always my goal in a session like this to share many different ideas with the participants.  I know that each person won’t love every strategy or tool that I share, so I want them to be able to walk away with at least 1 or 2 strategies that they can begin using right away in their class.  At the end of the 90 minutes, when I checked in with my audience, I was pleased to see that they had found something that they could make work for them.

pat at nwmc2014In my second session, I focused on the Profile Assessment Tool that I have spent the past 12 years creating, revising and sharing.  I always start this session by having the teachers complete a profile test.  After, we talk about the outcomes and processes that were assessed in this 14 question test as well as what they think might happen if students were to complete a test like this on a regular basis.  Very quickly, the participants could see that this strategy would help students become more confident in their math abilities, as they engage with and review all of the strands on a regular basis.  Sharing how students then graph their results further showed the participants the impact this strategy can have.  One participant made the comment that this becomes a very visual way of pinpointing strengths and weaknesses.  I also shared how I am working to create this tool to align with the Common Core Math Standards.  I encouraged them to keep checking on my progress by visiting my “Available Resources (United States)” page.  Although it was a much smaller group than the morning session, they walked away with a better understanding of how they could start using this strategy in their classrooms.

With my sessions behind me, I got to spend the rest of the conference focusing on furthering my learning.  The timing of this conference proved interesting, as I have just made the decision to move into a different position.  Later this month, I will be leaving my full-time classroom teaching position to move into a Learning Support Teacher role.  I found myself needing to look at things through a different lens, which was a bit challenging since I don’t exactly know all that my new position would entail.  Nevertheless, I found some great sessions to attend.

The first was on Jump Math.  I had first heard about this program, probably about 15 years ago, when I read John Mighton’s book “Myth of Ability“.  I was impressed by what I read back then, but honestly, wasn’t sure what to do to put those ideas into practice.  So, seeing the booth and the session at this conference was a great refresher.  Now, I’m excited to explore these ideas further and wonder how I might be able to use the resources and strategies.  Little steps will be key.  :-)

The other session I decided to attend was bright and early on Saturday morning.  It was about “foldables”, using ideas created by Dinah Zike.   It was wonderful to hear how the research connects to the use of these interactive graphic organizers.  Being able to actually make a variety of these “foldables” and discuss and see examples of how they could be used really got my brain swimming with possibilities.  Now I’m eager to try some of these ideas in my classroom over the next few weeks.  Hopefully, beyond that, I can help other teachers in my school to implement their use as well.

Booths are always a bonus, at any conference.  As I wandered around, I found many companies that I’ve seen before.  One though piqued my interest.  It was a company called Bedtime Math.  I had noticed their ad in the conference program booklet and so stopped by their booth to see what they had to say.  I was impressed with their goal of getting families to not only read with their kids (which most parents already are aware of) but also to engage them in real life math problems.  They also told me about their “math club” resources that they have available for free.  I’m now wondering if this might be something I can help facilitate in my own school and community.

For me, conferences are also about making connections with others.  As I was setting up for one of my sessions, the previous presenter was cleaning up.  Turns out, his name was Andrew Stadel, the creator of a website called Estimation 180, which is one that I use in my classroom and often talk about in PD sessions that I present.  How cool to meet him in person!  The presenter after one of my sessions, was a University of Lethbridge professor named Dr. Richelle Marynowski.  Turns out, she has been involved with a friend of mine who is taking education there — what a small world!  The fabulous organizers of the conference organized a “tweet up” Friday night.  It was wonderful to sit with other Twitter users and discuss how Twitter has helped us make connections and grow professionally.  I ended up sitting next to a gentleman who had started following me earlier in the day.  To meet him face to face while at the conference was definitely a bonus.

Friday evening there was also an “Ignite” session planned.  I had heard of these, but never attended one before, so this was a first for me.  During this session about half a dozen people presented on a topic that “ignites” them.  They come prepared with a 20 slide presentation and each slide is only shown for 15 seconds, making each presentation 5 minutes long.  It was interesting to watch each presenter share their passion.  This one by Annie Fetter at an NCTM conference was shared with everyone at the end.

It prompted me to start looking for other ignite sessions on math topics.  I stumbled on this one by Andrew Stadel…the Estimation 180 gentelman I mentioned earlier.

Overall, the Northwest Math Conference was a fabulous experience.  I enjoyed the people and the learning experiences I was able to have.  Perhaps, you’ll be interested in attending next year’s conference, which will be in beautiful Whistler, British Columbia.  I’d love to hear your thoughts on math conferences that you’ve attended or any of the topics I’ve mentioned in this post.

October 11, 2014 at 2:08 pm Leave a comment

Math Profile Resources Go Paperless

Effective September 1st, 2014 all Math Profile Assessment Tools will be paperless!  When you purchase one or more grade levels of resources, you will receive a USB (see the picture below) with all of the required files.

USB pic

This change is being made for many reasons — to use less paper, to use smaller envelopes for mailing, to lessen shipping and handling costs which will all lessen our impact on the environment.

To celebrate, during the month of September 2014, write the word “USB” on the discount line of the order form and receive an extra 10% off.

August 18, 2014 at 9:54 pm Leave a comment

Common Core Math Profile Resources

Work has been nicely progressing on the Common Core aligned versions of the Math Profile Assessment Tool.  On the Available Resources (United States) page, you can see the framework, as well as, draft copies of the graph for grades 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5.

If you are interested in providing feedback on any of these resources during the writing phase or have questions, please complete the form below.


April 13, 2014 at 12:00 pm Leave a comment

Greater Edmonton Teachers’ Convention

On February 28th, 2014, I was honored to speak at GETCA in Edmonton.

Before lunch, I presented the session “Math Profile Assessment Tool” to a full room.  In this session, delegates heard the details related to using a profile strategy as part of their classroom assessment.  They had the opportunity to look at various profile tests and reflected on the content and processes that were covered as part of the assessments.  Delegates walked away from the session understanding how this strategy aligns with current research and can be implemented in their classroom.  Melanie Yakimishyn, a learning coach with Edmonton Public, provided this feedback via email: “I love your graphing method as a visual to show all students they are moving forward.  People have been talking about this for years (Marzano….), however I always found the only data was from mad minutes or spelling tests.  I so appreciate your compilation of chunking material so the data is clear.”

After lunch, the room filled once again with eager participants for the “Assessment for Learning Strategies in an Elementary Math Classroom” session.  The session is largely based on the ideas presented in Classroom Assessment for Student Learning: Doing it Right – Using it Well by Jan Chappuis, et al.  A wide variety of strategies, including learning targets, exemplars, rubrics and projects were shared with teachers.  It was exciting to see that they were walking away with a new idea to try in their classroom.  To view the powerpoint from this presentation, please click here.

It was a great day of sharing and learning more about math assessment.  Thank you to the GETCA committee for putting together such a wonderful program and making it a rewarding experience to be there as a presenter.


March 13, 2014 at 9:54 pm Leave a comment

ATMNE in Killington, Vermont

It’s been a busy few days as I’ve been attending the ATMNE conference in Killington, Vermont.

I started the conference by attending Laney Sammons’ session on Guided Math.  A group of colleagues and I read her book last year and used it as the basis for a book study on how we might restructure our math program.  Going to her session, was a good review for me of her framework and it was wonderful to meet her in person and have a face to face conversation.

Next, it was time for my session on “Assessment for Learning in an Elementary Math Classroom“.  The small room quickly filled and unfortunately, some people were turned away.  The participants who were able to find a seat, spent the next hour learning about various assessment tasks that I’ve used over the years.  They heard about how using a “Profile Assessment Tool” can provide both achievement and diagnostic information for all students.  This group also heard that I have started the process of creating a Profile Assessment Tool that will align with the Common Core State Standards.  I shared the draft of the grade 1 profile and received a lot of support for developing this resource.  At the end of the session, it was great to hear that participants were walking away with at least one new assessment strategy to try in their classroom.

Over lunch, Jason Zimba, the lead author of the Common Core State Standards, provided an overview of the history of the standards and the required instructional shifts.  It was great for me to hear what he had to say, as I try to wrap my head around the Common Core.  I also found myself making connections between the shift that is happening in the United States and the shift that occurred in Alberta with the implementation of the Western and Northern Canadian Protocol.  There definitely are some parallels.  I sat next to a wonderful gal, who was pulling up various documents that were being referred to during the session on her ipad and then emailing them to me — thanks Ann Marie!  We also then attended Jason’s follow up session to learn more about the implementation of the Common Core.  The conversation was so rich and I think I learned just as much from the conversation at my table as from the speaker.

Friday morning, I started by attending a session put on by a math coach and teacher from Lewiston Public Schools.  Their session on “Observable Evidence of the Standards for Mathematical Practice through Workshop Model Instruction” allowed me to make more connections between what I’ve been learning and exploring.  They referred to Laney Sammons’ Guided Math approach and went a little further in helping me to try and figure out how to implement the workshop model in my own classroom.  The planning forms were really helpful and again, the conversations were valuable.

For the next hour, I spent time exploring the NCTM website with Shawn Towle.  He showed us many FREE tools and resources, including Illuminations and Core Math Tools.  I’ve used the interactive Illuminations activities in the past and appreciated having the time to review them and see what else is there.  It’s also exciting that some of these activities are being made available as apps for ipads.  I’ve already got a few of them on my classroom ipad.

The last session I attended was facilitated by a team of teachers and administrators from Rhode Island.  They shared the Response to Intervention model that they have implemented for identifying kids’ needs and planning for intervention.  I’ve learned a bit about Response to Intervention and have been curious about what this might look like.  It seemed to me that it is very “data” driven and time must be created in order to provide opportunities to facilitate conversations about the data and plan for the intervention.

Overall, this was an incredible professional development opportunity for me.  I made some connections and broadened my knowledge of what math instruction is looking like in the United States.  It’s always interesting for me to reflect on the similarities and differences that I see between Canada and the United States.  One thing that I’ve discovered is the same everywhere…teachers are looking for ways to meet ALL students’ needs in order to help them be successful.  And that’s incredible to see!

October 25, 2013 at 2:45 pm Leave a comment

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