The following article was written by Jeannie Armstrong, Summer Learning Program Administrator & Principal, St. Marguerite d’Youville Catholic School, Ottawa Catholic School Board.
The Ottawa Catholic School Board’s Summer Learning Program currently operates at three sites and serves close to 180 students. As in previous years, the board has chosen to focus on building students’ confidence, knowledge, strategies and enjoyment of math through a comprehensive and research based program.
The theme of the 2019 program was “BeMathOCSB”, which reflects our philosophy that every student is a mathematician. T-shirts designed for the camp present an open number line on the front and a slogan on the back which states, Math Allows Thinking to Happen. It is evident from this theme that we are building a collaborative culture which espouses positivity for and enjoyment of mathematics. As one student in the program stated, “I love math camp.”
The OCSB’s 2019 Summer Learning Program team identified five main goals for the program. One goal is to help students build a strong foundation in additive, multiplicative or proportional reasoning through a supportive and engaging environment. This year, the board began to work with Marian Small and Doug Duff’s Math Up Classroom and School resources. To continue this work, the Summer Learning Program or ‘Math Camp’ has focused on building students’ mathematical reasoning, fluency in problem-solving, and automaticity of numeration through the use of mathematical models.
One model used to develop student thinking is the open number line. As one student stated, “When we find benchmark numbers by decomposing the number we can easily place them on a number line and count backwards.”
Evidence for this approach can be found in Jo Boaler’s resource, Mathematical Mindsets: Unleashing Students’ Potential through Creative Math, Inspiring Messages and Innovative Teaching. “Automaticity should be reached through understanding of numerical relations, achieved through thinking about number strategies (Delazer et al., 2005).” This quote about building number strategies speaks to our work using open number line as a means to make mathematical thinking visual and build conceptual understanding rather than having students memorize an algorithm and work through a procedure, without a visual reference. One school teaching team (Jodie, Kayla and Alexandra) stated, “At St. Rose of Lima, we found the number lines to be a great support in facilitating the knowledge of decomposition of numbers. The students were also very keen to utilize the number lines when adding and subtracting, as they decomposed the numbers into friendlier parts to successfully answer the equations.”
Another goal of the program is to develop teachers’ facility for rich discourse, teacher questioning, and conversations during play through job-embedded coaching and focused professional development sessions. This goal speaks to the importance of teachers being present in the learning and enhancing their own skills through professional collaboration and team teaching. In Fun and Fundamentals-Math for Young Children, Marian Small (2018) states, “Mathematics standards for young children are more likely to be met when a teacher ensures that appropriate materials are available to stimulate the child mathematically and then follows up the students’ conversations in play with appropriate questions and challenges” (3). In addition, Dr. Christine Suurtamm, Associate Dean from the University of Ottawa Faculty of Education and respected researcher in the field of mathematics, visited one of our sites and was impressed by the program and its focus on teacher reflective practice.
A third goal was to develop teachers’ comfort level with guided practice to make student thinking visible. “Sitting with the students who need more time and repetition together, or the ones who are already ahead of the curriculum, should not be fixed , rigid, or permanent. Meeting with a small group of students for some needs-based, teacher-guided instruction is valuable and allows for more robust and responsive differentiation of instruction.” (Hattie, Fisher & Frey, 2017; 155). Teachers are supported in developing effective guided practice skills through a math coach who also facilitates the learning sessions for teachers. As SLP math coach, Kathy McCord states, “Math camp provides teachers with a supportive, collaborative environment where they can try new innovative ways of teaching the curriculum. Teachers often enhance their pedagogical practice through the duration of the program, which leads to building capacity and collegial sharing of innovative ways to engage students in mathematics during the school year.”
A fourth goal is to increase staff and student proficiency with robotic and digital resources to promote computational thinking in the mathematics classroom. (Ministry Monograph, Computer Coding in the K-8 Mathematics Curriculum). Staff used ozobots, speros, beebots and even participated in the 2019 Moonhack (through Code Club Canada), coding the distance to the moon using coding programs such as Scratch and Python. Both teacher and student learning was supported by a robotics coach, Stephanie Fraser.
The final goal of the program is to link math to experiential learning (Indigenous Education and Outdoor Education). Students were able to identify that math is everywhere through activities from community partners including: dance, Zumba, orienteering, Gaelic Football and Indigenous Art.
Teachers participate in five professional development sessions prior to and during the Summer Learning Program, funded by MISA local capacity building funds. Throughout these sessions, teachers developed a clearer understanding of the progression of student learning, the importance of mathematical models (such as the open number line) along with foundational support from a variety of Ministry of Education Monographs (Pedagogical Documentation Revisited, The Learning Conversations Protocol, Mathematical Territory between Direct Modelling & Proficiency) and current research in math. These PD sessions promote teacher reflective practice. In Marian Small / Doug Duff’s resource, The School Leader’s Guide to Building and Sustaining Math Success (2018) they discuss the importance of reflective practice in building capacity. “Many teachers think deeply about how effective their lessons are , which students they are reaching, and what they might do differently. No teacher has all the answers, but reflective teachers always consider and reconsider learning situations in terms of becoming even more effective” (119). In addition, SLP staff encourage students to develop a growth mindset through perseverance and patience when solving problems. Staff discussed educator biases with respect to math education and were connected to regional, provincial and international perspectives on math to understand how their learning relates to the global context. For example, staff had an opportunity to engage in a virtual professional development session with the author of Math Recess, Sunil Singh.
The program has an extensive research component, which is supported by the Board’s MISA lead. Prior to beginning the program, students were given an attitude survey which asked them to rate their thinking on five statements: (1) I like math; (2) I am good at math; (3) I can get better at math; (4) Math is more than numbers on a page; (5) Math is fun. This attitudinal survey will be administered again at the end of the program to assess growth in students’ attitudes towards math. In addition, students were assessed using the OCSB’s Numeracy Continuum (which assesses students’ understanding of math along a developmental continuum) both pre and post program. Finally, students were provided with a Math Up baseline task both prior to and at the end of the program to provide evidence of student thinking and the effective use of mathematical models (such as open number line). Staff were provided with a Number Line Tracker Guiding Principles template to guide questioning and learning conversations. Board researchers will compile and analyze the data to inform continued professional collaboration at each school site during the 2019-2020 school year (System Leaders & Collaborative Inquiry).
The key to the success of our program is through the creative partnership of many departments within the board (technology, research, student success, continuing education, etc) along with offering students opportunities for deep learning via real world connections and projects. Students developed their skills for and love of math while also seeing that math has relevance in the world. For example, they had an opportunity to participate in a virtual read aloud with children’s author, Alice Aspinall and this inspired them to create their own books about “Math is Everywhere” or “Growth Mindset/Having a Positive Mathitude.” Coding a path to the moon in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Apollo mission helps them connect math to history, to their present lives, and indeed to their future. As George Couros once said, “We forget that if students leave school less curious than when they started, we have failed them.” The OCSB’s Summer Learning Program inspires creativity and curiosity in our students and staff. We are all mathematicians!
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