For some, math class can be an exciting place full of opportunity to engage in inquiry, problem solving & discourse. For others though, math anxiety as defined by Mark H. Ashcraft “a feeling of tension, apprehension, or fear that interferes with math performance” is their lived reality.
With Ontario's Renewed Math Strategy underway, Lake Simcoe P.S. has been identified as a "few" or "intensive support school". This meant that this year, Lake Simcoe P.S. educators did a lot of learning and relearning around the Comprehensive Math Program. This led a group of teachers to rethink their math structure and the ways in which they teach mathematics. This shift in practice has helped support our students in building their mathematical confidence, endurance and achievement. We believe, that these are the precursors in which will continue to help change anxious tendencies towards mathematics from our students.
Our learning began with some reading. From these texts we realized we needed small group instruction in mathematics.
We looked at the Daily 3 Math structure and adapted it to fit our school board's concept of a "Comprehensive Math Program"(Click here for more info). We also made sure that we applied our learning around self-regulation, zones of regulation & mental health to help create safer, more inclusive classrooms with students able to learn. Our structural changes took some work upfront with our students such as co-creating norms, gathering resources such as math games and building a positive, safe math talk community environment.
Some considerations when changing your math structure might include:
- Apathy (Is the math engaging/meaningful?)
- Math Anxiety (What supports are being put in place to reduce this?)
- Fixed Mindset Towards Mathematics (Are you teaching growth mindset in math?)
- Social Identities & Bias (What conversations have you had with your class? What materials & resources are you using?)
- ELL & Special Ed. (Are you implementing effective accommodations/modifications?)
- Parent Attitudes Towards Math (What conversations are you having to move them along?)
- Deficit Approach to Teaching Math (What skills do your students have?)
- Classroom Environment (Is it flexible, is it responsive, is it inclusive?)
Some of the key learnings feedback from both staff and students from changing our math structure include:
Small group instruction in math is…
- Possible across all grades
- Essential especially for our students of wonder & for our struggling learners
- Building mathematical confidence & reducing math anxiety
- An opportunity to play with different manipulatives and strategies
- Helping us with our assessment as learning (Observations & Conversations)
- Making us reconsider our FOSNOT strings/number talks mini lessons- more effective in small groups?
- Possible when students are engaged and provided choice with the activities they do during Math Daily 3
- Getting other teachers in the building & across our board intrigued by its possibilities & potential
- Enjoyable for students
For more information to help support your students in your math classroom go to:
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Here are some pictures of what setting up the classroom environment involved. I have also included many images from my school below that are just a few of the inspiring strategies that have been put in place by either myself or other teachers that I currently work with. I hope these ideas will light a fire in you too!
|Setting up the classroom|
|Norms for Collaboration|
|Math Talk Moves|
|What 'zone' are you in?|
|Mental Health Check-in|
|Strategies for coping|
|Celebrate Differences (Culturally Responsive Pedagogy)|
|Positive Messages - Culturally Responsive Pedagogy|
|Mindfulness, Deep Breathing & Fidget Tools|
|Mindfulness Cards & "Food for Thought"|