Reflection on Engineering 'aha' Moments in Number

Nicholas Dale
Winkie Primary School, South Australia

Nic participated in a six day professional learning program. At the end of the fifth day, participants were asked to reflect on their learning. Nic's response is representative of all participants. It is testimony to the value of investing serious money in teachers through quality professional development executed over time.
Row Points Task & Recording

Green Line

How has my practice changed?

My teaching practice has changed in a number of ways during this professional development program. It has allowed me time to reflect on my own practice and step back and look at what I have been teaching, where the needs of my students lie and the direction I should be heading in. As Numeracy Coordinator at my site, part of my role has been analysing data based on our students' achievements over the past few years. Results have shown a need to develop strategies to attack problem-solving tasks. The Maths on the Move program has given my colleagues and myself knowledge, skills and resources, and a framework for our school's focus which will allow this change to develop in our numeracy learning plan over the next three years.

In my own classroom, the Poly Plugs now form the basis of many of my activities in all areas of mathematics. They are such a valuable teaching tool through which children manipulate and engage to reinforce many concepts and processes. I have a stronger emphasis on problem solving in all of my units as I feel this encourages students to work like mathematicians and get a greater understanding of mathematics in general. I integrate problem solving into my everyday teaching to enhance the concepts I am trying to get across. The problem solving task cards are a wonderful tool and have taken my students learning to a new level and I have been amazed at what they have achieved. Students who before would sit back and let others take the lead, have shown enthusiasm, confidence and a level of skill to give challenges a go that I had not witnessed before. You could physically see them engaged, thinking and working out possible ways to solve the problem.

Many of my children are Aboriginal and, before introducing this initiative, were on the border of non-productive mathematical learning.   My own practice over the past few months has also been based on the trial and improve concept. I have been working on a number of ideas that I believe to be beneficial to my students learning. Some of the ideas have been adapted to suit individuals and class needs, and now I think I have a model that suits the students and myself. When planning units of work, I now plan more relevant, interesting, real-life problem solving experiences that involve teamwork, discussions and a variety of ways to recording to cater for a range of different learning styles. Many of my children are Aboriginal and, before introducing this initiative, were on the border of non-productive mathematical learning. This has turned around dramatically. I don't think I have used mathematics worksheets in my programming for a while now.

Recently I won a leadership position in Adelaide, with a numeracy focus, and during my interview presented work with the Poly Plugs, task cards and working like a mathematician that I have carried out in my classroom. The panel was so impressed with this new learning, it is my aim next year to introduce this to the staff. I believe it is very powerful.

What evidence do I have of change?

Part of my current leadership role is to deliver professional learning to my colleagues. I have presented a number of sessions from this initiative and all teachers have taken it on. The junior primary teacher has found this to be one of the best teaching tools and uses aspects of it in her programming everyday. I have modelled lessons to staff, organised staff to visit other teachers at other sites to extend learning within their year levels, and had them share their experiences at hub meetings within the district.

I have developed a school wide mathematics proforma that incorporates Threading activities from Calculating Changes. This ensures that teachers continue to plan these rich mathematical programs each day.

In relation to the students, they have been more focused, engaged and interested in mathematics. They now enjoy doing maths everyday and look forward to the tasks I present to them. It has moved away from the textbook oriented lessons and into creativity in maths. Lessons in which I used to struggle to engage students for 30 minutes, now engage them for sometimes up to two hours. Therefore, this idea we have been presented with WORKS!

The Threading scrapbooks have been an excellent way of recording the students' work. It is a way for me to check levels of understanding, and for students to refer back to when we are threading an activity for a number of weeks. Rather than asking what to do next they have a valuable tool for checking themselves. It has created students who have become more independent and take on more responsibility for their own learning. Also I have been able to use their books as a way of presenting ideas to other teachers.

I believe recording is an important component not only for assessing and departmental requirements, but for the students as well.

Threading Scrapbook
Adding fractions with Poly Plug During this year I have attended a number of mathematical professional development sessions. Engineering 'aha' Moments in Number has been the most informative and practical and has shown an improvement in learning outcomes by far.

Why have I changed?

I have changed my practice for a number of reasons. Firstly, as a school we identified that we needed to incorporate problem solving strategies into our programming and secondly, I wanted to grow as an educator and improve my teaching craft. I was at a point where I was not enjoying teaching maths and the students were not enjoying learning about it as well. I was looking at developing different approaches to delivering a more interesting maths program. During this program I have grown in myself and introduced a new methodology that has been successful.

How do I articulate learning values underpinning my change?

My maths programs using Maths on the Move concepts are based on SACSA outcomes (Ed: current government curriculum documents). When reporting to parents I talk about the student's learning in using this program based on the SACSA document and how these skills transfer. I use the Threading Book as evidence of what skills I am covering within my units and this is a good evidence based document.

More Classroom Stories