Maths With Attitude

Changing Places Evaluation
Aboriginal Education Unit, Tasmania

As part of their Changing Places project, the Aboriginal Education Unit, Tasmania resourced each of its 18 participating schools with Number & Computation, Years 3 & 4 and provided professional development in its use. Teachers were asked to take the kit back to their school and use it
  • in their own classroom, and
  • as a professional development tool to support their colleagues.
At a follow-up session two months later teachers offered the comments below.

Green Line

  • Planner pages were especially useful because they provided structure in 'how to do it'.
  • The kit was ready to go - everything you needed was there. All teachers liked:
    • lesson plans and worksheets readily available
    • the integration of the CD, Manual and Tasks.

  • Teachers saw the tasks as developing questioning, thinking, reflection skills that supported learning in other numeracy areas.
  • Software available in some of the lessons was a valuable additional learning tool.
  • The Working Mathematically process document was commented on by several teachers as being great for structuring lessons. It was used as a sheet at the front of the students' journals where it was called on to guide and reflect on exploration. In another school it developed as a common language through the school in which to couch the exploration of mathematics.
  • In another school it was the strategy board page from the Problem Solving Clinic section which became the focus of a display.
  • The kit was used as a whole by schools ready to institute a whole program and by others as a stepping stones for teachers to try out one lesson in depth that might cause them to reconsider their approaches to teaching mathematics.
  • Kit was successfully used as the focus of professional development sessions for staff who were not able to attend the residential training. Methods of sharing included:
    • Teacher who was at the PD session taking one task (or lesson) per week and introducing it to another class. This required learning the task first. The hope was that the teacher receiving support would gain enough confidence to become the 'introducer'.
    • Each teacher, whether at the initial PD or not, took one task, played with it, used it with their children, made notes about it for a school dossier and then presented their new knowledge about it at a staff 'show and tell'.

  • Although teachers feel more secure knowing and having explored all the tasks themselves, it is not necessary to have this intimate knowledge before using the tasks. Teachers developed questioning techniques that began with Tell/show me what you have been doing with this task. and then, using the Working Mathematically process as a guide, extended into:
    • Show me the data you have collected.
    • How will you organise this?
    • Will any of the strategies in the Strategy Toolbox help?
    • Can you see any patterns?
    • What hypothesis or prediction can you make based on the pattern?
    • How will you check the hypothesis?
    • Will any of the mathematician's questions help you look further into the problem?

  • Tasks were used in a variety of ways in the classroom, eg:
    • Peer tutoring.
    • 'Fishbowl' approach - teach one pair who do it with the others in a circle watching. Do one of these a day and there will be five tasks ready to use at a station the next week.
    • Tasks at stations and students rotating.
    • A comfortable way for parent helpers to become involved in maths.
    • Resource for the gifted and talented program.
    Some teachers commented that students who are inexperienced with the Working Mathematically approach to learning maths benefitted from an adult to guide them so that the entire process was not focussed on getting the answer and stopping. Some of these organisational structures were developed to serve this purpose.
  • Teachers reported higher order thinking than usually displayed by Grade 3/4 students. One teacher reported (confirmed by others) that in some problems they didn't actually get to the answer, but the children didn't mind (and sometimes didn't notice) because the thinking/ talking/ recording was intellectually rewarding in itself.
  • Students reported they enjoyed:
    • the hands-on aspect of the learning
    • the opportunity to work with someone else
    • the chance to talk about mathematics.

  • On-going influences on curriculum development include:
    • Developing consistency within classes because of the links and balances within the kit.
    • Developing consistency across classes in language, process and content.
    • Providing a framework for ensuring all curriculum areas are 'covered'.
    • Becoming a resource from which teachers can jointly plan.

  • Additional manuals and CDs would have been useful.

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