Monthly Archives: January 2020

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This was an absolute week of small and big victories in my math class. To start we are going through an Integers unit and as always certain parts of the concepts completely flummox some of my students . To that end I have a silly dance to help my students remember integer rules. After we had explored and discussed the concepts I showed my students the dance. In the past this has always been something funny but since this is now the age of TikTok my students pounced on it and asked if I would make one for the math dance. I told them I don't have an account but they were welcome to. Instead I made a silly dance video and posted it to my twitter account @MsGScience2.  If you want to see it it's on my twitter feed and I have to preface by saying I am not a good dancer.

From there, the energy in math class continued. This week we had a guest from the CEMC come in to visit and because of that my 7's had to move to a different classroom. From some sheer act of luck we were moved to the exact classroom I was able to watch a grade 12 math lesson in that I had reflected on previously. It is chocked full of whiteboards and 'good math energy'. I walked in to the class and looked around and thought, 'I can't waste this opportunity to shake things up'. To that in when my students walked in I informed them we were going to do a surprise thinking task.

I have been keeping my students informed of the professional development I have been working on and told them that this was going to be a fun trial run on what we have been working on as a class. To that end I put up our math response rubric and we looked over it one more time as a class. We discussed if we felt anything should be changed or if our idea of excellence had changed at all. The girls all felt pretty comfortable with the concepts and how they would be assessed. I then paired them up and spread them out throughout the space and presented them with our open ended question.

The girls then dove into the question and used the space to the best of it's ability

While they were doing this I was able to circulate, discuss and take notes on their observations. I noticed that the girls were thoroughly enjoying themselves and even go to witness a few of these moments.

Math Dance

Afterwards, I sent out an anonymous survey to the students. I hadn't planned on doing the thinking task with the students yet, but one of the next steps was to send out a survey to see what I could change or do differently next time. The survey would help me see if my students were seeing the results I was and if I was really on the right track for my How Might We question. I told the students that this was an anonymous exit ticket and that any feedback would be useful to me. Since I am focusing on increasing risk-taking and student buy in in my class, my questions had to do with things we did in that specific class as well as how they felt about the assessment itself and the risks they had to take to answer open-ended questions. The first answer about their comfort made me laugh right out loud.

Most forgot they were even being assessed at all.

From there I asked them if they felt more comfortable with the risks they took to find answers during this assessment and the answers got me so excited..



I couldn't have asked for better progress and I was thrilled to see this and their reflection.

I then asked them to consider the changes we made to the lesson and how they felt about several things; from the rubric to the way we used the room to go through and explore these questions. Overall the students seemed to really appreciate how we

use the rubric, and that they were given the opportunity to discuss and problem solve together in an open and engaging way.

To sum up this week ended with me seeing some real tangible results and progress towards my HMW question, and I was able to see real growth not only in myself as a teacher but also in the mindset of my students and their overall engagement in my math class. I am so excited to take this to another level. I think my next goal should be as mentioned before, to see how I can take this beyond my assessments and to my lessons as a whole. Each day I feel that I am teaching more and more authentically and bringing more to my students. I can't wait to see where I end up next.

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So a lot has been going on my mind since our last F2F on Friday and have really been thinking about how much I am doing towards my research question and if I am doing enough. This thought was going through my head while looking at the piles of marking I had on my desk and how I found I wasn't having enough time to one on one conference witrh my students about their assignments. You can say that my next move was a slight act of neccesity, mild-panic and desperation but with some forethought I promise! The results made me really happy and I could see that all the work I was doing was making a difference to my students and their mindset about their math abilities. And my coaches will be pleased to hear, on the car ride home all I could think was 'I can't wait to blog about this.'

Basically, today in math class I had both a science and math assignment I wanted to hand back my students and conference about. I announced to the students that this time I would not be calling them up once at a time to show them their work and essentially stare at them while they look over their work, waiting silently while my nervous students reflect and decide how they performed.

Instead, I told my students I was going to hand their work and rubric to them and that I wanted them to take the time to look over my feedback and the rubric. I told them I didn't want to see them until they were confident they could discuss how they thought they did on the assignment and the grade they deserved. Here is what happened.

After about 5 minutes I had students lining up at my desk, what used to be 5 minute conversations turned into 1-2 minute conversations where my students could proudly and assertively say, 'I am here and worked really hard on this', or 'I could have done better on this so I think I'm here.' I felt that this conferencing was much more effective and in less than half the time.

Looking back on it this feels like a 'well duh' situation. My students were given time to reflect at their own pace and not looking to me for hints. They approached me with more confidence and were able to give more reasoning as to why they believed they succeded or where they need to improve. I felt less flustered and was able to enjoy the conversation.

Afterwards I polled the class and asked how they were feeling. I have kept them in the loop on my professional development and they know this is one area I want to work on with them. Compared to our first single-point rubric and math discussion my students said they felt much more confident and aware of what they were doing. There were less questions about 'What was my percentage? Did I get the answer correct?' and more 'I could have expanded on this more to show my thinking'.

To add to this contrast, I have had two new students since December and a lot of this was entirely new to them. Their contrast really demonstrated to me the growth I've seen in my students. I wanted to create a class where students are more confortable taking risks in math and have bought in to the whole learning process. With my new students they had never been asked to reflect on their math responses before. It was entirely new to them.

One student even pointed out, "At my old school they just cared if you got the right answer". I then asked her "What if you got the right answer but don't know why?" she replied with 'That never mattered'.

Basically this to me feels like I'm on the right track and that I can absolutely go deeper. I think this means considering more ways to increase student risk in math that might be outside of assessment. I think I can work more now on discussion prompts or how to incorporate more PBL and open-ended tasks in my day-to-day teaching. A 5 minute conversation with @SirMrMoore on my new unit sparked multiple ideas. I'm excited to see where it will take me.


Happy New Year to everyone!

I hope you all had a wonderful break full of rest and reflections. As the 3rd F2F is coming up I wanted to post about what I have been doing and the anxiety and enjoyment I have been feeling from my process so far.

My current question is 'How might we shift teaching in math class to encourage risk-taking and student buy-in?' Initially my question had also included differentiation in it but the more I've been working on it the more I've been feeling like it's a redundant addition. In order to encourage that student risk-taking and buy-in, differentiation is absolutely necessary. It doesn't work without it so I felt like putting any focus on it distracts from the overall goal and focus.

To that end I wanted to look more into the risk-taking aspect in math, so before the break I was able to go visit one of our math experts in our school and watch her teach a grade 12 math class. I wanted to see how her students handled difficult problems and what the overall atmosphere of her classroom was and I have to say I was blown away. This teacher has done some very cool research on risk-taking and one of her philosophies is to get the kids moving. She has many boards and windows in the classroom and she has the girls working on problems and moving around. While the girls worked on problems I circled around and asked them about how they feel about taking risks in math, what they do when they get stuck and how comfortable they feel when they're unsure in math but moving forward.

The girls then reflected that it was much easier to try things when you could look around the classroom and see that everyone was trying. They said that when they were working on paper at their desk it was hard to tell if people were actually trying or just breezing through and it was only them that was struggling. I then asked the girls when they started feeling comfortable with the idea of taking risks and making mistakes and for the most part the girls agreed that it was a slow transition that came with time and more practice. This is something I think I want to dig deeper into, to see if there was a pivotal time or transition for them in their math journey. I find with my age group they can get paralyzed with math, thinking that either their parents will get mad at them or that they're dumb because they don't understand. I want to look more into how I can encourage those mistakes and make them feel less big. Things feeling big is a huge part of being 12-13.




Another thing I have been doing is introducing the concept of what a good math response looks like and drawing focus away on simply getting the right answer. With my classes we collaboratively made a single point rubric on what a strong math response looks like. The goal of this exercise was to emphasize that in terms of the big picture, the correct answer is only a small part of the math they are working on. This was actually something that happened naturally through conversation. We followed the steps highlighted in my last post and I had the girls define 'what makes a strong math answer' and this was their result

Knowledge and Understanding

  • Answer is checked to ensure it makes sense
  • Answer is underlined
  • Understands and uses formula
  • No errors in calculations


  • Thoughts are organized using the GRASP method
  • Answer is broken down into appropriate GRASP parts to show thinking
  • Answer shows understanding of the concepts presented
  • Answer clearly shows student thinking


  • A detailed sketch or diagram about the question is made
  • Student chose an appropriate strategy to solve


  • Math is written clearly and all work is shown for every step
  • Answer includes a proper conclusion sentence
  • Answer includes a detailed explanation of thinking
  • Writing is organized and steps are easy to follow

This was the list my students generated, and when we finished and organized it I turned to the girls and asked 'how much of this is about having the right answer?' This prompted some really great discussion. Through this activity we got to really bring home the idea that I am not focusing on the mistakes they make but more interested in the process. I want them to take risks and I want to see how they break down a problem and think critically about a solution. We are starting another thinking task this week in which we will come back to this rubric and I'm really excited to see how they approach the next 'stumper' and to see them document their process.