Coherence Building – A Student Numeracy Gap with a Teacher led Response

Much has been written about the helpfulness of having coherence in systems, including education systems. A Living Systems approach has the potential to grow and sustain this kind of coherence. At present, this occurs in some individual school settings, but I have yet to see this done effectively at a district or provincial level.

This is not because district level education leaders are not well-intentioned. Our current structure continues to be top-down in many ways, and this inhibits the kind of coherence that districts are seeking. There is a friction that exists between what is and what could be. It is often helpful to let go, as leaders, of what we think should happen, and listen carefully to what ‘those on the ground’ (often teachers) are saying. The leaders’ role is to facilitate the structures needed in order to support helpful initiatives (these structures should be agile, not fixed). Not only does this build the capacity of all within the system, it allows us to tap into people’s passions while they serve the greater good.

Further to this, it is the role of district level leaders to seek ways in which to connect and sustain (within the broader setting) noted pockets of growth for possible coherence building (without requiring people to serve a structure put in place, as this is not growth oriented). This perspective has at its core, leadership from the middle.

Here is our story and what our teachers were noticing….

Does this sound familiar? Some of our students are struggling with Numeracy basics, and as they get older, this is preventing them from fully participating with their peers.

Teacher leader Shelley Houle wrote the following, with input from the rest of the teacher leadership team:

Two questions got us thinking….

  1. How can we reduce the number of intermediate students who are still struggling with their basic math skills?
  2. How can we help our students develop a more positive attitude towards Math, while understanding that making mistakes is a natural part of learning?

Our  Learning Support Teacher team spent time collaborating in order to come up with a proactive approach called MMI (Middle Math Intervention) – an additional support program targeted at upper primary students who are needing more instruction and practice with developing number sense. Our hope is to minimize the widening gap that we are observing as students move into the intermediate grades.

Using assessments (PRIME), we identified grade 2 and 3 students who were still struggling. We created groups of four students to receive forty minutes of math instruction, in a game like setting, three times a week (in addition to what these students already receive in class).

We have been collaborating to create a series of lessons that focus on improving number concepts. Each lesson includes a variety of activities targeting a specific skill. All materials are included along with an easy-to-follow lesson plan. Stories are read, games are played and students work with a variety of materials to boost their ability to count and work with numbers. All the while, students are also learning that they can all get better at math with practice, and have fun doing it!

We look forward to assessing the impact that this initiative has on growing student success!

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