BCAMT Fall Conference 2016

Posted on: October 21st, 2016 by jnovakowski No Comments

On Friday, October 21, our Provincial PSA day, I had the honour of sharing the work we have been doing in the Richmond School District as we have been enacting BC’s redesigned curriculum. This year’s BCAMT conference had over 900 attendees and speakers. Fawn Nguyen shared an amazing keynote address with us, reminding us that we are a gift to our students and to honour their time with us.






“that’s me in the front row!”

In the morning I was part of Curriculum Focus Session with a three-member panel – Ray Appel, Marc Garneau and myself. We shared aspects of the redesigned curriculum and then broke off into primary, intermediate and grades 8&9 focused breakout sessions.

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During the primary session, I shared snapshots and stories from Richmond classrooms. The handout from this primary breakout session can be dowloaded > bcamt-overview-primary-focus-oct-2016

One of the particular areas I shared was looking at the connections between the core competencies and curricular competencies in mathematics. My begin thinking around this can be downloaded > k-5-math-connections-between-core-and-curricular-competencies

I also shared the link between the heightened focus on computational fluency in the curriculum and the importance of regular number talks in classrooms.

Some info on Number Talks can be downloaded >



I also shared some of the BC Curriculum summary pages that reflect the work in the Richmond School District. They can be downloaded >





The next primary-focused session I presented was on Mathematical Routines such as counting collections, number talks and WODB.


The handout from this Mathematical Routines session can be downloaded > bcamt-2016-mathematical-routines

There are many blogs posts about Mathematical Routines available on this blog – use the search tool to search for number talks, counting collections, WODB etc.




Apparently, Counting Collections are taking over BC!


During my last session called Playful Mathematical Inquiry for grades K-5 teachers, I shared the thinking I have been doing with teachers in our district around frameworks to think about inquiry in mathematics and how playful inquiry encompasses the curricular competencies in mathematics.


The handout from this Playful Mathematical Inquiry session can be downloaded > playful-mathematical-inquiry-bcamt-2016



As always, it is great to re-connect with colleagues and a special thank you to the teachers who participated in my sessions! Thanks to Rick Hikida for this photo from the back of a very crowded room and for his tech support!


introducing counting collections in Kindergarten

Posted on: October 18th, 2016 by jnovakowski No Comments

In the past week I have introduced the routine of Counting Collections to four kindergarten classes at two Richmond schools. Teachers who have tried the routine later in the school year have wondered how to introduce the routine so early in the school year to kindergarten students. Counting Collections is a routine in which students work in partners to count a collection of items. Seems straightforward but this routine has proven to be highly engaging and provides students with lots of time doing and talking about math and also provides teachers with important information about their students’ understanding of number.


In our BC curriculum, the curricular content “learning standard” for kindergarten around counting focuses on fluency with counting and number concepts involving numbers up to and including 10. It may seem like most children are able to count to 10 at this age but we are looking for fluency and understanding beyond reciting a counting chant. We are looking for one-to-one correspondence, sequencing, cardinality when counting, subtilizing and more – counting is complex! Early in the year, it is important to provide collections of smaller quantities (5-10) so students can practice counting successfully and teachers can listen in and notice how students are counting and how they are showing what they understand about numbers. Of course, just because our Kindergarten curriculum focuses on number understanding to 10, this doesn’t mean we don’t provide opportunities for students to practice counting collections of more than 10. In the collections I used with the K classes this past week, I had collections ranging from 5-30ish.

My first visit was to two kindergarten classes at Ferris Elementary. Teachers Lynda Young and Wendy Black invited me into their classrooms after having attended professional learning events where they had heard about counting collections. I was able to introduce the routine to both of their classes and the teachers are collaborating to creating bags of items for their students to count.

I began by modelling how to choose a bag and work with a partner (one of the students) to count all of the collection – not sort it by colours first etc, just start counting all of it, hence the hashtag on twitter #countall. We talked about what to do if there seemed to be “too many to count” in the bag and invited students to just take out a “just right” amount (some of the bags had up to 40 items).


We talked about strategies for counting and keeping track of what we had counted – the students suggested putting the items in a line and my partner and I modelled touching and moving the items as we counted them. These were the most common strategy we observed in the student’s counting.



And off they went…the teachers selected the partnerships for this first go and the students chose their bags and where they were going to count. As most of the students counted by 1s the need for the cups and plates for grouping were not really utilized. Some of the students realized they were helpful tools though to keep track of which items they had counted – moving them from one container to another.


We noticed that some of the students didn’t actually collaborate – they engaged in parallel counting of items side by side. One of the teachers commented that this was the first partner task they had done and it was interesting to watch how different partnerships worked together.

The routine of Counting Collections is always meant to be done in partners – it is developed based on a social-constructivist framework, knowing that learning is a social endeavour. When students co-construct understanding together, it is more likely to become part of the classroom community and discourse as well as is more likely to “stick” with individual children.

We noticed most of the students demonstrated one-to-one correspondence and fluent counting to 10 and some counted fluently well beyond 20. Some students are developing their understanding of the teen numbers (fifteen – why isn’t it five-teen?) and bridging over decades (we overhead one student counting 28, 29 20-10, 20-11…and repeating those, likely knowing they didn’t sound quite right but trying to make sense of what she was doing). Lots of information to inform instruction – to help plan mini-lessons or guided math experiences.

Today, I spent the morning in the two kindergarten classes at General Currie Elementary. Teachers Astra Foisy and Kelly Shuto had used the routine of counting collections later in the year with their kindergarten students and were curious how to begin the routine early in the kindergarten year.

We began the same way as I did with the Ferris classes but also added some wooden numerals for students to “record their count” with if they chose and also had number charts available to support students if they needed to know what number came next.


As in the other kindergarten classrooms, the students practiced counting by 1s and were learning to work collaboratively with a partner, often taking turns in the roles. One student said, “I put, she counts” to describe their process.

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It’s always interesting to watch how students use the grouping containers, especially when they are counting by 1s. When Counting Collections are introduced, part of the experience is exploring the materials – the items in the collections as well as the tools.


Upon reflection with the teachers, I think the hundred charts and other number guides actually inhibited the students from counting (those that chose them) as they spent their time placing items in each box instead of counting – great for one-to-one correspondence but not getting to the fluency we want and not focusing on “counting all”.


So what next for these students? Teachers are creating their own collections and thinking about an appropriate number range for this time of year, students need to continue to develop ways to count with a partner and ways to problem-solve when they don’t know what number comes next. Students can also begin to find ways to record their counts – on a class chart or whiteboard, with the wooden numerals and taking a photo, drawing and labeling in a math journal or on a  piece of paper on a clipboard. Students need to just keep practicing counting – finding ways to build their own stamina (What could I do next? How could I count these in a different way?) and engagement with counting.


primary teachers study group: intro to environmental inquiry

Posted on: October 17th, 2016 by jnovakowski No Comments

Last week, Richmond’s primary teachers study group began its fourteenth year of coming together as a group of teachers to investigate an area of interest through sharing, discussion and collaborative inquiry. After a year of looking at inquiry-based approaches to teaching and learning in three specific curricular areas last year, the group voted to look at a more interdisciplinary approach to inquiry this year, choosing environmental inquiry. Teachers also wanted to examine different ways to document and make student learning visible during inquiry.

For our first session of the year, we met in Anna Nachbar’s and Deanna Mayotte’s classroom spaces at McNeely. Anna and Deanna have been teaching grades 2&3 together for several years but this year have been able to move to a shared space of two rooms and a co-teaching model. Anna shared their thinking and process and how they have focused on the learning environment and noticing how students are responding to is and making adjustments. They have a variety of choices for flexible seating and spaces for students to collaborate. The students and teachers have also been spending a lot of time outside, gathering from their school garden and spending time in their wooded area at the school. The class has been spending time looking closely and using different art materials as they do observational drawing.


Several different professional resources and children’s books were displayed for teachers to look at and then we came together in a circle to discuss the format of the study group for some of our new members and for teachers to share some of the things they have been trying regarding outdoor learning.

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The Outdoor Learning book list can be downloaded here: ptsg-outdoor-learning-resources-book-list

The group of us then walked outside and through the school’s wooded area, stopping and looking closely, considering and sharing different ways to engage students in observing aspects of the outdoors. A first step to engaging in environmental inquiry is nurturing a connectedness to the natural world. Students need to feel connected in order to care about the environment and take action to protect it.

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We noticed such a variety of trees, plants and fungi growing in this small area as well as traces of human activity – cleared paths, clearing of some areas, garbage. What might our students notice? What might they wonder about?

Teachers left with ideas for different ways for their students to interact and connect to the environment and thoughts about ways to find natural spaces and living things in their school area for their students to begin to see as learning spaces. When we meet again in November, we will share what we have been trying and ways we are beginning to document our learning experiences outside.


introducing WODBs to grades 4&5 at Westwind

Posted on: October 16th, 2016 by jnovakowski No Comments

I was invited into a grades 4&5 classroom at Westward to introduce the mathematical routine, Which One Doesn’t Belong? Teacher Carlos Victoria has emailed me to let me know the students had been learning about place value and different ways to represent numbers.

I began with a geometry WODB (found at wodb.ca ) and began the conversation about how these shapes are all the same, how they belong to a set or group. The students used the term shapes, then 2D shapes and with some guidance got to the term polygons. Then we looked at ways each shape was different than the others…unique. The students then turned and talked about if they had to choose just one shape, which one did they think didn’t belong? and WHY! We talked about how justification is a big part of being a mathematician.


We then moved on to the following WODB – one I often start with regardless of grade level because there are so many ways to analyze and compare the numbers. Same questions as before – how are they the same (numbers, numbers under 100, numbers between o-50, etc) and then how are they different. So many creative responses! As students described and defended their choices, I highlighted the mathematical language students were using such as “digits” and modelled new language for them such as the term “square numbers”.


After our two introductory WODBs, I shared our learning intentions for our time together:


And then we moved on to two WODBs that focused on the mathematical content the class was learning about. The students were given a quiet minute to examine the WODB on their own and then were asked to turn and talk to their table group about which one doesn’t belong? Some students focused on form (a visual entry point) while other focused on the numbers.

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The students were then invited to work together to create their own WODBs. This is not as easy as it seems! I provided some guiding questions for the students to go back to as they were working through the process. As students completed their WODBs, the moved to a part of the classroom together to discuss and try and solve each others’.




And as I said goodbye to the students, I know their teacher will continue the WODB routine with his class, as he just received our district’s WODB kit from the DRC – full of WODBs from the website as well as Christopher Danielson’s new WODB books  (picture book and teacher guide).

I am looking forward to hearing about more of their WODB experiences!


creating spaces for playful inquiry: October 6 2016

Posted on: October 16th, 2016 by jnovakowski No Comments

In the Richmond School District, we have a history of groups of educators visiting the Opal School in Portland, Oregon as it is a school that enacts many of the goals of BC’s redesigned curriculum and the teachers have been researching their practices together for years and share openly through their blog, twitter and visitation days and symposiums. In response to a visit there in January 2015, we have developed a professional learning series in our district to further nurture our thinking around playful inquiry in our school district. Educators who have visited Opal become our district’s “playful inquiry mentors” and open their classrooms to visitors and contribute to professional learning events. This year, our main series is a three part dinner series open to 60 Richmond educators. In September, our playful inquiry mentors met together to think about their role and what their own professional goals are. We thought of a powerful word that captured each of our goals and then wove these words together on a loom.

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We thought about ways to enact and nurture playful inquiry in our classrooms, schools and within the district.


And finally, we planned our first session of the three-part series. For each session we focus on a big idea or “theme” and after much debate, we settled on the big idea of community for our first session. After hosting this series for two rounds, we have a bit of a structure that works – open with provocations, sharing by educators, a professional learning segment, dinner together, breaking out into interest-based mentor groups and then a closing.


And so on October 6th at 4:00pm, 60 K-7 Richmond educators descended on IDC and engaged with provocations about community created by the playful inquiry mentors.

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An overview from our BC curriculum was provided as to ways the big idea of community is woven throughout curricular areas and competencies:


Erin Cammell (grades 4&5 EFI at Dixon) and Kevin Vines (grades 6&7 Quilchena) shared how they began their school years focusing on community, identity and using circle pedagogy. The importance of building relationships was a theme throughout their presentation.

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Sarah Yick (grades 1&2 EFI Dixon) and Carrie Bourne (K-12 French Teacher Consultant) shared how they were both inspired by the responsive learning environments at Opal and are transforming their classrooms (a process…) to better meet their students’ needs and to create access to materials for students to use for thinking and representing their learning.

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Brooke Douglas (VP at Anderson Elementary) led us through the focused professional learning segment of the evening – connecting provocations to the core competencies and using I can statements for self-assessment. Her slides are now available on our site on the portal.

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After a lovely dinner together, educators chose an area of interest and met in small groups to share, ask questions, discuss and set goals. Each group was facilitated by playful inquiry mentors.

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After a few closing words from Marie Thom, reminding us “that we are all researchers of life,” teachers left the event with a large black felt mat and a collection of beads, wire and wire cutters so they could use these materials with their students, mirroring one of the provocations teachers had engaged with earlier in the evening.

We have an open group on our Richmond School District portal so that we can continue our conversations and share between our sessions. And of course, there’s twitter ;)


SD38 professional learning in math in September 2016

Posted on: October 11th, 2016 by jnovakowski No Comments

In September various professional learning events in the area of mathematics were held in Richmond.

On the morning of September 23, Carrie Bourne (new K-12 Teacher Consultant in French) and I facilitated a morning with the Whiteside staff overviewing the components of the redesigned curriculum, the role of provocations as inquiry-based approach to teaching and learning and then we also looked at mathematical routines such as counting collections, number talks and WODB.

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On September 26, the Woodward staff and I had similar conversations, thinking about the context at Woodward and the potential spaces for outdoors and place-based learning.

During the afternoon of September 26, several professional learning sessions were hosted at Anderson Elementary, open to teachers from across the district. I hosted a session on Playful Mathematical Inquiry making connections to our curriculum. Teachers had time to look at their grade/s mathematical content and competencies and plan provocations and opportunities for inquiry in their classrooms.

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On Wednesday, September 30 after school, I hosted a session for teachers who were curious about Reggio-Inspired Mathematics and connections to BC’s redesigned curriculum. More information on this professional collaborative inquiry can be found HERE.

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Looking forward to even more professional learning in October!




early learning inservice

Posted on: September 8th, 2016 by jnovakowski 2 Comments

Every September, our district hosts an afternoon inservice for our Strong Start facilitators and Kindergarten and K&1 teachers. Our early learning Teacher Consultant Marie Thom organizes this inservice and each year chooses a focus area for professional learning. This year, Marie invited me to share some ideas around early learning in mathematics.


Richmond educators arrived to inviting tables and displays and gifts. After some welcoming comments, Marie spoke of the importance of infusing joy in our classrooms and to remember to begin with the child in mind.



It is the only time during the year that all the early learning educators in our district have time together. In many of our schools, there is only one Kindergarten teacher so this is a chance to meet and form collaboration with colleagues across the district. Important to remember is that regardless of which program we teach and learn within – neighbourhood, Montessori or French Immersion, our focus is on the learner. Also, the curriculum is the curriculum here in BC. We all have the same learning standards and are working together towards the same big ideas.

My segment of the afternoon focused on what I describe of the art of teaching mathematics – the intersection between what we are noticing about our students and the curriculum. This intersection is the lived curriculum of the classroom and our role as educators is to focus on a pedagogy of noticing and listening – being present and paying attention to our students and then being responsive. Our afternoon together focused on five key elements of early mathematics: counting, subtilizing, decomposing numbers, spatial sense and patterning.  Pedagogical content knowledge booklets were shared with the attendees. These can be found HERE.


We looked at big ideas, the key early learning mathematics concepts and how to develop the related curricular competencies through mathematics routines, structures and frameworks. The use of routines is important for so many reasons (and by routines I do not mean the “how we line up” or “how we wash our hands” routines…)…here is the slide where we discussed “why mathematical routines?”


I shared examples from many Richmond classrooms who have been using three important routines: Counting Collections, Number Talks and Which One Doesn’t Belong.


Blending the curricular content and competencies, I shared several ideas for mathematical provocations to inspire students’ engagement with mathematics, aligned with the learning standards and goals of the redesigned curriculum.


We left educators with two questions to think about as they embark on their year with their students:






BC curriculum updates: August 2016

Posted on: September 3rd, 2016 by jnovakowski No Comments

Several updates happened to the BC curriculum website over the summer…when teachers are on holidays – so I thought I would put together a summary of the updates and changes with links to items that might be of use and interest.

An Educator Update pdf document was posted on the Ministry website this summer. There is an extensive Q&A section as well as an overview of curriculum updates.

Link to BC Educator Update document – August 2016

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All K-9 Curriculum Frameworks were posted in their final forms, including the recently developed Applied Design, Skills and Technologies curriculum.

K-9 Mathematics

The final updates to the K-9 mathematics curriculum were posted in August, although the BCAMT website has been hosting them for months.

Link to BC K-9 Mathematics Curriculum

The most significant changes the update of the big ideas to be more aligned with the structure of the big ideas in other curricular areas. The big ideas of changed from a two-part big idea (meta big idea and then a grade-specific big idea) to a one-part big idea. Also, elaborations for the big ideas have been added. These elaborations take the form of questions to support student inquiry. See the grade 4 example below:

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10-12 Mathematics

Drafts of the different courses for grades 10-12 mathematics were posted over the summer. They are available in pdf form with and without elaborations.

Link to draft documents for 10-12 Mathematics curriculum courses

The Ministry and curriculum development teams are asking for feedback on the 10-12 drafts. You can submit feedback here:

Link to online feedback form for 10-12 curriculum


Instructional Samples

K-9 Instructional Samples were posted over the summer. These samples have been submitted, invited or developed by the Ministry to support teachers as they enact the redesigned curriculum in their classrooms. There are some samples from Richmond included.

Link to Instructional Samples


Interim Reporting Order

The much anticipated interim reporting order was released mid-August. This is a one-year interim order as the Ministry seeks more parental consultation regarding report cards. We had hoped to get this information in the spring so plans could be in place for the start of the school year. Districts will now need to make a decision in how to enact the reporting order and decide which format of reporting/report card to use this year.

One of the “new” but not surprising components of the order is that all students from K-9 will do a student self -assessment of core-competencies that will be included in their summative report at the end of the school year. Until we know for sure what the format for that will be in our district, it is important that throughout the year that we notice, name and nurture the core competencies in our classrooms so that students develop an awareness of the language associated with them so that the self-assessments can be meaningful.

More detailed information can be found here:

Interim Ministerial Order on Student Reporting

Information about the principles of quality assessment has been on the curriculum website since its inception. The “report card” is just a means of documenting and sharing assessment and evaluation evidence – what we really need to devote our energies to is creating meaningful assessment tools and practices that are aligned with the goals of the redesigned curriculum.

Principles of Quality Assessment – link to BC curriculum website

It’s an exciting year for teachers and students in BC. We have been playing with/piloting aspects of the redesigned curriculum here in Richmond for three years now and I know that we are able to embrace and enact this curriculum together.


upcoming professional learning opportunities – fall 2016

Posted on: August 1st, 2016 by jnovakowski No Comments

As we come into August and (maybe) start thinking about “back to school” I thought I would share some upcoming professional learning opportunities in the Lower Mainland.

TedX West Van – September 24

Registration and Information HERE


Reggio-Inspired Mathematics Fall Institute

Saturday, October 1, Blair Elementary, Richmond

Registration info to come – will be posted HERE


Vancouver Children’s Literature Roundtable  - STEVE JENKINS!

Saturday, October 15, Vancouver, BC

Registration and Information HERE


Box Cars and One-Eyed Jacks – October 19, 4-7pm, Richmond

Save the Date & Time – More information to be sent out soon!


Taking the Leap: Values and Practices for Planning an Emergent Curriculum (with educators from Hilltop Children’s Center in Seattle)

Evening talk Thursday, October 20

Full day event Friday, October 21

sponsored by the Vancouver Reggio Consortium Society

Registration and information HERE


BC PSA Day  - October 21 2016

BCAMT Annual Conference: Gladstone Secondary, Vancouver

Registration and Information HERE

BCScTA Annual Catalyst Conference: Cambie Secondary, Richmond

Registration and Information HERE


FNESC Annual Aboriginal Education Conference

November 24-26, Vancouver, BC

Registration and Information HERE


I will be at all of these events, except for the multi-event day on October 21st when I will be at the BCAMT conference in Vancouver!


questions to inspire mathematical inquiry

Posted on: July 28th, 2016 by jnovakowski 6 Comments

I have had several emails/messages this summer from colleagues wondering and thinking about the teaching and learning of mathematics through inquiry. Our redesigned curriculum here in BC highlights big ideas at each grade level, in each curricular area. One pedagogical approach to develop students’ understanding (the U in the KDU framework) of the concepts embedded in a mathematical big idea is to provide questions to inspire student inquiry. These questions may be provided as a provocation to individual students, to small groups or to the whole class. Students may work on different questions over time, all connected to a big idea. There are many different ways these open-ended questions may be used in the classroom and are an inclusive practice as they provide entry points for all students to engage in mathematics. These questions invite students to engage with materials and mathematical ideas…some examples:

How many different ways can you decompose 10?

What is the relationship between multiplication and division?

What makes a fraction a fraction?

Through students’  investigations, mini-lessons, scaffolding and prompting from the teacher, students are guided to uncover mathematical content and knowledge (the K in KDU) through experiences that also focus on developing curricular competencies or the doing of mathematics (the D in KDU) such as reasoning, problem-solving, making connections and communicating thinking.

A group of us worked together to create questions that correspond to the new math curricular content and competencies. These questions were inspired by the elaborations for the science curriculum, that had been well received by teachers in BC. The questions are meant as starting points for mathematical  inquiry and investigations and may be used to frame a series of varied but related learning experiences. They are written to potentially inspire cross-curicular inquiry as well as integrating the First Peoples Principles of Learning. These elaborations are currently being hosted on the BCAMT website until they are uploaded to the Ministry’s curriculum website. The K-9 document can be found HERE. The following is an example from Kindergarten:

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It is essential that students’ background, interest, experiences and understanding inform the questions that are provided to them. Many teachers like to have questions to begin with, that they can then adjust and adapt for their students. There are many sources for these types of questions, as a starting point.

Resources I recommend:

Screen Shot 2016-07-28 at 12.26.37 AMGood Questions for Math Teaching: Why Ask Them and What to Ask

by Pater Sullivan and Pat Lilburn (elementary version)



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Good Questions for Math Teaching: Why Ask Them and What to Ask

by Lainie Schuster and Nancy Anderson (middle school version)




Screen Shot 2016-07-28 at 12.27.02 AMGood Questions: Great Ways to Differentiate Mathematics Instruction by Dr. Marian Small (Elementary)




Screen Shot 2016-07-28 at 12.27.12 AMMore Good Questions: Great Ways to Differentiate Secondary Mathematics Instruction by Dr. Marian Small (Secondary)




These four books are all available in many catalogues and online sources.

A new series of books from Canadian Dr. Marian Small – Open Questions for Rich Math Lessons, They can be ordered through Rubicon Publishing HERE.


For those of you who have been following along with our Reggio-Inspired Mathematics project, there is a blog post with various question frames that we use as we co-construct provocations for our students. It can be found HERE. We have developed provocation postcards for K-2 and are working on postcards for 3-5 and 6-9. They have a photograph and one question on the front and a collection of related questions on the back – all connected to one mathematical big idea.


The questions we pose as teachers are important – they need to be responsive and intentional. But, I also think there needs to be space for students to pose their own questions. Something that I have noticed as I work with teachers and students who have been using these types of questions over the last few years is that the students begin to ask these questions of themselves and each other. It is very empowering for the students to be the ones asking the questions that frame the learning experiences in the classroom. I believe its essential to find opportunities and openings for the students’ own questions in classrooms. But that is another blog post…or maybe a dissertation ;)