Archive for March, 2016

provincial numeracy project in Richmond: session three

Posted on: March 23rd, 2016 by jnovakowski

As previously shared HERE, Richmond is participating in BC’s Provincial Numeracy Project this year. The school teams involved came together before spring break to share what routines they had tried in classrooms (counting collections, choral counting, counting around the circle, numberlines) and how their students responded to these routines.


We looked at different ways to use an abacus, particularly focusing on decomposing and composing numbers, counting by 10s and 1s as well as addition and subtraction strategies.


In both the books Number Talks and Number Sense Routines, rekenreks are used as tools to develop number sense and computational fluency. The Rekenrek is a special kind of abacus, originating in the Netherlands. More  information and instructional ideas can be found HERE and HERE. As part of our session, teachers created rekenreks for student use, using paint stir sticks, beads and pipe cleaners.



We watched a video of a teacher using rekenreks with her kindergarten class as part of a number talk (view it HERE) and discussed different ways we could use this tool with our students, with a focus on using them during small group instruction/guided math.

We also looked at various apps to support the development of number sense, including the Math Learning Center app that uses rekenreks – available as a web version HERE or in iOS or Android formats.

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Other recommended apps include Touchcounts (uses finger gesturing to compose and decompose quantities), FindSums (uses five, ten and hundred frames to support understanding of addition) and the Number Frames app.

“Homework” for the teachers was to try the rekenreks with their students…

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and to try an assessment tool with their focus students, chosen from the Provincial Numeracy Project blog. The tools that we are curating on the blog have all been created by BC educators to use with BC students. At our final session in April, we will compare what the different assessment tools have to offer our students.

In April, teachers will also complete a final case study form about their student as well as write a short professional narrative about their experience in this  project. The provincial team is meeting in Victoria in June to share what has been happening in districts across the province and to make plans for next year. Richmond is looking forward to continuing to ride the numeracy wave!


inclusive learning communities: play in math at Cook

Posted on: March 17th, 2016 by jnovakowski

Several schools in our district are participating in Inclusive Learning Communities projects, with a school team working alongside Learning Services staff to consider inclusive principles and practices. Cook Elementary is in its first year of the project, investigating ways to incorporate play into the learning of mathematics. Shelley Moore is leading this project at Cook, meeting with the school team (classroom teachers, learning resource teachers and the principal) to develop class profiles. I was invited to share some ideas with the team about incorporating play into mathematics in their classrooms. Two of the intermediate teachers are involved in our Creating Spaces for Playful Inquiry series and Cook also has a school goal around math so the staff has attended our elementary math focus days.

In February, I spent the morning with the school team sharing some thoughts about play. Often teachers and parents think about “games” and “toys” when we call talk about learning through play but play is so much more than this. When I think about having students take on a playful stance in mathematics, I want them to play with materials, play with language and play with ideas. We discussed beginning with a big idea in mathematics and then considering how to provoke thinking and encourage playfulness through various open-ended learning experiences.

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As part of the lesson study cycle part of this project, the teachers planned a lesson and taught it with another teacher observing and then repeated the lesson in the other teacher’s classroom. The intermediate teachers focused their lessons on the routine Which One Doesn’t Belong? and the primary teachers used the counting collections routine for their lessons.

Which One Doesn’t Belong is a routine made well-known through the #MTBoS (Math Twitter Blog-o-Sphere) and a curation of WODBs can be found HERE. Teachers Christy Rollo and Jo Fournier and the learning resource teachers set the routine up by first projecting a WODB on the screen and then having student share and discussed what they noticed. Print outs of WODBs were then placed on tables in the classroom and the students  chose which ones interested them. They worked together in small groups but did not have stay with the same group of students as they moved on to another WODB. The teachers and I listened in on the math language the students were using, how they were justifying their choice and listened to understand where students were in their understanding of the math concepts involved. We noticed how the WODBs provided an entry point for all students – that every student could say something regardless of their mathematical understanding or fluency with the English language.

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The primary teachers were curious about the Counting Collections routine. The teachers gathered materials – collections and cups/plates etc for supporting counting in different ways. The students worked in pairs to choose a collection and count it. Most of the students chose to count their collections by 1s or 10s which is common for the first go at counting collections. All the students in the class were able to engage in counting – some taking turns counting back and forth, a student and his partner counting the groups of 10 from 1-10 over and over to practice counting from 1-10 with one-to-one correspondence and other students counting their collections by 10s and then supporting each other to figure out how to count on the extra “ones”. The teachers had prepared a formal recording sheet which during our debrief they realized added too many extra layers to this first go with counting collections. We also discussed how every student was engaged in talking about and doing mathematics, counting, grouping and thinking about place value for almost an hour.

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A video of the grades 1&2 students engaged in the counting collections routines can be viewed HERE.


google expeditions at Homma

Posted on: March 16th, 2016 by jnovakowski

Peter Ritchie, a grades 6&7 teacher at Homma, organized a visit to his school from Google Expeditions. Anna and her Google Expeditions car along with two class sets of 3D viewers with phones (Google Cardboard). Classes each were scheduled for a half-hour time slot to go on a virtual field trip. The classroom teachers chose their field trip based on the class’ current units of study – Ancient Egypt, the Coral Reef, the Moon.

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Chris Loat, Gordon Powell and I were asked to be some extra sets of hands for the day and it was such a great experience. The students had so much fun and were screaming out in excitement, often having troubles sitting still and wanting to move around (which is a bit of a safety issue when you have viewers covering your eyes) and the students were often reaching out with their hands to touch things they saw in their 3D viewers. The teacher uses an app on a tablet to choose what students are seeing, although students can move their heads to see a 360 degree view of the location. The teacher can also pause the screen and click on different notes on his or her tablet to read aloud or explain to the students. Many of the teachers used the What do you notice? and What do you wonder? frame to engage students and to continue the experience back in their classrooms.

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A video of our morning together can be viewed HERE.




inclusive learning communities: grade 8 math at Boyd, year two

Posted on: March 16th, 2016 by jnovakowski

Several schools in our district are participating in Inclusive Learning Communities projects, with a school team working alongside Learning Services staff to consider inclusive principles and practices. Hugh Boyd Secondary is continuing with a its second year in the project, investigating the question: How can we meet the diverse needs of our students in our grade 8 math classes?

A summary of last year’s project can be found HERE.

This year, the school team met with Shelley Moore and myself to look at class profiles, develop performance tasks for the beginning of a unit of study, consider and plan for inclusive practices within lessons and discuss ways of assessing students. This year, the teachers chose to focus on algebra (solving equations) and linear relations (graphing). We looked at the prescribed learning outcomes, considering what students needed to know to be successful at the grade 8 level – language, concepts, processes, skills. I introduced the team to the number balance as a way to think about balancing equations and emphasizing the concept of equivalence.

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New this year was a collaboration with SetBC – the school was provided with a half-class set of iPad tablets loaded with apps suitable for communicating learning in mathematics. SetBC facilitators provided support to the Boyd teachers in learning how to use screencasting apps such as doceri.

One of the lessons we developed together was having the students use the number balances to represent algebraic equations and then use the app ShadowPuppet to capture their process and understanding.

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A short video of this lesson can be viewed HERE. The teachers noticed the high engagement of the students and how some students were able to demonstrate their understanding of the mathematics in ways that played to their strengths.

The teachers followed up with lessons, continuing with the students creating screencasts using iPad technology.  The students were provided with choices of algebraic equations to create a table of values for and then graph using the doceri app (it has various graph paper backgrounds to choose from).

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During our debrief session before spring break, the teachers identified the new practices that helped to meet the needs of their students and that they felt would endure for them: using a performance task before the unit of study to assess where students are in their understanding, using manipulatives/models, using open-ended learning experiences, presenting three or more different entry points for students (different complexity of questions or problems) and using iPad technology.


Science Jam 2016

Posted on: March 2nd, 2016 by jnovakowski

SJ 2016 logoThe Richmond School District is celebrating its thirteenth year of Science Jam, a featured event of Education Week.

Science Jam is BC’s largest non-competitive science fair, bringing together students in grades 4-7 from across our district to share their science inquiry projects. This year students from 11 schools participated choosing to do projects under three broad themes – environmental sustainability, going local and looking at the redesigned curriculum.

IMG_2732Two French Immersion students from William Bridge Elementary conducted the opening ceremonies with welcoming words from our mayor and superintendent, introduced our board of school trustees and honoured the event’s sponsors.




Science World started off Science Jam with a *bang* with a science surprises show.



And then it was time for our district’s young scientists to share their projects with “celebrity scientists”, parents, community members and each other.




A video with highlights of the event can be viewed HERE.