Archive for the ‘parents’ Category

The Math Play Space at the Richmond Garlic Festival

Posted on: September 1st, 2019 by jnovakowski 1 Comment

After launching our district’s Math Play Space this spring at some school and public library events, we took part in our first big community event on August 19 at Richmond’s Garlic Festival. In its eleventh year, the Garlic Fest draws visitors from all over the Lower Mainland and has an active Kids Zone Area.




IMG_6273I arrived bright and early to set up our space and by 10am our tent area was filing up with families. I was thankful for the shifts volunteered by our math mentor teachers and teacher consultants. It was interesting to watch families interact with the materials – some parents and grandparents stayed back and watched their children play, others played with their children and other adults jumped in and played on their own. Parents had questions about the materials being used and some had questions about the BC math curriculum. I was able to provide them with our district brochure and hope to have it translated into multiple languages by our next community event.

Our tent was full throughout the day with the Kids Zone coordinator saying that we were the most visited area of the day!



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We did change out some of the materials over the course of the event but the two most used materials were the tiling/tessellating turtles and the magnatiles.




I particularly loved watching the children who had made garlic crowns at a booth in the area playing with the materials!


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For more information on the Richmond School District’s Math Play Space, including upcoming events, please see HERE.


June thinking together: How can we work together with families to support our students’ mathematical development?

Posted on: June 28th, 2018 by jnovakowski

Last June I attended the Cognitively Guided Instruction conference in Seattle and one of the things that really resonated with me was the number of projects around mathematics that schools were working on that had a focus on involving families and connecting to the community. We were asked to commit to “one thing” to connect our learning at the conference to our work in our contexts for the following school year and my one thing was:

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Before the CGI conference, I might have used the term parent involvement instead of family engagement but the conference nudged my thinking – there are many people taking care of our students – parents, grandparents, siblings, legal guardians and caregivers. The term “family” is more inclusive and the term engagement rather than involvement is more representative of what our hopes and goals are.

Over the past few years, I have done several event for school and district PACs as well as our annual Learning and the Brain conference for parents. This year I did two outreach interactive sessions about mathematics for parents through the Richmond Public Library, coordinated by our Settlement Workers in Schools program.

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Increasing parent engagement and making mathematics education visible in our community area areas and goals that I am going to continue to focus on. Suggestions welcome!

Many parents, guardians and caregivers of our students have questions about the “new” mathematics curriculum and my short response is usually: the content has not changed significantly and new content has been added in the area of financial literacy and more learning standards and big ideas around computational fluency have been added. Those changes were part of the feedback cycle in the curriculum redesign. Parents had many opportunities to provide feedback through stakeholder meetings across the province (and within our district) as well as being able to provide online feedback. Beyond the core content (knowledge) at each grade level, other elements that are part of the curriculum redesign, and not just in mathematics, is the focus on core competencies, curricular competencies, weaving in Indigenous knowledge and perspectives and considering a range of instructional approaches to be inclusive of the diverse learners in our classrooms.

The BC Ministry of Education has provided information for parents on the curriculum redesign on their website and this information is available in four languages (tabs at top of website):

BC Ministry of Education curriculum redesign information

Beginning this year (not including 2018 grade 12 students) students will need to pass a Graduation Numeracy Assessment as part of their graduation requirements. We need to help communicate to our parent community that this is not a “mathematics” exam and is not connected to a specific mathematics grade or course.  The Ministry has provided information for parents on the Graduation Numeracy assessment that you can share with them:

Graduation Numeracy Assessment information for parents

We had one pages of the Ministry document translated into Chinese for our parent community for those schools that were part of the gradual implementation of the assessment in January:

SD38_GNA Information for Parents (Chinese page 1)


Screen Shot 2018-06-28 at 11.07.23 AMTable Talk Math is a website and book created by John Stevens. In it he shares ways parents can engage in talking about mathematics with their children at home. He has a weekly newsletter  that parents and teachers can subscribe to on his website. John’s five-minute Ignite talk is shared on his site. At the end of his talk (with teachers as the intended audience), he suggests four calls to action for educators to work in partnership with their students’ parents:

  • celebrate parent involvement
  • show your students’ parents that you care
  • show parents how they can help
  • help parents help their kids be amazing

Table Talk Math website link

And here is a collection of suggestions for parents that I have shared at various district and public events:


I am in the process of drafting a parent information bulletin for our school district, which will be translated into multiple languages once it is finalized. Look for it this September!

As we think about ways to engage families in mathematics, here are some questions to consider…

  • What do your students and their families think about mathematics? What are their feelings and beliefs?
  • How are we sharing information about the mathematics curriculum with families?
  • Do your students and their families see themselves represented in mathematical learning experiences at school?
  • How do you make use of your families’ cultural assets in our mathematics learning experiences in schools?
  • How are we sharing and communicating our students’ mathematical thinking and learning to families?
  • How do we create reciprocal learning opportunities in mathematics between families and the school context?
  • What opportunities do we create to connect mathematical learning to our local community? 
  • How are families engaged with mathematics learning in our classrooms and schools?


January thinking together: What is numeracy?

Posted on: January 31st, 2018 by jnovakowski

This year I am going to share a monthly focus as a way for educators in our district (and beyond, of course!) to think together, collaborate and share ideas around K-12 mathematics education. On the list are number sense, estimation, reasoning, spatial awareness…it is a list in progress so suggestions are welcome.

My intentions are to begin each month with a blog post highlighting the focus area in our BC mathematics curriculum and connecting it to the broader field of mathematics education. I plan to share links to websites and resources, share books that I have found helpful and provide examples of mathematical tasks from Richmond classrooms. During each month, I will also tweet out related links, ideas, blog posts and photographs from classrooms.

For January, let’s consider what is numeracy?

This January, two of our secondary schools – Steveston-London and Burnett – had students take part in the managed implementation of the Graduation Numeracy Assessment. Other secondary schools in our district are considering both pedagogical and logistical details as they approach the first regular sitting of the assessment for students in June 2018. The Graduation Numeracy Assessment is a new graduation requirement for BC students along with a Graduation Literacy Assessment. Students currently in grades 10 and 11 will begin writing the assessment and have three opportunities to write the assessment to improve their proficiency mark if they choose to. The assessment is not linked directly to a mathematics course or grade and it is thus, the responsibility of all K-12 educators to nurture and develop numerate students. Just as literacy isn’t just about literature, numeracy is not just about numbers – numeracy is being able to apply all areas of mathematics to make sense of the world around you and solve problems relevant to you or others.

For the purposes of the assessment, the Ministry is defining numeracy as:

Numeracy is the ability, willingness, and perseverance to interpret and apply mathematical understanding to solve problems in contextualized situations, and to analyze and communicate these solutions in ways relevant to the given context. 

As students engage with numeracy tasks, they work through a sequence of five numeracy processes:  interpret, apply, solve, analyze and communicate.

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For a more detailed analysis of the concept of numeracy, Dr. Peter Liljedahl and Minnie Liu, share their ideas in an article in Vector, the BCAMT journal: Vector Summer 2013 – Numeracy, pages 34 -39

The following information about the Graduation Numeracy Assessment is available online on the Ministry’s curriculum website:

Graduation Numeracy Assessment Design Specifications 2017

Link to online Graduation Numeracy Assessment sample assessment

Graduation Numeracy Assessment – information for parents

GNA student-choice questions scoring guide and exemplars

Pre-assessment collaborative learning videos

I highly recommend that all BC educators try the sample assessment available online (linked above) to get a sense of the types of questions we can all be using with our students, regardless of grade or course. Last Friday, on a professional development day, the whole Richmond Secondary School staff worked in groups to collaborate on some of the sample assessment questions and to consider how to embed opportunities for numeracy in their courses.

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Looking forward to continuing the conversation around numeracy and what it means to be numerate.



TWOKAM Day 2017

Posted on: May 30th, 2017 by jnovakowski

This year, the Richmond School District held several events to promote Talk With Our Kids About Money Day on April 19. TWOKAM is an initiative coordinated by the Canadian Federation for Economic Education and is endorsed by the Richmond School District’s Board of Trustees.

More information about TWOKAM can be found on the CFEE website HERE

On March 28 we hosted an evening event for parents from across Richmond Schools at Cook Elementary. This event was facilitated by Tracy Weeks, the BC regional coordinator for CFEE and Jonathan Ho, a Richmond School Board Trustee. The event was well-attended and parents received some resources to support them in talking to their children about financial literacy. They engaged in some financial literacy tasks themselves!

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On March 30, we hosted an after school session for intermediate and secondary teachers. I shared the BC Mathematical K-9 curricular components regarding financial literacy. Rebeca Rubio shared some of the new financial literacy resources available through the DRC and then Tracy Weeks shared the CFEE TWOKAM resources with teachers.

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On April 1st, Tracy Weeks continued to share information about financial literacy with parents at our district’s Learning and The Brain conference.


On TWOKAM day, we hosted an evening event for students and their parents at Hugh Boyd Secondary. Speakers Tung Chan and Paul Lermitte inspired important conversations about financial literacy and the role parents play in supporting their children’s understanding of this important concept.

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We are looking forward to continuing to increase awareness of TWOKAM day in our district and create opportunities for our students to engage in developing financial literacy in our schools.


sharing the mathematics curriculum with parents

Posted on: January 27th, 2016 by jnovakowski

There is much interest from parents in our community about two things: 1) what is the math curriculum in BC and 2) how do we help our children be successful in mathematics. Understanding the goals, big idea and “content” of the curriculum is essential for parents understanding how to support their children. Foundational goals of the math curriculum are problem solving, computational fluency and communicating mathematical thinking.

In January, I have presented to parents about mathematics in four different contexts – at a parent information evening at Quilchena Elementary, for a group of new immigrant parents and grandparents with my presentation translated by one of Richmond’s Settlement Worker in Schools (SWIS), at the District’s annual Learning and the Brain conference and at Byng Elementary’s Family Math Night.

When I do an information night at a school, I share specific examples from classrooms in the school. I have to have spent some time with the students and the staff to be able to speak a bit about the experiences the students are having. I always remind parents that the curriculum is enacted in different ways and that they should speak directly to their child’s classroom teacher if they have any questions. When I presented at Quilchena last week, most of the staff also attended and there was a very large turnout of parents. I had worked in the intermediate classrooms two years ago looking at alternate ways of assessing mathematical understanding and last year I worked in the primary classrooms around developing number sense, particularly through number talks. This year I was also fortunate to attend the school’s fall farmers’ market which was a great example of an authentic mathematical experience for students, building on the financial literacy component of the math curriculum.

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At the presentation at the Thompson Community Centre for new immigrant parents, the parents graciously listened to my presentation, waiting for the translation from Lily, one of our SWIS workers. They enjoyed playing along and thinking of different ways to solve math questions. They had genuine questions as they try to figure out the differences between how math was experienced for them before coming to Canada.

At Learning and the Brain, I presented two sessions for parents, also attended by some teachers. We looked at the foundational aspects of the current and “new” curriculum as well as many examples from Richmond classrooms along with ways to support children’s mathematical thinking.

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On Tuesday evening, Byng Elementary hosted a Family Math Night, part of a three journey focusing on their school goal of developing computational fluency. I have spent a lot of time in Byng classrooms, with teachers on pro-d days and last year at a parent information evening to develop an understanding of mathematics and how to nurture fluency and flexibility in mathematical thinking. I shared a brief overview of the curriculum and how fluency in reading can be compared to fluency in doing mathematics – being able to write the answers for a series of questions (like being able to “read” the words on a page) doesn’t necessarily mean you are actually doing math (or reading). There needs to be thinking and understanding (comprehension) involved in order to be fluent – to be literate and numerate. We talked about the importance of “practice” in becoming fluent and the students enjoyed playing all sorts of math games with their parents for the rest of the evening. The staff put together a great handout of games that the families could take home and the school’s vice-principal read the students some “Bedtime Math” stories.

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The staff put up a comments and questions “chalkboard” in the gym and the comments at the end of the night reflected such a positive attitude towards math.


A brochure created by the BC Association of Mathematics Teachers helps explains the importance of how learning basic facts and being computationally fluent to parents and the broader community. You can find it here:

BCAMT Basic Facts Brochure 

Very similar questions often emerge when I am discussing mathematics education with parents – it is okay to send them to Kumon? (I ask consider parents to think about why they are sending them and remind them that arithmatic/calculations are just one part of a much larger mathematics curriculum) how come you don’t teach the old way of doing things? (many teachers teach traditional algorithms alongside more conceptually-focused methods and strategies, we honour what students know and bring to the classroom but also recognize the importance of students having a wide repertoire of strategies and methods to draw upon and that having a repertoire of strategies actually represents a deeper level of understanding of number; international research has also shown us that students that are just memorizers of facts and procedures are the least successful in mathematics) how come students don’t get more math homework? (teachers are not required to assign homework, when homework is given, it should be meaningful practice based on content that students have already learned; there is scarce research evidence to support the effectiveness of homework on student achievement) how can I learn math the way my kids are? (attend parent information events at your child’s school or within our district, read the BCAMT brochure mentioned above, talk to your child’s teachers, read the district math and science blog; many of our elementary schools have mental math strategy posters up in their classrooms – have a look!)

Teachers and parents need to work together to support our children’s thinking and learning – it takes a village!


Montessori mathematics

Posted on: April 25th, 2015 by jnovakowski

Earlier this month I met with two intermediate Montessori teachers from each of our three elementary schools with Montessori programs. We discussed issues related to the redesigned mathematics as they pertain to teaching with the Montessori philosophy and materials.

Coincidentally, later that week the teachers at McKinney were hosting a Montessori math night for parents from all three schools. Fortunately, I was able to attend. Two of the teachers provided an overview to parents and then we were able to see all the specialized Montessori mathematics materials. They were presented on tables filling up the school gym and students from the school were at each table doing demos and explaining how to use the materials and what math concepts were being developed.





Here is a short Animoto video with some of the students explaining the materials. LINK HERE.


Learning and the Brain 2015: Supporting Your Child’s Mathematical Thinking

Posted on: January 26th, 2015 by jnovakowski

On Saturday, January 24th I presented a session to about seventy parents at our district’s annual Learning and the Brain conference. I shared information about our BC mathematics curriculum which is publicly accessible to all and is legally mandated for teachers to teach and assess. Many of the parents didn’t realize that the curriculum was actually required and consistent across BC.

Current K-7 Mathematics Curriculum (2007)

Redesigned K-9 Mathematics Framework (draft)

I shared how the curriculum may be enacted in classrooms, with examples from our Richmond classrooms, emphasizing the autonomy teachers have to implement the curriculum in their classrooms. We discussed, and the parents had lots of good questions about the curriculum’s focus on problem-solving, computational fluency and communication of mathematical thinking. We clarified what problem-solving is (not necessarily “traditional word problems”) in that problems might be open-ended and have multiple possible answers (ie. How many ways can you make 72?)  or have multiple ways of coming to a solution. Computational fluency was compared to reading fluency – reading is not just being able to read a list of words, it is creating meaning and understanding the text that is being read. And in mathematics, being computationally fluent does not mean you can answer questions accurately and quickly but that you can work flexibly and fluently with numbers and understand what you are doing. We discussed that we know that students who are able to solve a question such as 48 + 37 in many ways (using number-based strategies) have a greater depth in understanding of both number and operations than a student who relies on one memorized algorithm. The parents who attended this session were very curious about the strategies their students are learning at school, as these were not “thinking” strategies that they had learned during their schooling.

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I also provided some suggestions for ways parents could support their students’ mathematical thinking at home.

Ways to think and talk about math at home:

  • ž Talk about math being useful and enjoyable
  • ž Explain how you use math in your daily life
  • ž Emphasize that computation is just one small part of what mathematics is
  • ž Play math-focused games as a family – Chess, Checkers, Backgammon, Scrabble, Monopoly, Cribbage, card games
  • Highlight how math is used to communicate and make information meaningful – weather, graphs in the newspaper, sports statistics

If your child has math homework…

  • ž Have a basket of tools your child might need, appropriate for the age level (counters, ruler, eraser, calculator, graph paper)
  • ž If you and your child are unsure about the math or the homework, please make sure to ask your child’s teacher
  • ž Interactive Math Glossary

ž Questions and prompts to support your child…

  • —  What do you need to do to get started?
  • —  Have you done a question/problem like this before?
  • —  How is the question/problem like something you have done before? What could you use from that to help you with this?
  • —  Is there another way you could do this?
  • —  What could help you with this? Is there information you need? Where could we find it? Is there a tool you need?
  • Does this make sense to you? Could you explain it to someone else?

As a parent myself, I know that all parents want their children to be successful at school and want to support their children the best they can. This session reminded me of how important the teacher-parent relationship is, as we work together to support student learning.