Hesitation. Nervousness. Anxiety. Not exactly the emotions that foster a strong learning environment, but for many students these are unfortunately a first response when presented with new math problems.
To counter this, staff at Monterey Park School set out to create a new learning environment that inspires mathematical confidence in students and encourages them to explore solutions through trial and error with their peers. The only thing missing to make their idea a reality was funding, so they approached EducationMatters and, thanks to our amazing donors, the project was a go!
Math is a key pillar of the provincial curriculum, and staff at Monterey Park were determined to enhance their existing math teaching by developing new systems that allow students to explore math in a collaborative and visual environment.
It all began in 2017 when the school committed to designing classrooms that maximized opportunities for students to work together, fostered rich task design, and supported students with additional math literature, learning tools, and visual aids.
In 2018, after an in-depth analysis of the resources currently available in the school, the teaching staff worked with Calgary Board of Education system specialists to develop a list of learning resources that would have the largest impact on the ways students experience math concepts.
Then, with EducationMatters donor support, the school purchased resources such as portable whiteboards that allow students to map out answers in small groups, as well as math manipulatives such as dice, math cards, fraction games, multiplication tools, moveable number boards, and abacuses, among other tools.
These tools, combined with dedication from the teaching staff at Monterey Park to encourage opportunities for collaborative math learning, have made a real impact on math success for students in the school. Just look at the numbers:
- On the provincial achievement test, Monterey Park School saw 10% more students score in the excellent range the year the program was launched, compared to years prior;
- The number of students scoring in the acceptable range on the provincial achievement test improved nearly 8% compared to previous years;
- Nearly 94% of students in grades 4-6 at Monterey Park agree that when solving a new math problem they are confident in their ability to use strategies they have learned in the past.
While these numbers are impressive , and important, even more vital is the overall effect of the program on Monterey Park’s students. The goal of the program is to change the ways students feel about math by creating an environment that fosters confidence, and based on what they students themselves have to say, we think the results are pretty clear:
“I used to hate the whole subject of math, but then it became easier, ” says one student.
“It was helpful when others would share their answer and how they got it because I have learned so many new strategies from others.”
Another says “What was most helpful for me this year was getting to work with the manipulatives and working together with a friend when I needed to understand something.”
The learning has clearly been a success for students, but it doesn’t stop there.
As techniques to build confidence in math continue to evolve, the staff at Monterey Park are committed to learning and exploring new ideas. Through professional development and by sharing successes with other staff members and parent council representatives, Monterey Park is focused on building a positive environment for developing math confidence for years to come.
That’s something we can all feel excited about and proud to have provided the extra support to make it possible.