Aaah maths. It’s a challenge, isn’t it? First of all, you’re hard pressed to find a kid who likes it. I felt like I went through an eternity of talking to kids who reckon they aren’t good at maths.
Then there’s assessing it. Five dimensions?!?! Are you for real? They’re called what? Number? Yeah ok, fair enough. Space? As in outer? MC&D? Is that a techno group from the early 90s? Working mathematically? If I work with a pocket protector, does that count? Structure? I thought this was maths, not architecture....
Last year we did some good stuff at Castlemaine North in maths. Lots of heart-stirring, open-ended tasks that involved all sorts of learning styles and abilities, with some smashing ICT used to get kids to record it all.
There was only one problem.
Come report time, we struggled to match up where our kids were according to the progression points, based on their performance in these open-ended tasks. As great as these tasks were, they didn’t actually match to the VELS all that well.
In 2011, we’re taking a different approach. We’ve created a website that has all the progression points for maths from 2.0 to 5.0 (where all our cohort of Grade 5.6 students lie) and divided them up into the dimensions. All our kids know where they are for number, space, measurement chance and data, working mathematically and structure. So when they get to our site, they click on ‘maths’ and they see this...
We focus on one dimension for a week, and I try as much as possible to have the one task for all the kids, and they do the task according to the VELS level they are at. Here’s this week’s example. We’re doing space this week, and we’re focussing on mapping skills : coordinates, scales, compass directions and the like. Firstly, we looked at the progression points and identified the different skills a student at each level would display. Then we came up with a task that kids of all abilities could do. Here’s the open-ended task:
And here’s what kids have to do with it at level 3.0 for space:
And what they do at level 3.25:
And level 3.75 (there are no mapping skills listed for 3.5):
And level 4.0 and 4.25:
So with one task, students can complete the tasks to whichever level they feel capable of, but in a first for us, they can do it aligned to the VELS progression points. So I can put my hand on my heart and say “John Smith is at level 3.75 for space – and here’s the evidence”.
Slowly, we are building up ICT-rich tasks to populate our site with. We hope after a year we have a collection of tasks that are aligned with the progression points and are open-ended.
Is it hard work? You bet. Is it worth it? The feedback from kids has been tremendous. Every kid does a maths tasks that is tailored to their learning goals and abilities. They’re more engaged and motivated. And they love maths. Can’t argue with that, surely.
(This weeks’ blog post title comes from Fresh Body Shop’s new album, Bring Me Down, available for free download from Jamendo. Go get it!)