New Mathematics Approach

Spiraling Mathematics
Posted on 09/11/2018

Spiraling the Mathematics Curriculum

Most of our community will be familiar with the five strands of Mathematics in the Ontario curriculum: Number Sense and Numeration, Geometry, Measurement, Data Management and Probability, and Pattering and Algebra. In each grade, teachers present the expectations for each of the strands over the course of the year. Typically, an individual strand is taught as a unit for a period of 3-6 weeks and then that unit is assessed. For example, for Term 1 of the measurement strand, the teacher might present a unit about linear measurement. Then in Term 2 of that strand, the teacher might present a unit about measuring volume, or telling time. In another example, for the strand Data Management and Probability, in Term 1 the teacher might present a unit on reading and constructing graphs, while the Term 2 focus might be on probability. The discrete skills for a specific unit might not be taught, practised, and assessed again until the next grade.

This year, a number of our mathematics teachers will be exploring spiraling, a different approach to organizing the expectations from the Mathematics curriculum. In spiraling, related learning expectations drawn from 2-3 different strands are covered over a period of 4-10 days, and then those expectations are assessed. Expectations from these 2-3 strands will be revisited several times throughout the term and throughout the year, each time drawing on the knowledge and skills presented previously, while moving into more challenging expectations and to deeper, more complex understandings. The strand Number Sense and Numeration has always stood out in its volume and importance to strong numeracy skills. In spiraling, the expectations from this strand will be combined with expectations from other strands in a more deliberate way.

The Ontario Mathematics Curriculum states: When developing their mathematics program and units of study from this document, teachers are expected to weave together related expectations from different strands, as well as the relevant mathematical process expectations, in order to create an over- all program that integrates and balances concept development, skill acquisition, the use of processes, and applications. (pg. 7)

This approach will generate some changes in the ways that we document student progress and the ways that we assess learning. The use of photographs of student work and video or audio recordings of student explanations are anticipated. On Thinkback Thursdays, students will be presented with in-class tasks which require the use of skills and learning from the previous week.

The benefits which we hope to see from using this new organization of the expectations include:

• Repeated and more frequent exposure to and increased practice of math skills over the course of the year, reducing the lag between grades and reducing the potential for learning to be lost over time

• Better integration of skills across strands to provide an authentic context for the learning and for use of math concepts

• An on-going focus on and use of Numeration skills

• More consistent progression from surface learning to deep learning

• Better student recognition of the links between different concepts in math

For more information about the research behind this approach and how it works, you are encouraged to view the following Kyle Pearce video:

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