A number of years ago when I arrived at St. Paul, we were looking at the EQAO data as a way of thinking about our school improvement plan and where we wanted to move in numeracy. It was very evident when we looked at the data that our students were struggling in the area of communicating their math thinking. So we determined at that time that it was a perfect opportunity to work with our teachers in the elementary panel to bring our Grade 7 and 8 teachers to our school to work with our Grade 9 teachers to devise a plan where we could methodically take them from where they were in Grade 6 to the end of Grade 9 and help them to improve their ability to communicate their math thinking. So, specifically, we call this project “bridging the gap,” and we had a look at the EQAO questions, which were already available to us, and then we had our teachers in Grade 7, 8 and 9, all around the table, look at how to modify the questions that were available through EQAO to represent the skill level that would be required to be successful at the Grade 7 level and at the Grade 8 level, at the Grade 9 locally developed, applied and academic levels. And then the teachers took those questions back to their classroom; we did some co-teaching; we came back to the table; we did moderated marking of those questions, and we focused our moderated marking on whether or not the students were successful in communicating their thinking as they went through the question. This was a very successful project. Thankfully other schools in our board also took our lead on that—how we ended up being blessed with having the opportunity to work with a math coach, and our math teacher who had initiated this project took on that role, and we’re very proud of that. We wanted to continue to move that forward. We’re very blessed to have become, in the meantime, a Grade 7 through 12 school. So the opportunity to work with our Grade 7, 8, 9 teachers together is a daily occurrence, and it has been working very smoothly, so, of course, it’s time to up the ante, and we then move that forward to how can we show students that what they’re learning in Grade 7, they will still be continuing to expand on straight through and including Grade 12. And so, for example, we set up a bulletin board in the fall, where all of the students in our school at every grade and every level of study did a proportional reasoning question, which actually looked similar, however, expanded obviously in its intricacy. And the results of those questions were then put on the bulletin board for all students to do a walk-through to be able to see “here’s where I am in Grade 7. Wow, isn’t that neat—the questions are very similar in Grade 12, but look what they’re able to do and the math that they use.” But I think that also gave the students an opportunity to feel if they have been successful in the question at their grade level, there is a very good likelihood—and there is a very good likelihood—that they will be successful as they move forward straight through to Grade 12 mathematics.
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