Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Session 5: Gap Closing Strategies in Mathematics

I'll admit I was skeptical going into this. However, there's a lot to like about this program and there are definitely a few good lessons here.

Main idea: Ontario Ministry of Ed created an intervention program for 6th grade students. It had great results for the students but also led to sustainable change in teaching.

Things I found interesting, but not necessarily that I agree with. My quick thoughts are in italics:

They shared everything (way to go Canada!) and so I won't waste your time describing the specifics of the program.  As an overview, teachers identified kids who were struggling in math. The Ministry sent over binders for each student. It was up to the teacher whether to use this as pull-out, after school, or in class.

There's a lot I like about the program. They had a diagnostic table (If student missed number 1, then they should...). It focused on open ended questions, metacognition, and generating visual representations. Students didn't have to do the modules they understood. Download a couple of them. I'm betting you could steal a few of those ideas even if you don't teach math.

Using a pre/post test model the kids in the program completely eliminated the gap between them and the kids not in the program. The gender gap disappeared as well.

In interviews with students, they requested(!!!) more practice. The Ministry obliged and created e-modules.

Now here's the part I really like:

After talking to the teachers, the Ministry found that the teachers were changing their own practices after observing both the students' enthusiasm and seeing the results.

I heart this so much. I didn't ask, but I feel like this was intentional. At least, I feel like the ministry had hopes that this would happen. I fully support this kind of subversive change.

They also found this weird trend. It turned out that teachers who were just told to do the program by their principals, as opposed to opting in, were more supportive of the program. They felt they had more support.

Takeaway: I like how Ontario approached this. First, they didn't try to attack some broad nebulous goal. Something, oh I don't know, I'll just pick something random like, "All 8th graders in California must take Algebra 1." Each module is very specific and targeted. They deliberately set out to model good teaching practices. They also deliberately did something different. I don't know about your programs, but whenever we get some sort of targeted intervention curriculum at my school it looks exactly the same, but more. Oh, you didn't get how to divide fractions after 30 problems? Here's 50 more! I'm dangerously close to turning this into a 1500 word rant so I'm going to end here.


  1. This brings a tear to my eye and hope to my heart. I may have to learn the words to "Oh, Canada!"

    - Elizabeth (aka @cheesemonkeysf on Twitter)

  2. Huh. Organizational change that respects teachers and students, and results in buy-in from both? I'm filing this away for future subversive activity...