Our primary purpose is to inform public debate about mathematics education. York University mathematics education researchers and an elementary school from a predominantly English-speaking community are interested in addressing parental/guardian concerns about declining test scores. Our partnership intends to achieve this goal by investigating how students can learn to communicate their mathematical thinking in written forms. Our objective is to produce research outputs (tangible evidence) that can be used to convince parents that innovative mathematics teaching does enhance learning.
A close look at student performance on provincial tests indicates that students are doing least well on open-ended math problems that are not focused on demonstrating memorized facts but ask students to communicate their thinking in written forms. Combining literature concerning effective teaching in problem solving classrooms and peer assessment leads us to investigate the strategy of having students engage with one another's written work.
There are challenges to this work, as the literature on supporting students to articulate their mathematical reasoning in written forms is sparse and there is great concern that researchers tend to make recommendations that are not useable in mathematics classrooms. This work will require a collaborative partnership between researchers and teachers to cultivate a relationship where both partners contribute to research informed classroom practices.
Guiding the research is the core question: How can having students engage with another's written mathematical work be implemented in classrooms and how does it enhance the teaching and learning of mathematics?
To answer this question, we will achieve three objectives:
- to cultivate a collaborative partnership;
- to investigate the strategy of having students engaging with one another's written work and discuss teaching and learning in terms of provincial test results and the criteria of clearly communicated written forms of mathematical thinking; and
- to identify key suggestions that teachers must enact to ensure the strategy is useable in classrooms.
To cultivate a collaborative partnership, two researchers, a principal, and two teachers will co-plan and co-teach weekly lessons where: i) students will engage in a mathematical problem and be asked to clearly communicate their mathematical thinking in written forms, ii) teachers and researchers will analyze and select students' responses that highlight important criteria about how to clearly communicate mathematical thinking in writing. Specifically, the selected work will be examples and non-examples of clearly communicated mathematical thinking, iii) responses will be photocopied and distributed, and iv) students will compare, analyze, critique, and revise the selected student responses. It is anticipated that students can use ideas from the exemplars to revise non-examples and their own work.
This work will draw on the expertise of the entire team. Teachers will assume intellectual leadership by using their pedagogical expertise to identify helpful tips to ensure effective implementation. Researchers will produce evidence that the strategy does impact learning. The school and researchers will each have a role to play in sharing, using, and promoting the results. For example, short videos will be housed on the school's website and York University's website that outline our results. The research findings will act as outputs that team members will use to convince parents that their teaching does influence learning (as reflected in test scores and beyond).