Mathematics Leadership Learning in Ontario

by Dragana Martinovic


Excerpts from selected workshops and PD meetings

In the first year of the Mathematics Leadership Community of Practice existence, our member networks encompassed North East (MLN), North West (NWML2N), and Central Ontario (ML2N). In this blog, we report from some meetings organized from April to October 2017.

MLN April 2017 meeting

This meeting presented the start of the Phase 2 of the MLN work. The learning goals for this three-day face-to-face session held in Sudbury were:

  1. Continue to ‘construct’ and build relationships, within and beyond the leadership network.
  2. Understand and be able to implement the conditions necessary for monitoring our actions.
  3. Deepen understanding of the relationship between content and pedagogy, with a lens on multiplication and division.
  4. Consider how Hattie’s research informs our thinking and planning.
  5. Make connections between all the facets of learning in the MLN–the interconnectedness of everything we are learning and doing.

The sessions included Connie Quadrini, Student Achievement Officer, who talked about: (a) specialized and horizon content knowledge (using Deborah Ball’s framework for Mathematics Knowledge for Teaching) and (b) supporting curriculum connections for students (see a depiction of multiplication across the grades). Connie provided a focus on students with learning disabilities, a topic of particular interest for the MLN educators.

The MLN participants reflected on the question: “How might your learning from today further support students with learning disabilities, in mathematics within your board/school?” and  also worked on connecting student thinking to the Lawson Continuum.

The educators worked on the balance of surface, deep, and transfer learning, emphasizing the need to attend to all three, where (surface – how) –may require direct instruction, thinking (deep – why) – requires talk, and constructing (transfer – apply) – requires reflection. Surface may have negative connotation; most teaching is surface. “Too often learning ends at the surface level. But the challenge is this: we can’t over-correct in the other direction, bypassing the foundational knowledge in favour of critical and analytic thinking” (Hattie, 2012, p.131). The MLN facilitators’ team also introduced aspects of the whole school inquiry, which will be a main monitoring tool in the next two Phases.

Timeline for MLN’s Phase 2 Activities

  • April MLN: An overview of Whole School Assessment Approach: Connecting Assessment, Responding, and Monitoring
  • In-between April and July MLN: Board teams determine context for learning:
    • What mathematics will we monitor (a big idea that spans the grades)?
    • Which learners will we monitor (a school or division)?
    • Which educators will we approach to co-learn through this process?
    • What resources do we have (need) to support the development of the assessment?
  • Mid-May: Schedule virtual meeting with field team to discuss plan.
  • Mid-June: Share content focus with Field Team.
  • July MLN: Collaboratively develop and/or refine assessment tool to be used for monitoring in each board.
  • In between July and September MLN: Implement the assessment in first few weeks of September.
  • September MLN: Collaborative analysis of assessment data; consider next steps in implementation process.
  • In between September and December MLN: Implement and monitor; post-assessment.
  • This process will continue through MLN phase three.

MLN’s Not a Book Study: Open Online Professional Learning

The MLN team also spearheaded this open online professional learning opportunity focused on Dr. Cathy Fosnot’s work specific to multiplication and division. More than 500 educators across Ontario registered. .Beginning on April 10, they were able to interact, network and share thinking with other educators on various open online platforms. Through VoicED Radio, Dr. Fosnot has weekly guided this learning.

432 Tweets were posted on the #notabookstudy Twitter account. 105,707 accounts were reached, which presents an admirable size for audience involved in a Not a Book Study conversation. A total of 266,873 views of a Not a Book Study conversation were recorded. The MLN team conducted a survey asking educators who participated in the Not a Book Study professional learning to provide their feedback. This is what they responded:

Scaling it up! Cathy Fosnot in North Bay

In continuation with previous work, in October, Cathy Fosnot visited the North Ontario region. First, for several days, she worked with individual boards, then she ran a 2-day Leadership Institute in North Bay, and concluded this working visit, with a NOMA event. The Leadership Institute was supported by the Mathematics Leadership Community of Practice. It was attended by 100 educators in leadership positions, including 20 Ministry staff. Three educators from the GECDSB (one Consultant and two Principals) also attended the Institute. Cathy said: “What is happening in Ontario is incredible!”

When talking about ways to support teachers in learning, how to assess the learning in the moment, and how to craft an assessment, she said: “We found that teachers focus on pedagogy, not on mathematics.” The NOMA event had 85 participants. This professional learning for teachers was organized in support of efficient computation, sense-making, and a strong understanding of number and operation.

The MLN has just started its Third Phase. More reports to follow!

The ML2N supports all educators in the Barrie region to:

  • improve leadership content knowledge in mathematics (knowledge/skills)
  • know what strong instruction looks like in mathematics (awareness)
  • encourage strong instruction when it is not evident (behavior/action)
  • create a culture of learning (social & emotional conditions)
  • facilitate effective collaborative inquiry (behavior, action, decision-making)

First day of the July meeting was dedicated to mathematics knowledge for teaching and leading, and monitoring for impact. On the second day, Moses Velasco (Education Officer), gave a session on the professional inquiry. Moses touched the following themes:

  • Why inquiry as an approach to professional learning?
  • What constitutes a leadership inquiry?
  • How might a leadership inquiry be monitored?
  • How can we begin developing a leadership inquiry?

Moses said: “Professional learning demands that teachers think critically about their practices and figure out what needs to change to benefit their students’ learning. Professional development always hoped and strived for instructional change but professional learning ensures and plans for change.” He used an example from a three-level inquiry at HPEDSB, where one person’s “if” became another person’s “then.” See how Debbie Donsky visualized this session and one of the slides from Moses’ session:

Scaling it up! Marian Small in Thunder Bay

On October 18 2017, the two leadership networks connected through Skype to share learning. Dr. Marian Small spent two days with NWML2N in Thunder Bay and during the first day session, the ML2N educators participated online (see pictures below). Marian Small talked about leadership in elementary mathematics. She said about leadership: “You cannot delegate this if you are a principal or school leader. You must get in there….You must make a math change a singular focus and a very visible focus.”

Scaling it up! Alex Lawson in Toronto

In September and October, Dr. Lawson facilitated sessions for the leadership networks’ teams. She talked about learning trajectories in relation to mathematical operations. The educators participated in discussions, solved mathematics problems, and watched videos that demonstrated mathematical development of Gr. 1 – 5 children. See what strategies different groups of educators suggested for children to solve 5+7 = ?, if they do not know it as a fact:

The image on the right presents different strategies from the continuum when solving 6+8=?. What can teachers do to help children move along the continuum? “A lot!” says Lawson, “We can introduce mathematical models that help children to construct mathematical understanding.” The premise of her talks was that “Just memorizing the [mathematical] facts is no longer enough and it never was.”


This blog post was written by Dr. Dragana Martinovic, co-Lead of the Mathematics Leadership CoP and Professor of Mathematics Education at the University of Windsor. 

MKN November 2017 Updates

Want to know what we’ve been up to? Read the updates below to learn about network growth, resources, upcoming sharing, and our Communities of Practice in Year 2!

Network Growth

We have grown to include over 14 school districts, 15 universities, and 16 organizations!

MKN Website & TeachOntario

  • Explore our website, sign up for our mailing list, and follow us on Twitter @mknrcm to stay up-to-date on network activities and resources.
  • The MKN Hub is now live at TeachOntario.ca! Share & engage with Ontario teachers (and beyond!) through our online discussion groups.

Upcoming Sharing

  • KNAER Cross-Network Meeting (Nov 30): MKN will attend & learn/share with other KNAER networks.
  • MKN CoP Lead Meeting (Jan 26): CoPs will meet to discuss Year 2 progress, share artifacts, and discuss next steps.
  • Ontario Education Research Symposium (Feb/Mar TBD): potential joint-presentation with all KNAER networks, including the MKN.
  • MKN Advisory Panel Meeting (Apr 17): Opportunity for MKN partners to come together to discuss network updates and future plans.
  • OAME Math Conference (May 3-4): CoP members will present their work.

Find more details on our events page.

Communities of Practice

Our four CoPs completed their Year 1 activities and have created and shared various resources such as research minis, documentaries, lesson plans, literature reviews, and more.

CoP leads met on October 24, 2017 to share their work from Year 1, discuss future plans, and find cross-CoP connections. Attendees represented all 4 CoPs, the MKN Executive, TVO, KNAER, and the Ministry of Education. CoP leads will meet again in January 2018 to report on progress, share artifacts, and discuss next steps.

CoPs in Year 2 (Sept 2017 – Aug 2018)

Computational Thinking in Mathematics Education

  • Wellington CDSB:
    • Elementary: Leadership Projects.
    • Secondary: Gr 10 Math + Comp. Sci. Cohorts.
  • Andrews PS + Rainy River DSB collaboration.
  • Western Education: Refined Math + CT integration.
  • Brock/Niagara CDSB collaboration on CT in HS math.
  • Offer mathematics based activities for hour of code.

See mathnetwork.ca/ct for more information. You can find a more detailed Year 1 overview and plans for Year 2 here.

Critical Transitions in Student Mathematical Development

  • Early Years:
    • GECDSB Professional Development Day September 2017.
    • Scale-up Year 1 survey (~5000 educators).
    • Balanced Numeracy website development.
  • Gr 8-9 Transition workshops.
  • HS Math Enrichment Modules (Math9-12) – workshops, field testing with 9 teachers, 270 students, as well as a student survey.
  • Various OAME workshops. Stay tuned!

See mathnetwork.ca/transitions for more information. See their detailed Year 1 overview here.

Indigenous Knowledge & Mathematics Education

  • CoP meetings and sharing (e.g. FNMIEAO Educator Conference, IKME Conference in Fort Frances, OAME, OERS, etc.).
  • RMS Virtual Learning Series: Supporting Indigenous Learners in Mathematics with Ruth Beatty and Danielle Blair (IK CoP members)
  • Developing protocols for working with Indigenous communities, and developing a video resource.
  • Visiting school boards for co-learning sessions.

See mathnetwork.ca/indigenousknowledge for more information.

Mathematics Leadership

  • Ongoing meetings & events with CoP partners (e.g. Leadership Institute in North Bay with Cathy Fosnot, GECDSB Mathematics Symposium, and many other MLN, ML2N, and NWML2N events).
  • Blogging, podcasts, and Twitter chats via @TheMathPod – a collaborative learning space for educators who want to learn more about mathematics.
  • GECDSB: Mobilizing lead-learners to build depth and spread by developing the expertise of all educators.

See mathnetwork.ca/math-leadership for more information.

View this post as a 2-page summary!

Coding For All – Wellington Catholic DSB Math + Computational Thinking Project

By Jeff Cummings, Wellington Catholic District School Board

Two years ago, the Wellington Catholic District School Board began an exciting and innovative journey with Dr. George Gadanidis in Technology Enabled Learning as we attempted to redefine the classroom experience to include engagement tasks in Computational Thinking.  The focus of our district journey was in Innovation in Grade 3 and 4 classrooms with an emphasis on increasing student engagement. We quickly progressed to developing a vision of a learning journey where students could travel a path in our schools learning Coding embedded in the Math Curriculum.

The work is quickly evolving to address 21st Century competencies with a significant focus on modernizing learning environments to be responsive to student needs, and to emphasize Mathematics tasks that instill a vision of the learner that can achieve a high ceiling if engaged through this dynamic way of modelling and solving Mathematical questions. Learning tasks not only promote Math and Computational Skills but also promote inclusion, and equity.

This year our learning journey continues to evolve as we work to create a path of learning throughout our system where students are exposed to dynamic Mathematical challenges in coding environments. Our first project is an Elementary Leadership Project in Math and Computational Thinking which focuses on expansion of our program by mentoring leader teachers, who are challenged to empower other teachers in our system to integrate coding in Math activities. This year’s project will support four Digital Mentors in developing fluency in modelling effective computational skill through integration with the Math curriculum.  Digital mentors will learn how to utilize strategies to mobilize knowledge and share through a collaborative fashion intensively at school sites and through other professional learning opportunities created with support from Technology Enabled Learning program.

While we were excited with the pathway we were creating for students in this innovative learning strategy, we wanted to provide a unique destination for the end of learning journey to provide students increased opportunities and access to the high priority technological skills of the modern global society. Using a Universal Design for Learning, we developed the Grade 10 Math & Coding Double Credit Program. This program created a learning environment that de-streamed learners and opened the door to all abilities. The focus of the 2017-18 Grade 10 Math & Coding double credit program was to work with teachers to develop innovative ways to identify and deliver big ideas in Grade 10 Mathematics and Computer Science (ICS2O) using engaging Computer Science programs such as Scratch and Python to model mathematical concepts and solve problems. The course took an interdisciplinary approach to instructional design by delivering integrated content to combine expectations and create extra time for students to focus on development of “Passion Projects” where they are challenged to identify a problem that requires a solution using computational science skills. Personal projects are the focus of innovation in this course, creating “Moonshot Ideas” where students can work through a project that they plan, create, research, and solve with the teacher facilitating. A major focus of the project is re-conceptualizing the learning environment to integrate principles of equity, inclusion and empowerment of marginalized learners to engage students with challenging and achievable tasks.

It is our hope that the learning journey will increase student interest in Computer Science courses in Grade 11 and 12 which will provide learners skillsets, unique abilities, and strengths that maximize their potential to be successful in postsecondary education and the workforce.  Wellington Catholic District School Board will continue to find innovative ways to deliver Coding and foster Computational Skills in our students.

This blog was written by Jeff Cummings, ELearning Coordinator at Wellington Catholic DSB, and member of our Computational Thinking Community of Practice


Check out the 2016-2017 Project Overview of the Wellington Catholic DSB’s work in this video!

Follow along with their work on Twitter @Grade10CODING, #WEcode, and @MrJCummings.

RMS Virtual Learning Series: Supporting Indigenous Learners, in Mathematics

As part of the RMS Virtual Learning Series, four sessions focused on Supporting Indigenous Learners, in Mathematics will be offered from 1-3 p.m. on October 5, November 9, December 7, 2017 & January 11, 2018.

Ruth Beatty (Lakehead University) and Danielle Blair (on assignment with Ministry of Education) created and are facilitating these sessions which are based on their six years of research and, more specifically, the last five with Pikwakanagan First Nation, The Algonquin Way Cultural Centre, Omamiwinini Pimadjwowin, and Eganville and District Public School. Ruth and Danielle are both Indigenous Knowledge CoP members, and are happy to share their work via link to these sessions on the RMS Learning Exchange, which those interested can register for.

You can register for these sessions here. Details on the Supporting Indigenous Learners, in Mathematics sessions can be found in this PDF.

Be sure to also check out the variety of other sessions taking place during the Fall RMS Virtual Learning Series! You can find all session descriptions, resources, and recordings here.
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