December Update from the Mathematics Leadership CoP

December 2018

We report from three events in which our partners and members participated since the start of the new school year:

  1. OAME Leadership Conference, organized on Nov 8-9, 2018, at St. Clair Centre for the Arts, in Windsor, ON
  2. JUMP Math and Western University conference, organized on November 17-18, 2018, at Western University, London, ON.
  3. Ministry of Education professional learning virtual meetings, organized for math facilitators (half day) and school board leaders (half-day) on Nov. 22nd and Dec. 6th, 2018.
  1. OAME Leadership Conference 2018, Learning in the 21st Century, was dedicated to models of professional learning that go beyond face-to-face options. The keynote speakers—Dan Meyer, Cathy Fosnot, and Graham Fletcher—and invited speakers talked about online communities of mathematics educators, as well as the individual and group-learning tools and resources.
Cathy Fosnot in conversation with the conference participants. You can access Cathy’s slides by clicking on the image above.
Dan Meyer and David Petro in conversation.

The conference had 348 attendees. After the closing some of them wrote to the organizers: “Great organization and communications from Dave throughout. Choice of presenters was superb (only one session so so). Food was amazing and post conference communication also top notch. Well done and thank you!” and “This was so useful, relevant and entertaining. I liked it more than the big May conference as it was directed to math leaders which made it more relevant for me in my current position. I would like to see more of this type of focus.”

Kathy Fosnot and Graham Fletcher in conversation.

The ML CoP conducted two 70-min sessions titled, “Increasing mathematics leadership in Ontario: Leveraging (online) communities and resources,” with the following presenters and themes:

  • Kathy Witherow (TDSB and ML2N): How to improve EY-12 mathematics outcomes by bringing mathematics learning leaders together?
  • Lori Higgins and Kathy Prince (ML2N): How to organize professional learning through combining face-to-face and online opportunities?
  • Yvette Lehman (Greater Essex County DSB): What have we learned about mobilizing math leaders to build the expertise of all?
  • Dragana Martinovic (University of Windsor and MKN): What is the Math Knowledge Network? How to benefit from the MKN communities of practice?

We talked in our sessions about mathematics leadership, and how it could be developed and extended through PLCs and networks. We described regional networks organized to support the Ministry mandate towards improving mathematics teaching and learning, and how can educators benefit from engaging in the growing community of mathematics leaders. We addressed a professional learning model in which the regional networks (such as ML2N) involve board superintendents, math facilitators, coaches, and principals in learning about mathematics—content, pedagogy, and leadership. Also, we talked about the whole-school professional learning options (such as at GECDSB), where the math learning leadership teams lead their schools toward improved mathematics understanding and skills.

The full house during the ML CoP session.
  1. The Art & Science of Math Education conference intended to spark a critical conversation about the social impact and cognitive science of mathematics education. The organizers invited educators, school administrators, researchers, and policy-makers to participate in the agenda designed to spur conversation, challenge status-quo thinking, and enable participants to share ideas across disciplinary boundaries.
John Mighton addressing attendees at JUMP Math: A balanced approach to numeracy skill-building and problem-solving professional development session.

An optional JUMP Math professional development day was held on November 18th for teachers and academic leaders eager to learn more about JUMP Math methodology, resources, and professional development. During the PD day, educators were first greeted by John Mighton (founder of JUMP Math and Officer of the Order of Canada), and then attended sessions that were organized by the grade levels: K-Grade 2, Grade 3-Grade 5, and Grade 6-Grade 8. In these sessions, participants learned about the Math Minds partnership and project (a partnership between researchers at the University of Calgary’s Werklund School of Education and JUMP Math), how to use JUMP Math teaching strategies and resources for particular grades, prep JUMP math lessons, integrate mental math activities, use extension and bonus questions, use digital lesson slides, and check for mastery.

  1. Ministry of Education professional learning sessions: Focusing on the fundamentals of math
  1. These virtual sessions, attended by both elementary and secondary school educators, started with a message from the Deputy Minister of Education, Nancy Naylor. The facilitators made clear that mastering math facts encompasses both understanding and recalling them using variety of strategies. While drill can increase speed, it is not sufficient to ensure understanding of mathematics. Both groups used the resources available on the Ministry web site, Focusing on the Fundamentals of Math: A Teacher’s Guide and A Parent’s Guide to the Fundamentals of Math: Grades 1 to 8.
  1. Sessions for leaders focused on (a) what leaders need to know (i.e., what strong instruction looks like, how to encourage it when it is not evident, and how to create a culture of learning; Stein & Nelson, 2003); (b) how to make connections to improvement plans (e.g., how to shift their work so that they ensure that students will achieve mastery of the mathematics fundamentals), and (c) how to participate in cross-board and regional sharing to support learning.
  1. Secondary school teachers were advised to work with elementary school partners to support student transition from Grade 8 to Grade 9. Their planning should take into account student readiness and make connections between new content and the concepts students have learned before.
  1. Sessions for math facilitators included going through the self- and team-learning modules, team reflections and sharing.
  1. While public consultations regarding the upcoming Grades 1-8 mathematics curriculum change are well under way, it is encouraging that Ontario has a remarkable collaborative culture between educators (e.g., reinforced through the existence of the regional mathematics learning leadership networks and the MKN). This will ensure that supports and resources continue to be developed and openly shared through future informal and formal professional learning sessions!

Modelling Civilization at St Andrews PS, TDSB: Coding, Making, Math

View this report in PDF here.

Report by Iain Brodie, December 2018

Over the years we have found out a lot of things about how children learn mathematics and more, but the one thing we have not consistently found is just what a child cannot learn in some way. Whether it is playing with and learning about infinity and limit, abstracting number patterns to find the nth term, or in our current case, modelling civilization mathematically with code, even our youngest students are capable of incredible feats of thinking and learning.

Ms. Silver’s grade 3 class at St. Andrews Public School are about to set out on a learning journey to understand how civilization works. They will be starting out by reading and exploring two wonderful books, Anno’s Magic Seeds and Weslandia. Ms. Silver states, “I am eager to participate in this learning path because exploring new and innovative methods or concepts to further inspire the teaching and learning in both my students and myself is a passion of mine. I thrive on seeing how creative, imaginative and intelligent the students are and enjoy the student led learning path.“

Some of the math and modelling activities that they are going to choose from are available at These activities are linked to both of the books they will have read. Importantly for the students, they will use the Use-Edit-Create cycle of learning to code to explore how to make mathematical models which will allow them to experiment with the parameters which affect a civilization’s growth and change.

Grade 3s are a curious and creative bunch, so giving them the opportunity to learn while innovating and creating in a maker space harnesses the best of what the students are able to do to learning how the iterative creative process works. Here they are going to be adapting some of the activities linked to Weslandia that are available at One of the activities that Ms. Silver is really excited about is a making activity where her students will adapt robots like Sphero to powering a vehicle or add-on that could help Wesley with his harvest.

As a final activity, the grade 3 students are going to be modelling their own civilization in a game-like setting using an idea from St. Andrews’ amazing librarian, Mr. Withrow. This role play simulation will allow the students to use all of the knowledge they have learned in order to make their civilization successful.

Asked why she would want to have her students learn this way, Ms. Silver says that part of the attraction to learning and teaching in this way is that she, loves “the unpredictability of teachable moments that arise and how we may anticipate a certain path but the students may take us to knowledge we didn’t even expect. I also enjoy integrating the curriculum to teach more productively and fluidly rather than teaching one subject isolated from another.”

This is shaping up to be an exciting, integrated unit of learning that will delight not only the students, but their teachers and parents, too.

Cast a Wide Net at St Andrews PS, TDSB: AI, robotics, coding, math, social studies

View this report in PDF here.

Report by Iain Brodie, December 2018

Sometimes, in order to learn about specific things, you have to approach it from many angles. This is what the grade sevens at St. Andrews Public School are about to do with artificial intelligence. Rather than approach it as a singular scientific subject, they are about to embark on a journey that will take in literature, communication, mathematics, coding, engineering, making, and most importantly – thinking.

Thinking as a skill is not specifically outlined in any of our curricula except as a category on an achievement chart or a process expectations, and even there it does not give nearly enough credit to the abilities of our children to think, to think critically. The grade sevens in Ms. Awara’s classroom are going to learn not only how to think critically, but in order to understand what artificial intelligence might be, they are going to have to think about thinking, as well as about some serious issues in our interconnected world.

During planning, Ms. Awara stressed that it was really important for her and her students to cast a wide net during learning engagements. “Doing so exposes the students to a widening horizon so that they can learn to make informed choices in and about their futures. It also gives them many chances to learn and practice collaborating, thinking critically, and problem solving through conducting an open inquiry with many “big, juicy questions” for the students to dive into.

Some of the materials they are going to be using include a graphic novel which will set the stage for the inquiry, online apps which will help the students to understand how programming works with Boolean algebra, logic gates and more (see They are also planning on exploring Vector, an AI robot so that they can experience the user side of working with an AI.

Our future is wide open, and there are so many things that we can learn. Ms. Awara and her grade seven students are not only going to learn about what AI is, they are going to learn how it learns and in the process learn how they learn, too.