At Seneca Central Public School, math is everywhere, thanks to a whole-school commitment to supporting student achievement in the subject.
Seneca Central has focused its school improvement plan on math problem solving for the last three years, and has recently turned the focus toward using tools, called math manipulatives, to help students represent and communicate their mathematical understanding. From making manipulatives available, to engaging teachers in professional development, to enlisting the help of the School Advisory Council, Seneca Central is already reaping the rewards of this intentional focus.
Last spring, the school received a cartful of math manipulatives as part of Grand Erie’s Renewed Math Strategy, and the school quickly doubled that amount by purchasing another full set. What they found, however, was that some of these tools were new to staff who needed support in learning how to use them meaningfully, and sometimes in non-traditional ways.
“As a school, we committed to the professional development of our staff to ensure they had the knowledge and resources needed to support students in working with these news tools and strategies,” said Caitlin McVean, principal at Seneca Central Public School. “We were able to send our teaching staff – including Kindergarten and Core French teachers – to math workshops offered by Grand Erie to learn how to use math manipulatives most effectively.”
Seneca Central’s approach to achievement in math is right in step with Grand Erie’s Multi-Year Plan; through the Achievement indicator, the plan aims to increase staff understanding of effective instruction and assessment in literacy and numeracy. Together, the school has engaged in hands-on learning and professional dialogue that has expanded the repertoire of instructional and assessment strategies used to foster math learning.
Now, the use of manipulatives, and the ‘math talk’ that comes from using them, can be found in every room at Seneca.
“From problem solving in French, to math learning buddies across the grades, students are engaged and excited about math,” says McVean. “The Grade 1 teacher shared that when she asked one of her students to explain his answer, he said, ‘Let’s go get the beaded number line, and I’ll talk you through it!’ It’s pretty amazing to hear.”
Even the School Advisory Council is on board. Inspired by Camp SAIL (offered in some Grand Erie schools over the summer months), Seneca Central’s Council has financed the purchase of math manipulatives kits for every child in Grades 1 and 2 to use at home with their parents. It’s hoped that as this initiative moves forward, eventually all students will have these kits to support math at home.
Math truly is everywhere at Seneca Central!