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Celebrating Inquiry: Fall 2015 v.2 no.1

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Active Learning in Math...Lisa Shoesmith

How can I increase student engagement in math?


I identified the students' need for more engaging math when I did a math survey at the beginning of the year that asked them how they felt about math, how they used in their daily lives, and if they thought it was useful. The majority of the responses were quite negative - they felt math was boring, useless, and not relevant to their daily lives. It was also a need for the school because they are focusing on increasing numeracy skills within the Inspiring Education framework. Finding more rich and authentic tasks for math lent itself to project based learning which fits more within the Inspiring Education framework than textbook work!

I wanted to have a compiled list of resources that I could easily access when planning and so I thought that Pinterest/my portfolio would be a great platform to organize all the research and ideas. The Pinterest account has a board for each grade level and a general active learning strategies board that spans across grade levels and subjects. The pins on each board are organized by the different math strands from the Alberta curriculum.


I researched active learning strategies, recorded and compiled them, and then organized them on Pinterest and my portfolio website. I also made a point of getting to know my students so that I could create math projects and activities that were directly relevant to their lives. A lot of the compiled active learning strategies were used for math centers, paired group work, or whole class activities. However, the more authentic projects tended to be more individual work for the students. The main setback with creating authentic tasks for the students was to properly scaffold the projects so that students were still challenged but not overwhelmed. The main setbacks for using the active learning strategies in centers was to figure out classroom management practices that worked when so many groups of students were doing so many different activities. The other main setback for using active math strategies in centers was to foster more independence in my students to figure out what they are supposed to be doing without a teacher guiding their every action. Every week or two I would try either a new active learning strategy or introduce a new project in math. Sometimes they worked, sometimes not, but it was really good that I had a great relationship with the students because they were upfront about which math activities they liked or did not like!


I believe that the students now recognize how prevalent math is in everyday life. Some of them still aren't the fondest of it, but they no longer groan at the beginning of every math class because they see that math has a purpose. I have had great conversations with students about how useful being good at math actually is. However, students really love center days; they get quite excited when I have my centers' folders at the beginning of class.

Because I created the Pinterest board in the school's name, the teachers and staff now have it as a resource when they are planning and they can also add onto it.

This project contributed to my own learning in that I now have a wealth of more active learning ideas and I find that the learning that occurs in my class is more active than passive - not a lot of stand and deliver style of teaching occurs. This project also allowed me to accommodate a variety of learning styles because the activities were so varied!

Lisa grew up in Fernie, B.C. She graduates this December with a B.Ed/B.A and hopes to start subbing in schools shortly after.