Mathematics and the importance of Long Range Planning (part 1 of 2)

I have had the opportunity a few times now to plan mathematics with a number of different schools in my school board. These opportunities were not just any "sit down and plan" type of session. A lot of thought, deep understanding, reflecting, deconstructing and processing goes on in these sessions. In one full day I helped facilitate a session that included:

  • writing down the overall expectations for each strand in a given grade
  • identifying and sequencing expectations as per the ease with which students develop mathematical skills.
  • map out the expectations on a year (or by term) schedule to see where and what is being achieved when (in terms of overall expectations)
  • determining the resources, manipulative, contexts and evaluations that are required along the way (will be discussed in Part 2)
Phew! Yeah, in one day. For some it was a half day. Cheers to all those teachers who participated in these planning sessions. If you are really into it, you can easily become exhausted after a full session. But what is guaranteed to come with the exhaustion is a firm understanding and confidence in the order in which your students will learn the strands best. Intentional sequencing of strands increases the potential for academic success. In addition, it helps students form a solid foundation of the necessary skills required to achieve success in the more complicated strands.  Does it make sense to start the year off with Algebra? Is that the easiest strand your students will grasp in September? Do you think they can be successful? You may say yes, and that's ok. But I know my students would learn better if I started with the Number Sense and Numeration strand. And here is where the deeper understanding comes into play. Why have I only evaluated NS&N once in my term? If I started the year off with it, because it is so fundamentally important for my students to grasp (eg: adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing) then why should I only teach it for 1 month, or 2? 

I have realized that NS&N is so essential that it deserves to be taught throughout the entire year. That means intertwined into every other strand that is or can be taught. And if any Ontario teacher looks at the expectations, you can see that it is not hard to bring in the expectations of NS&N into many different strands. 

Consider this: In Literacy would you ever only evaluate a Reading strand once in a year or term? You probably would evaluate it numerous times because of how vital reading is the foundation of literacy. Number Sense has the exact same importance (some may argue more) in being evaluated and included in more than one strand and multiple points in the year. For example, I want to make sure my students can count to 10 when they measure, when they tally, when they graph, when they roll a dice, when they add, etc. All of those moments happen throughout the year.

That was the one huge "whoa" moment I had while participating and facilitating in these Long Range Mathematics Planning sessions. Later I am going to show you an example of what the entire year might look like and elaborate a little more on other nuggets mentioned above that occur in a planning session. 

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