Startling new peer-reviewed research published by the Mathematics Education Research Group of Australasia shows student gains of 27-29 months beyond the 24-month department expectations as measured by performance on PAT Maths for the lowest 20 per cent of students across six primary schools in South Australia.
Throughout the two-year project, all teachers across all six schools were required to implement one lesson each week that paired a challenging mathematics task with a unique sequence of linked questions designed to target underlying misconceptions. Mathematics Consultant, Tierney Kennedy, provided in-person professional learning for leaders from each school, who were in turn responsible for training their own staff. Teachers were provided with lesson plans from the series Interventions in Mathematics and webinars with the consultant.
“It was a game changer for many teachers. Teachers talked about how much they learned and the impact it had on their classrooms. As an Education Director, I witnessed changes in classroom practice as I visited schools,” says Gerri Walker, Executive Director for Torrens Valley Partnership (2015-2017).
While the Conceptual Change Approaches are new in Australian mathematics research, similar methods have been well-researched in science with an effect size of 0.99 putting them in the top ten in the Hattie Ranking (2017). Ms Kennedy’s research showed an effect size of 0.7 over and above the annual 12-month expectations of the department for each year of the project. In fact, every group of students caught up to the education department expectations for Progressive Achievement Tests in Mathematics within 12 months, with no additional time or withdrawal provided.
So how does it work? Ms Kennedy says it takes a simple mind-shift for teachers to approach problem-solving in maths as experimenting rather than as applying. Students begin by making conjectures as to what the answer might be, then work to prove or disprove their ideas. The teacher’s job is to, “Ask questions to draw attention to any disparities (evidence that disprove an idea), enabling a student to disprove their own idea and then try out a new one.”
Teacher questioning focuses on helping students to evaluate their own ideas rather than on pointing them towards the correct answer, which according to Ms Kennedy, encourages students to change their own minds.
It is this unique approach to questioning that principals have attributed their high growth to, with 87 per cent of the schools exceeding Australian NAPLAN cohort gain throughout the project. And the results are not limited to just low achieving students – according to Ms Kennedy her next paper explores the causes of the exceptionally high growth made by the highest 20 per cent of students in the same project (0.62).
The original research paper, as well as free resources to support teachers and leaders can be found by clicking here.
The Fixing Misconceptions book bundle contains all the programs in the Highly Commended Intervention in Mathematics series. It can be found by visiting the website below. For a 10 per cent discount, please enter the code isfmset-save10.
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