Numeracy at our school.

The focus of our first Leading Numeracy workshop was reviewing current numeracy practices and achievements at our schools. We discussed some student work samples, looking particularly at how the student had solved problems and any misconceptions they had about numerals and maths rules.
Something I noticed was how word rich so many maths problems are. Any student with low literacy skills is going to struggle to solve some maths problems simply because they can’t read them.  Many questions on our national numeracy tests (NAPLAN) are word problems, but the test conditions mean that we can’t read those problems to our low literacy students. Talk about set them up to fail.
Our task once back at school was to conduct an audit of school policies, strategic plans and annual implementation plans to see whether numeracy is mentioned and if yes, what the focus is. At my school we have numeracy in both our Strategic and Annual Implementation Plans but it hasn’t been a strong area of focus until this year. Our maths policy is so old and out of date that it wasn’t worth trying to update or revise.
In fact, I wonder about having policies for subject areas and how useful/relevant they are. Would we be better off recording preferred teaching strategies, questioning techniques etc in a document that could be handed to a teacher and they would know how we teach maths/numeracy and why we teach it that way. I would certainly be interested to hear what other schools do with regard to subject/curriculum policies and whether they are useful, used and regularly updated/revised. Send me a message or comment on this post, it’s always helpful to hear what others are doing.
As part of our audit I decided I wanted to find out what my teachers’ and students’ attitudes towards maths were. Here are the surveys we used Junior Student Attitude to Maths Audit   Teacher Atitude to maths audit  Year 3-6 Student attitude to maths audit
A summary of the survey results is in the slideshare presentation at the top of the post. It’s clear we have got plenty of things to work on starting with developing a staff understanding of what numeracy is. We all had quite different ideas about that and it’s not that long ago that we only talked about teaching maths not numeracy and maths.  I wonder what our student’s parents think when we write about their child’s numeracy understandings in mid year and end of reports, do they have any idea what we are talking about?
I’d love to hear about maths and numeracy at your school. Have you worked as a staff to develop whole school understandings of terminology, or teaching strategies or policies?
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The Cardboard Arcade Challenge.

Earlier in the year I had watched ‘Caine’s Arcade’ on Youtube  you can find it here- I loved the story and loved the idea of children building things out of boxes, just like I used to do back in the day. I tucked the idea away in my head thinking I’d love to do that with my Grade 5/6. Well, the start of Term 4 arrived and it seemed like the perfect way to start the term.

Grade 5/6 have had three Genius Hours this year. Each time they have got better and better at planning what they will do. They love Genius Hour and making things so I knew they would enjoy the arcade challenge. The arcade challenge fits beautifully with the AusVels domain of ‘Design, Creativity and Technology’ ( ).

After viewing ‘Caine’s Arcade’ on Youtube, visiting the Cardboard Challenge website- and having lots of discussions students completed their design briefs outlining what they were going to build and how. Here is the design brief format I used design brief

The students were excited and full of enthusiasm and ideas. One of them said it was like Genius Hour but they were all doing the same thing, sort of. The Prep- 4 students in the school were fascinated by what was going on in the Grade 5/6 room (“Why are there boxes everywhere in Grade 5/6 Carolyn?”), as were the other teachers and the parents.

Soon posters advertising the opening of our arcade went up around the school. The school was buzzing with excitement. The Grade 5/6 students and I had discussed whether we would charge the other students to play the games or not. (Charge them our school ‘money’, not real money!) We decided to give each student five tickets the first time the arcade is open, the next time they would need to use their school money to buy tickets.

I decided the games could also be used as part of our Grade 5/6 maths lessons. Once the games were built the 5/6 students had the following problems to work through Arcade maths

After our Arcade had been open to the other students the Grade 5/6 students then had to prepare a presentation for the other 5/6 students to persuade them to ‘invest’ some of their school money into their game. Your Arcade Investment Presentation The students are in the process of completing their presentations this week.

The Arcade Challenge was a success. I think I have had just as much fun as the students and I’ve been impressed with their problem solving stamina. I think one of the best things about it  is how all the students at the school have got to enjoy something created by the 5/6 students and our 5/6 students have loved sharing their games. Some of them even ‘spruiked’ their games before assembly to encourage parents to play the games.

I love it when an idea not only works, but works extremely well, ticks lots of curriculum boxes and has the students thoroughly engaged. I need more of those ideas, we probably all do!

Have you done something similar? Have you done something completely different but it got not only your students hooked but set the school abuzz? I’d love to hear about it.


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Genius Hour is genius!

Finally I have found the time to write about my first Genius Hour experience- it was excellent! My students were totally engaged, so was I. It was so exciting to see them all absorbed by the work they had chosen and planned for themselves.

I’m glad I had made time for two planning sessions before our two hour genius hour. It helped my students be very clear on what they wanted to achieve in the time, whether it would be achievable and what they needed to have ready for the session. I had a note that went home, on it students could ask for help from home (The note is based on @KirstenTP ‘Final Genius Hour plan sheet’ available from her great Genius Hour blog  ) Here is the note I used For my Genius Hour project I will be working with

I found the two hour session worked well with my students. It was long enough for the students to complete their projects. Oh, I tell a fib, the two students making a Pivot stick figure animation didn’t complete it in the two hours. At the end of the two hours the students had a criteria sheet to complete as a way to help them reflect on Genius Hour and how they used the time. It wasn’t a very successful way of reflecting, the conversations we had were far more useful as were the questions asked by the students of the other students during sharing time.

My students are still talking about Genius Hour and desperate for another. Many of them have already planned what they will work on next time. I am going to talk to the other teachers about Genius Hour with the hope that we can have a whole school Genius Hour. How cool would that be?

I’ve connected with lots of other Genius Hour teachers through Twitter #geniushour . My students and I love reading about what other grades are doing. You can check out our class blog to see some of our Genius Hour writing

I’d love to hear about your Genius Hour experiences and what you plan to do next if you are a Genius Hour regular. Have you used it in different ways? Have you had a Genius hour for your staff?

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Is Genius Hour a way to get into Rhizomatic Learning?

Of all the many different ideas, skills and tech that the Etmooc course has introduced me to, rhizomatic learning is the one that I have been thinking about- often. I had no idea rhizomatic learning even existed until we started discussing it as part of Etmooc.

Before I watched the Blackboard Collaborate session with Dave Cormier (You can access the recorded Blackboard collaborate session with Dave Cormier here.) I googled ‘Rhizomatic learning’ and found Dave Cormier’s blog “Dave’s Educational Blog” and did some reading. The idea of rhizomatic learning was making my brain hurt. (The last time my brain hurt like this was when I learnt about Inquiry learning with Lane Clark. I mowed lots of new neuron pathways that year!)

What on earth was it all about? Watching the recording helped me make sense of what I had read and the idea fascinated me. What on earth does it look like? How do you manage that style of learning/teaching in your classroom?

At the same time my brain was trying to process rhizomatic learning and find how it ‘fit’ with other ways of learning I knew about, I was reading lots about teachers who were using Genius Hour with their students. Last year I read Daniel Pink’s book “Drive” and loved the idea of giving staff members time to work on something they were passionate about. Now I was finding out that there were teachers out there using the idea with their students.

There are great blog entries out there about Genius Hour with lots of information to help get you started. I visited- Joy Kirr’s blog,  Denise Krebs Class blog and personal blog, Genius Hour wiki space,  Mrs T’s class blog,  It’s all about learning and Integrating technology, my journey.

This week my Grade 5/6 and I will experience our first Genius Hour. We had two planning sessions last week during which students needed to plan who they would work with, if anyone, what materials they would need and if there was anything they had to do before Genius Hour to be ready on the day. To say the students are excited and cannot wait for Genius Hour to arrive would be a major understatement!


I am wondering if Genius Hour is like a mini version of rhizomatic learning. Is this a way to get used to the idea of students driving their learning? Of the students saying to their teachers “ I know a bit about this but I really want to learn more.” And if this excitement and engagement happens with rhizomatic learning too then how do we get more of it happening in our classrooms?

What do you think? Do you have Genius Hour in your classroom and/or school? Are you a rhizomatic learning ‘oldie’ who can help a ‘newbie’ learn more? I’d love to hear from you.

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Feel the fear and do it anyway.

I was very excited to sign up for etmooc and totally unprepared for how reluctant I was to post anything online. I set my blog up fully expecting that I would have my intro done in no time and being adding to it regularly. NOT!
Turns out I was completely overwhelmed by everything, as were many other etmooc-ers. I have been following along- participating in twitterchats, Blackboard Collaborate sessions and am slowly getting around to watching the sessions I have missed but just could not bring myself to actually post anything on my blog.
Then today I gave myself a good talking to- “You signed up for etmooc knowing it was going to be challenging and you were going to be out of your comfort zone, so, what are you complaining about?!” You know what, I was right. I had known I was going to be learning lots of news things and that the most important part of all was to be part of the etmooc community conversations.
So, here I am, now getting active on my blog. I am feeling the fear and doing it anyway.

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At last! I have uploaded my introduction.

My introduction from Carolyn on Vimeo.

I bet you were all wondering if I was ever going to do an introduction, actually, I was too! It is very short but not too shabby I think, for a first go. The music is the start of “Great Southern Land” by Icehouse.

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#Etmooc here I come!

Having signed up for #etmooc I have been wondering if I will be able to actually do the tasks and here I am writing my first entry on the blog I just set up! I am very excited about being involved in the mooc, something I have never done before but I know I will learn heaps and connect with lots of other educators out there. It’s #etmooc-ly exciting!

Next job is to create my introduction.

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