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Wednesday, 11 May 2011 21:02

Chinook preparing to assess students' math capabilities

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By Chris Jaster — This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Ed Varjassy surprised the Chinook School Board with a quick math exam during its monthly meeting May 9.

Varjassy, Chinook’s math curriculum co-ordinator, passed out a piece of paper with a diagram of a metre stick on it.

Varjassy informed the board the metre stick had a range from someone who has $0 to $1 billion and asked the board to find where someone with $1 million would be represented on the metre stick.

As simple as the question sounds, teachers can gather a lot of information about students’ math abilities based upon whether students correctly answer at the one millimetre mark.

“You can look at the strategies they were using to solve that problem. You get a sense of do they have an understanding of place value and an understanding of magnitude,” said Varjassy. “It was just one little sample activity that I thought would quickly illustrate the power of a simple little task to reveal understanding.”

Questions such as that are so revealing Chinook School Division students in grades 3, 6 and 9 can expect to see them later this year. Division officials will give those students math tests between May 24 and June 6 so they can determine how much math students currently know.

The results will be compiled and used to help officials set a goal for how much improvement they would like to see out of its students from the balanced math program, which will be implemented in the next school year.

The balanced math program will follow the same set-up as the balanced literacy program, currently in its third and final year. The division tests students to find what level they are at and sets a goal for a percentage of students to meet or exceed set expectations.

Coaches will train all the teachers in the division in the new enhanced method of instruction and support them during the program’s first year.

The division has hired four math coaches — Leader’s Carolyn Lepage, Consul’s Tami Reynolds, and Curtis Biem and Denyne Vasseur from O. M. Irwin Middle School in Swift Current — on a part-time basis to teach and support the teachers with the First Steps in Math Program.

First Steps in Math has teachers use knowledge, experience and evidence to determine the path students travel as they learn math, how teachers can accurately diagnose student learning and how they can advance student learning.

The division hopes to see improvements in students’ marks in the second year and to reach the goal in the third year of the program.

Varjassy asked the board if they would like to see the data to help set the goal of the math program. The board decided to discuss that at a later time.

Whether the board has any input or not, Varjassy said the goal for a percentage of students to meet or exceed expectations in math will be based on the results of the assessments that will start in a few weeks.

“These assessments assess the entire curriculum in these three grades. This assessment will tell us where we are right now –– the level of success we are achieving in Grades 3, 6 and 9,” said Varjassy. “If we are finding that we have 60 per cent of our students who are meeting a certain level of success, we will set our goal higher.”

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