Spiralling Your Head Around Spiralling

About a year ago, I began toying with the idea of teaching Grade 10 Applied Math in a different way. My previous teaching methods consisted of the usual course broken down into units:

  • Measurement
  • Similar Triangles
  • Trigonometry
  • Linear Relations
  • Linear Equations
  • Linear Systems
  • Quadratic Relations
  • Algebra for Quadratics
  • Applications of Quadratic Relations

I wasn’t using a textbook at the time, so students were provided with worksheets to supplement my lessons. While some students were successful with this approach, there were still quite a few students who were not.

I had been teaching at a small rural high school where I had a 10 academic / 10 applied split class. It was challenging to align curriculum expectations between the two courses. And often times when these expectations didn’t align, it was difficult to find a balance between preparing the academic students for 11 University math, and providing enough one-on-one support to the applied levels students to help them stay motivated. If only I could go back and teach that class again knowing what I know now.

Having been to the OAME (Ontario Association for Mathematics Education) annual conference many times over the years, I had attended several sessions presented by Alex Overwijk. He was in the process of revamping his 10 Applied math course to be more hands on and activity based and “spiral” through the curriculum. Now, spiraling at the time was not a word heard much in Ontario (or at least to me), but I was hooked on his passion and how much he enjoyed this new way of teaching, that I thought I would give it a try. Fast forward  to today, and many schools in Ontario have begun to jump on board and it is very inspiring to hear their stories of increased student engagement and understanding.

Last December, we had been working on our School’s 4Si plan, which was to improve our teaching methods in 9 applied and 10 applied math. A colleague and I were teaching 10 Applied in semester 2 and had decided we would try spiraling our way through the curriculum. We began looking through the resources out there, and realized that there is a lot of great stuff! Some key sites when looking are definitely @AlexOverwijkSlamdunk Math@MaryBourassa – M^3 Making Math Meaningful and @MrOrr_geekMr Orr is a Geek. We really liked the warm ups that Mary was using and thought it was a great way to start each class. We put together our first cycle, which consisted of a few activities (26 squares, trigonometry, similar triangles, etc.) and jumped in. We made a trip to Ottawa to have a classroom visit with Alex (I highly recommend visiting other teacher’s classrooms and allowing people to visit yours. We can learn a lot from one another).

After the first cycle, a few things stood out to us:

  • Increased engagement
  • Increased attendance (very few students were absent compared to normal)
  • Increased retention (students were very successful on the assessments)

We continued to teach the course this way for the remainder of the semester. We had unbelievable success! Of the 3 classes (approximately 62 students), we only had 3 students who were unsuccessful in attaining the credit. These were mainly due to extenuating circumstances.

Fast forward to now and I am currently teaching the course for a second time. I have changed the order a bit, but am still doing the warm-ups every day. I like the structure that they provide for the class and students really enjoy them. With the Ontario Renewed Math Strategy this year, our focus is to continue improving success in our 9 and 10 Applied courses. We have begun spiraling our grade 9 Applied course this semester and I plan to do it with my 9 academics in semester 2. There has been a lot of interest now in spiraling in my Board. I will be hosting a 10 Applied workshop in spiraling for the teachers in my Board in less than 2 weeks. Hoping to channel my inner Alex Overwijk and share my passion for this teaching method with my colleagues.

Hoping I can blog relatively often. I know there are questions around assessment and activities out there and I will share my experience in subsequent posts. For now, the weather has been beautiful but it has decided to start snowing today. Might as well make the best of it and go out and try some snow angles. #funnyhogg


One thought on “Spiralling Your Head Around Spiralling

  1. “I highly recommend visiting other teacher’s classrooms and allowing people to visit yours. We can learn a lot from one another” … YES!! This is so incredibly true. So many teachers feel they have nothing to share, but if we keep building on others’ ideas, we can truly innovate. Thank you so much for sharing your spiralling journey so far – I’ll pass this on to others I know that are thinking of spiralling!


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