Thursday, June 26, 2014

PĀNGARAU / MATHEMATICS CLUSTER

The Pāngarau/Mathematics Clusters that ELP have been running throughout the North Island, as part of a MoE funded professional learning programme that supports teachers in unpacking the Ministry resource Te Aho Tukutuku/Early Mathematics, are coming to a close.   

Last night at my Taupo/Turangi Mathematics Cluster presentation evening, an evening gives centres a chance to share with each other how their individual Action Research projects have been progressing, I was blown away by the creative ways each team chose to share their journey and by the thoughtful reflections that each team had obviously engaged in.  There were several common themes that were woven through each of the presentations that I would like to share with you;

Many of the teachers had come to realise that they had had only a surface level mathematical knowledge and it had been through their participation in this cluster that they have been able to gain a deeper level of understanding.  This has lead them to now recognising the more complex mathematical moments that they felt would previously have gone unnoticed.

Teachers are now thinking thoughtfully about how they can use those teachable moments to support their tamariki build  mathematical language and understanding.  Teacher have recognised that this is most successfully accomplished when opportunities are woven into the interests of the tamaiti or the community.   Teachers have recognised that the more meaningful the experience is to the tamaiti the more likely they are to, not only obtain but retain the knowledge being shared.

Teachers have recognised that the mathematical language has to be modelled and used by them, therefore, creating more intentional teaching through natural conversations and interactions.  Ann Epstein (2007 p.1) says that ‘intentional teachers use their knowledge, judgment, and expertise to organise learning experiences for children; when an unexpected situation arises (as it always does), they can recognise a teaching opportunity and are able to take advantage of it, too.’

This professional learning opportunity has supported teachers in understanding the crucial role their pedagogy and content knowledge has on the quality of the experiences tamariki engage in.  They have a direct impact, thought child and teacher engagement and in the assessment documentation they produce.  Teachers have reflected that this professional learning opportunity has supported them in foregrounding mathematical learning in the Learning Stories they are now writing. Teachers are discussing together future learning possibilities and creating provocations as they think thoughtfully about how they can support and extend the mathematical knowledge of each tamaiti.  This continuity is now visible within the portfolios of tamariki.

As a direct result of this deeper understanding, teachers are more confident in engaging in robust discussions with parents about the types of mathematical learning that are woven into the everyday play of tamariki and how these experiences are being supported and extended within the early childhood environment.  These conversations, along with the Learning Stories and wall displays that teachers are now producing, have support parents and whānau in understanding that mathematics is more than just being able to count to 10 (or 100) or knowing your shapes.  They are seeing how broad and deep the mathematical learning is that occurring is and ultimately will be recognising this in their children's play and inquiry at home. 

I want to share with you these thoughts from the team at Central Kids Reporoa Kindergarten;

“As this official journey comes to an end, we, as a team are now more proactive in continuing to incorporate the lessons we have learnt into our daily practices.  We are using a wider variety of mathematical terms and concepts though our everyday interactions with our tamariki.  Each of us are now confident in highlighting this learning through our documentation, which in turn makes it more visible to our whānau.”  

I'd like to take this opportunity to say a BIG thank you to my cluster for the beautiful flowers I received from them last night, a delightful and unexpected surprise, and to say what a pleasure it has been to work together on this professional learning opportunity.  

If anyone is interested in engaging in a similar experience in our new round of Action Research, which will be starting in July, then please get in touch with Marie Thom.  Marie will be able to confirm whether your setting qualifies for this programme, as the Ministry of Education priorities are settings with high numbers of Māori and Pasifika children. 
Email marie.thom@elp.co.nz or phone: 07 856 8708.

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