Feb. 8, 2022

Math Minds partnership poised to expand thanks to funding boost

Werklund School of Education-led initiative one of 15 recipients of 2021 TD Ready Challenge

Math Minds, a unique partnership between the University of Calgary’s Werklund School of Education, school districts in Alberta and British Columbia, and JUMP Math, has been named one of the 15 grant recipients of the 2021 TD Ready Challenge presented by TD Bank Group (TD).

The Math Minds initiative is equipping educators with proven teaching strategies for improving student achievement through nuanced engagements with mathematics concepts and principles of learning. Structured guidance and practical exercises enable educators to confidently introduce the Math Minds model into classroom practice.

Students recording answers on whiteboards enabled teachers to continuously assess learning during lessons

Students recording answers on whiteboards enables teachers to continuously assess learning during lessons.

“Efforts began with identifying those features of mathematics and those principles of learning that are most critical to effective teaching,” explains Math Minds team member and Werklund School professor Dr. Brent Davis, PhD. “Our model addresses matters of lesson structure, content knowledge, classroom resources and attention-focusing strategies.”

The Math Minds method

In creating and refining their approach, Math Minds provided professional development to teachers in several Alberta schools. This training centred, in part, on continuous assessment, a core component of the model.

When working with their classes, participant teachers were encouraged to frequently assess learning during each lesson rather than checking in at the end. To facilitate this in-the-moment evaluation, students were provided with individual mini-whiteboards that allowed them to record and share responses.

Continuous assessment does more than provide fine-grained opportunities for feedback from teacher to student; each response also provides feedback from student to teacher, allowing the teacher to make appropriate decisions about next steps. In doing so, there is a strong emphasis on preventing misunderstanding rather than remediating.

As a result of the prompt feedback, teachers were better positioned to determine if they should step back, offer further practice, or extend ideas for which students had demonstrated success. This responsive teaching is another key piece of the model.

If a student did require assistance, Davis’s team suggested teachers consider returning to a place of success, proceeding with more fine-grained ideas, or asking a guiding question to address the gap. The goal being for all students to discern key ideas and then continuously extend their understanding.

Improvements in academic achievement

But did the model benefit the students?

From 2012 to 2017, the Math Minds team tracked significant, year-over-year improvements in the learning of 363 elementary-level participants. Students demonstrated enhanced computational fluency, conceptual understanding and problem solving.  As measured by national percentile ranks on the Canadian Test of Basic Skills, they rose nearly 30 percentile rankings on average.

While the gains are significant, so too are the long-term implications. “Learners don’t experience a one-time boost in achievement. They continue to accelerate as they experience this manner of teaching,” says Davis.

Davis credits much of the initiative’s success to the diverse makeup of the team, which is comprised of classroom teachers, mathematicians, logicians, resource developers and educational researchers.

Funding the future

With a $750,000 grant from TD, Math Minds is poised to launch the third phase of the project. “The hope is to work with entire school districts and major stakeholder groups. The potential to scale the positive results from the online course is great.”

"The goal of the TD Ready Commitment is to help people feel confident about their future and create opportunities to succeed in a changing world, and Math Minds has brought forward an innovative solution to help disproportionately impacted students catch up on their learning and minimize future loss," says Janice Farrell Jones, senior vice-president, sustainability and corporate citizenship, TD Bank Group.

“Being a grant recipient of the 2021 TD Ready Challenge is a testament to the creativity and dedication of Math Minds to helping open doors to a more inclusive and sustainable tomorrow. We look forward to the impact this year's 15 recipients will have as they put their solutions into action."

A key component of the TD Ready Commitment, the bank's corporate citizenship platform, The TD Ready Challenge is an annual initiative aimed at providing funding to programs that are focused on helping to address societal issues. This year's TD Ready Challenge sought innovative solutions to address predicted learning loss in math and reading for disproportionately impacted students in Grades K-12 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

TD established the TD Ready Challenge in 2018, and has since provided Cdn $40 million in funding to 50 organizations across its North American footprint to support scalable solutions identified within the four drivers of The TD Ready Commitment: Financial Security, Vibrant Planet, Connected Communities and Better Health.