The introduction of math coaches in the Halton District School Board in the last several years has helped students gain confidence in
mathematics. More math coaches will be trained this fall
PEOPLE TEND TO think of coaches in the context of the sporting world. How about the world of education?
In the past several years, the Halton District School Board has taken a unique approach of investing in training teachers as Math coaches to assist elementary students in their mathematics learning. Through the implementation of Math coaches, as well as other important strategies like Dreambox, results show student confidence in mathematics is improving.
Math coaches are teachers who understand the developmental nature of mathematics. They are current with research on how students learn math and understand how to translate research findings into effective instruction, explained Ruth Teszeri, one of the Board's Instructional Program Leaders for Elementary Mathematics.
“Math coaches work directly with classroom teachers as a co-teacher to improve student learning of mathematics,” she said. “Coaches participate in professional learning in mathematics teaching and learning, as well as furthering their skills as an educational coach.”
Currently, the Board has five full-time Math coaches, each supporting five elementary schools. As well, there are 25 elementary schools with a teacher on staff with a portion of their teaching assignment devoted to math coaching in their school. Coaches work with classroom teachers to ensure the impact this is having on improving student learning.
“This in-school model is unique to the Halton District School Board,” Teszeri said. “As a Board, we are committed to improvement in mathematics. Coaching is an invaluable resource to our system supported by evidence of the impact on student learning and achievement. As a model for professional learning, it allows teachers opportunities to engage in collaborative work with colleagues and engage in high-quality professional development around mathematics.”
Not only does the implementation of Math coaches effectively address student achievement, it fulfills the Board’s important Math Plan commitment. “The Board’s provincially-recognized Math Plan focuses on extensive professional learning and resources for students in mathematics,” said Terri Blackwell, Superintendent with the Halton District School Board. Each Math coach is committed to participating in, and leading, professional learning in Board schools and/or across the system.
In early April 2016, the provincial government stated that assisting students achieve success in mathematics helps grow the economy and create jobs, and recommended lead teachers support mathematics in elementary schools. Halton is already doing this, Blackwell said.
“As part of Halton’s Math Plan, we have provided additional qualification courses for the last three years,” she said. “Starting in September 2016, every Board and in-school Math Coach will hold additional qualifications in mathematics.” These additional qualification courses provide a minimum of 130 hours of professional learning to deepen teachers’ knowledge in math learning, teaching and leading.
Blackwell said it is vital parents are aware that the Board understands the importance of quality math instruction and programming, and is committed to helping students attain success in the subject.
“Halton’s elementary teachers are committed to continual professional growth and practices that improve student learning in mathematics,” she said. “Teachers in our system value the opportunity to co-learn with a Math coach.”