Developing a community of problem solvers

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					Developing a community of problem solvers
Project title: Learning worth bottling
Lead organisation: Red Cliffs East Primary School

The ability to problem solve is a life skill that many   schools were divided into two groups so that each
of us employ in varied situations in our daily life.     group was a manageable size and included
Many schools endeavour to provide students with          students from each class. Each visit was designed
opportunities to develop this skill. Schools in this     around tasks that focussed on a different area of
ASISTM project have developed an innovative              mathematics such as measurement, chance and
approach to problem solving using a real life            data,     number,     structure     or    working
context.                                                 mathematically. Estimation was also an important
                                                         aspect of the tasks.
Red Cliffs East Primary School and Red Cliffs
                                                         Each visit was organised for ninety minutes of
Secondary College are working together on their
                                                         student activity where students worked in small
ASISTM project Learning Worth Bottling. The
                                                         teams of 2-4 students to complete the set tasks.
project is providing learning experiences for
                                                         Students used the ‘Think Aloud’ strategy when
middle years students that require them to draw
                                                         solving problems. Classroom work was conducted
on     their    mathematical   knowledge     and
                                                         during pre and post visits. ‘The student visits
understandings, to solve problems that occur in a
                                                         captured the interest of students and helped
local industry.
                                                         motivate those students who often became
                                                         disengaged with mathematics.’
Prior to the ASISTM funding, problem solving in
mathematics had been a focus at Red Cliffs East
Primary School with professional development             The project’s success
provided by Pauline Rogers the Mathematician-in-         Before student visits to the site were conducted,
residence.                                               Project Cluster partners including assistants from
                                                         the winery and teachers were given professional
Craig Warn, the Project Coordinator explained            development      about    problem     solving    in
that, ‘A significant number of the parents from          mathematics. Craig says that this shared
both schools work in a wine-related industry’. ‘It       understanding was critical to the project’s
seemed an obvious choice to utilise this local           success.     ‘The      mathematician-in-residence
industry as a setting for a real life context.’          provided us with approaches and strategies we
                                                         could implement in the project.’
Brain Falkenberg of Deakin Estate Winery was
approached to participate in the project and was         Craig believes that the success of the program
delighted to be involved. It turns out that Brian is     can also be attributed to the thorough planning of
himself a keen mathematician and has proven to           each visit and the extensive communication with
be a rich resource of ideas and a useful sounding        the site manager. The site manager always made
board when the Project Cluster met to scope the          sure that the personnel were primed ready to go
project and develop problem solving tasks.               and that all the necessary equipment was ready.

A shared vision and approach
The Project Cluster meeting, held at the winery
site and organised at the commencement of the
project, was used to bring all partners together to
develop a shared vision and approach. Teachers
were able to see first hand how the winery
operated and identify the links to mathematical
learning that existed. The site manager provided
guidance about which processes involved in wine
production could be used as part of the problem
solving activities.
                                                           Students involved in problem solving tasks at the winery
Three student visits were organised for each
school term. Years 5, 6 and 7 classes from both
During the course of the project, students were exposed to many different tasks that required a number of
different problem solving strategies. To ensure students had sufficient working knowledge to ‘tackle’ the
tasks at the winery and build on their existing mathematical knowledge when they returned to the classroom,
the following approach was implemented.

 Pre-visit in class                    Winery visit                       Post-visit in class
 Introduction and                      Application of                     Reviewing, revision
 practice of                           mathematic ‘skills’ to             and reflection on the
 mathematical ‘skills’                 the real life problems             problems from the
 that would be required                associated with the                winery. What was
 to work competently                   everyday working of                the learning? How
 on the tasks set at the               the winery.                        can we build on this
 winery.                                                                  learning?
Following this approach, students had regular opportunities to build their mathematical knowledge and            cation
                                                                                                                 books are
articulate their understanding with others. Sharing these understandings with parents was a vital aspect of      an
the project. Communication books were an important part of our ongoing reporting to parents. Parents have        important
also been given the opportunity to comment on their child’s learning. Through these processes regular            part of our
feedback has been received from the parents expressing their praise of the project and commenting on how         ongoing
their children are enjoying the maths and visits to the winery.                                                  to parents

Measuring change
                                                            When the Year 7 students move into Year 8 the
All the students involved with the project in 2006
                                                            opportunity exists for teachers to implement a
were surveyed prior to commencing the project.
                                                            similar approach towards mathematics with an
These students were all the Year 5 and 6 students
                                                            emphasis on using materials, working in groups to
from Red Cliffs East Primary School and the two
                                                            solve particular tasks. There is also more
selected Year 7 classes from Red Cliffs
                                                            connection for students as mathematics learners
Secondary School. The survey measured student
                                                            moving from Primary to Secondary school.
attitudes towards mathematics. This baseline
data will be used to compare students’ attitude
after being involved in the project for the year.           Disseminating project outcomes
                                                            As part of their dissemination strategy, project
Major challenges faced                                      outcomes were to be presented at the
                                                            Mathematics Association of Victoria (MAV)
Teaching and coordinating the winery site
                                                            conference in December 2006.
manager and other teachers across two
campuses taking into consideration timetabling
                                                            A video diary, produced in DVD format,
constraints, required extensive organisation and
                                                            showcases the winery visits. It features students’
                                                            conversations about mathematics using the
                                                            thinking aloud strategy while completing group
A lasting legacy                                            tasks.
Craig says the ASISTM project has been a
wonderful experience for all involved and expects           Craig says. ‘Power comes from real life learning.’
some benefits to last long after the funding has            ‘You can read about it all you like, its only when
run out. Extended visits to other local sites may be        you do it that you can see the real benefits for
incorporated in the future however staff have seen          students.’
the value of authentic tasks and are keen to
incorporate these into the school settings. Staff
are looking at their school with new perspective;
they’re looking for opportunities that exist in the
                                                                Further information
schools to solve real mathematical problems. For
example, marking out the sports oval for the
sports day takes time and requires a degree of                  Craig Warn
mathematical thinking. This is now a task in which              Project Coordinator
students are involved. ‘There are more                          Leading Teacher
opportunities waiting to be utilised.’                          Red Cliffs Primary School
                                                                Telephone: (03) 5024 1147

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