Guest Blog Post by Christine Younghusband
Christine Younghusband is the guest blogger for My Kid’s Locker for the month of March. Her repertoire of experience includes working on the provincial governing committee for the new Math curriculum; Doctor of Education Candidate in Educational Leadership; Math teacher; trustee, and mother. Wow! She is also a well-known speaker. She presents at many Professional Development venues, seminars, and workshops for educators, administrators and families. I am honoured to have her as part of my Personal Learning Network! So grab a cup of coffee and sit down and read this wonderful guest blog post!
Name: Christine Younghusband
Degree: Master of Education in Curriculum and Instruction; Doctor of Education Candidate in Educational Leadership
Occupation/Vocation: Graduate student, math educator, and school trustee
Hobbies: teaching and learning… I am a bit of an edu-enthusiast
Connect with her on her website here and . . .
1. How long have you been involved with your PLN through Social Media?
2. Tell me your history in Math?
I’ve enjoyed math in my K-12 education. I would not say that I excelled in it, but managed to get a concentration in Mathematics from UBC alongside my major in Chemistry. I completed my B.Ed. at UBC in chemistry, science, and mathematics and started my teaching career on the Sunshine Coast. Generally, Math did not come easy for me and had always believed that the learning experience could be better for all. This has been a primary motivator for me as a math learner and math teacher. I completed my Master of Education in Curriculum and Instruction, focused on mathematics education; and, I am completing my Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership looking at professional learning and mathematics education.
3. Did you teach Math? If so, where?
I taught secondary mathematics from grades 8-12, including Calculus 12, for 16 years in public schools on the Sunshine Coast.
4. What compelled you to run for a position in the municipal government?
I was trying to complete my doctorate degree while teaching and being a mom. I had completed my coursework while teaching full-time, but I felt that I had to let something go. I had a choice to make and left my teaching practice to complete my dissertation. I left in 2010 and the municipal election was held in 2011. I could not resist returning back to public education in a different capacity. I have learned a tonne about governance and student learning. I am proud to be a second term school trustee on the Sunshine Coast.
5. What was your role in the new curriculum development?
In 2013, I joined the Math K-9 Curriculum Development Team. I was selected by ministry staff after giving a keynote session at the UBC Math K-12 Aboriginal Math Symposium about a math project a colleague and I created during my last year of teaching called, “Math Embedded – A Tribute to Susan Point,” where we integrated mathematics, aboriginal education, and art education into a yearlong project. The best outcome of this learning and teaching experience was that students were self-identifying as aboriginal to their peers. These students made a connection to mathematics, their heritage, and Art 8.
6. Do you think this is a change?
I think that the BC Curriculum provides an opportunity for change. We are currently wrestling with semantics, trigger words, and pedagogy. This policy document can act as a catalyst or vehicle for teachers to reflect on their practice and consider what is working or not working to best facilitate student learning. That said, some things will look similar. For example, we are still doing fractions, measurement, and algebra. What looks different is the focus on the core and curricular competencies, the big ideas, and communicating student learning. Assessment will change.
7. How has Math changed?
Math in itself has not changed. How we approach mathematics instruction, pedagogy, and assessment has changed as the BC Curriculum will mandate the assessment of the curricular competencies using content as the vehicle. This is a significant shift as evaluating the master of content has been an underpinning to evaluating student achievement. “Has the student mastered the content?” Now the question is, “Is the student competent?” This shift will be challenging for students, teachers, and parents to decipher… at first. We only know what we know. Many of us succeeded or failed in mathematics from a pedagogy that entailed rote memorization, drill & practice, and high stakes testing. All of these assessment and evaluation practices dictate how teachers would teach the content. Moreover, these practices are focused on “student achievement” versus “student learning.” How we communicate student learning to students, parents, and other educators in mathematics will be another challenge.
8. How do you think teachers will respond to the change in the new Math curriculum?
Like any policy, it will be faced with some resistance. This is normal. There will be a lot of questions as to why… then the how. In the end, it’s about student learning and their success. The BC Curriculum is focused on the educated citizen and mathematics has/is primarily focused on separating and sorting students. The Math K-9 is designed to be inclusive. The 3 Core Competences of Thinking, Communicating, and Personal/Social will push the envelope as to how students will learn the content, demonstrate their understanding, and develop the curricular competencies using the content.
9. How do you think students will respond to the change in the new Math curriculum?
Teachers are the primary learners at this time. If teachers can be vulnerable enough to be the learners with their students, this would be a step in the right direction. There will be a pedagogical shift whether if you focus on assessment practices or utilizing the BC Curriculum with respect to the Big Ideas and Learning Standards. Students may resist at first, much like the teachers, but in time and with the teachers, the learning intentions of the Math K-9 Curriculum can be realized. Learning is fun… including Math!!!
10. What do you see as refreshing and new in the new curriculum for Math?
The Math K-9 has less content (the noun) and more focus on the competencies (the verb). It lends itself to many cross-curricular opportunities and applications versus being a separate and artificially rigorous. I love the idea that creativity, inquiry, and student-driven learning can be realized with the “reimagined” curriculum. It does not have to be the “traditions of mathematics” where it is somehow socially acceptable to be “bad at math.”
11. Why do you think changing the Math curriculum was essential?
In developing the Math K-9 curriculum, it took many iterations and continues to do so until the final draft is published. In the big picture, math is/was not working for everyone. It came down to a “have or have not” attitude towards mathematics, when really math should be accessible and equal to the learning experiences of English Language Arts. Mathematics is a language. It’s a way of thinking and communicating; it’s another way to connect with the personal/social. Math is more than just doing, memorizing, and getting the right answer. Math K-9 is an opportunity to embrace and engage in mathematics as it interconnects with other disciplinary areas, including aboriginal worldviews and content.
12. How would you encourage new teachers to approach the new Math curriculum?
One step at a time…. I would not recommend looking at the Math curriculum as a whole. It will be overwhelming especially if the new teacher is a generalist and will be looking at several curricular areas at one time. Meaningful change can only happen when you take one step at a time. Go to the curriculum tools at: https://curriculum.gov.bc.ca/tools for suggestions on how to get started with planning and using the curriculum documents. Start with an area of strength and move from there. Find a “study buddy” to work with. This could be an experienced teacher, members of the department or grade level, or a like-minded individual who wants to learn, share, and collaborate as much as you do. The teacher is the learner… an experiential learner. This learning process takes time, practice, and patience. Mistakes are inevitable… and that’s OK. Share your learning. What works and what doesn’t work… and why? It does not have to be perfect. It’s what you do with these mistakes and how you respond to them that matter. It only gets better.
13. How would you encourage seasoned teachers to approach the new Math curriculum?
The same response as question 12. We are all learners. However, there is an exception with seasoned teachers… they have experience teaching mathematics. There is an opportunity for reflection. What is working? What isn’t? What do I do that currently reflects the intentions of the new curriculum? What am I currently doing that incorporates all three core competencies? How am I accomplishing that? How am I not? How would I assess mathematics differently if I am more focused on the curricular competencies? How would I co-create a rubric with students so that they are able to self-assess their learning? Am I doing that already? How can I do it differently? How would I communicate student learning in mathematics that does not reflect a letter grade or percent? What would an e-portfolio look like in my classroom? How can I connect mathematics with English Language Arts, Arts Education, or Physical and Health Education? The questions of inquiry are endless. This is an opportunity for seasoned teachers to look at their practice in a critical way, make changes (if needed), and support student learning.