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Numeracy Specialists and Numeracy Coaches: Does this Impact Teacher and Student Learning?

Highlights:

  • Should districts have a Numeracy Specialist hired at the District level?

This is a very short blog asking you the importance of having numeracy specialists at the District level and Numeracy coaches at the elementary and middle school level.

I have read several articles within the NCTM Children’s Mathematical Magazines over the past two years that speak to the importance of numeracy coaches at the lower and upper elementary levels. Being elementary teachers means we are expected to teach ALL subject areas.

This, without a doubt, requires a lot of work and time to fully understand the front matter as well as the content to be taught for every subject. Not only do teachers have to learn the ‘WHAT’ to teach, they also need to be engaged in  a variety of professional learning opportunities to assist them in learning ‘HOW’ to help students learn and engage in meaningful and enjoyable lessons.

I recently read an article why Quebec has the highest math scores within Canada and one of the reasons is that they have math specialists teaching math from Gr. 7 through to Gr. 12. Another reason is that continual professional learning opportunities for teachers at every grade level is provided;  and their teachers are ‘TROOPERS’ who are willing to learn and grow for the benefit of their students’ learning in mathematics.

Jeannine Ellis, a teacher and  principal at Iron River School in Bonneyville, AB, sent me her Masters capping paper and in it she stated that it is because of having a Numeracy Specialist hired at the District level, who is solely responsible for working with schools to improve mathematics learning, their mathematics instruction has and continues to improve.

Having a Numeracy Specialist hired at the District level, who is solely responsible for working with schools to improve mathematics learning, their mathematics instruction has and continues to improve.

I know for myself, as well, in the past, I was provided time in my school to work as a math lead with my colleagues. There are so many ways in which a math lead/coach can provide help:

  • 1 to 1 mentorship
  • Classroom modelling
  • Team teaching
  • Observation of me teaching
  • Small group sessions.

This was so successful that 2 years ago it grew to almost half the staff (14 teachers) wanting to be a part of this mentorship opportunity. Unfortunately, this practice did not continue and professional learning opportunities in mathematics became minimal.

Without me continuing as a math lead within my school, I believe it affected the mindset of our teachers, which in turn, impacted instructional methods. What tends to happen, is teachers fall back into old patterns of teaching because it is what they know and how they were taught.

In the district in which I teach, there isn't a numeracy specialist hired at the district level, but rather curriculum leaders who are responsible for all subject areas. Is it possible for someone to be highly skilled and highly knowledgeable in all subject areas for various grade levels?

Your Turn!

I would love to hear from you about this topic. Let’s start a discussion with the following questions:

  • Where do you teach?
  • What grade level?
  • Is there a numeracy specialist at the District level? If so has it made a positive impact?
  • Is there a numeracy coach in your school? If so has it made a positive impact?
  • Do we need specialists either teaching students right from an early grade or what grade should there be specialists?
  • Are your teachers/colleagues engaged in various professional learning opportunities in the area of mathematics?
  • How frequently is your staff engaged in learning opportunities for mathematics?

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