**Bronwyn Gibbs:** I’m just going to be telling you a bit of a story really about when I first met Bobbie and Jodie Hunter in my role as a teacher at Corinna School in Porirua.

So back in 2015 we started some professional development called DMIC: Developing Mathematical Inquiry Communities. We weren’t sure what was going to hit us when we met Bobbie and Jodie but our lives were transformed and so were our students. In the ways that they saw themselves as mathematicians and as able to learn mathematics and having strengths in mathematics.

So I’m going to be talking a bit about that journey that I made as a teacher and also about changes to assessment through reflective and responsive teaching practices.

So in a nutshell, DMIC is based on a transformative approach to teaching mathematics through culturally responsive and sustaining pedagogy. We based on core Pasifika values so children worked together collaboratively in groups to solve problems and everybody succeeds when the group succeeds. The PLD is for priority learners which is the Māori and Pasifika learners but as other speakers have been saying, we know that what works for Māori students works for all students. And that’s because it’s about best practice.

When I started my DMIC journey like a lot of people, I actually genuinely believed that some people were good at maths and some people weren’t good at maths and I actually considered myself one of those people who weren’t good at maths. I thought that if you were able to answer a question quickly, knew your basic facts, that meant that you were good at maths. Well that all completely changed for me. But if you just take a moment to think about some of your beliefs about maths I guarantee that some people feel kind of a little bit nervous or anxious, even at the mention of the word mathematics. Some people will think: yeah, I’m great at maths, because I’m really smart and other people remember, I know that I remember at college, that feeling of just having no idea what was going on but being too scared or embarrassed to say: I don’t understand.

So DMIC is about changing all of that for the kids in our classrooms. From a young age they – children – develop perceptions about whether they’re good or bad at maths and we also live in a society where other people make judgements about people’s intelligence and people’s mathematical abilities based on things that are nothing to do with either of those.

These are real statements from people in the community.

*The video displays two statements: “You don’t understand, these children come to school to school knowing nothing,” by a principal, and “It makes me feel different cause Tokelauans don’t do maths,” by a student.*

That principal saying: “You don’t understand, these children come to school knowing nothing.” Or a student saying: “It makes me feel different in mathematics ‘cause Tokelauans don’t do maths.” And we have statistics like these where only 26% of Māori students and 11% of Pasifika students are actually achieving where there should be in Year 8.

Fortunately DMIC is a transformative approach and the results that we have show that children’s learning is completely accelerating, so I’ll tell you a bit about the story.

DMIC is based on social grouping. Before I met Bobbie I was grouping by what I thought was ability and I do some kind of assessment at the beginning of the year and then put kids into their groups. No matter what we call those groups, if we call them the Transformers or the Pythagoras or whatever, children know exactly where they fit in that hierarchy of the classroom. Unfortunately as teachers we also tend to teach to that so I know that um… it’s really embarrassing to admit but I would give my, who I thought were higher level of ability, more challenging tasks and the ones that I thought were lower in ability more procedural kind of boring maths.

So Bobbie said: Nah. Change all that up. Mix them socially. Think about who works together well. So I gave it a go and realised, actually there’s no reason to… it is not even ability… what I was doing was based on some nonsense that I had in my belief system about ability. So mixing the kids up, and exposing every child to every other child’s way of thinking and, and not limiting what I was teaching them.

I also realised that I was looking at learning as being really boxed and linear as though children had to learn one thing before they were ready to move on to learn the next thing. So I let go of all of that.

*The video shows a book entitled “The Blue Table Means you Don’t have a Clue”: The persistence of Fixed-Ability Thinking and Practices in Primary Mathematics in English Schools by Rachel Marks.*

I just put on the title of that: the blue table means you don’t have a clue. I really like that title for an article because it shows that kids know.

I learned how to write culturally responsive tasks. So rather than use things like cars and garages which is a problem from NZ Maths about having five cars and figuring out how to park them – I don’t know how many of you have got five cars but I don’t, I don’t even have a garage and neither did most of the kids in my class. So writing problems that are based on children’s real life strengths. On their cultures. What are they bringing to school and how do we give them mathematical problems that are based on their lives.

So we change the classroom and the teaching to fit them rather than expect them to fit into our version of what we consider maths to be. That meant I had to know the kids in my class really well. It also meant I had to know the curriculum really well because we’re writing open-ended challenging tasks with multiple entry points and multiple exit points, so I could no longer just teach a narrow strategy, I had to have a learning trajectory in mind. Every child in the class would be learning something within a lesson, but it wouldn’t necessarily be the same thing as someone else. So I really had to have the curriculum and the big picture in mind for what I was going to teach.

It also involved a shift in my ethic of care, which prior to DMIC I had thought was kind of about keeping kids safe and not wanting to upset them, but I learnt that actually that was not very respectful of the learners in my class and learning is actually about stretching yourself and being challenged and sometimes there were tears in the classroom, but I had one girl in particular that came to me at the end of the year and thanked me for pushing her and said: now I know you only did that because you believed in me. And that to me is what learning is and that’s powerful.

So it’s enabling learners to actually struggle with the maths and as someone over Christmas said: mathematics… the natural state of a mathematician is to be stuck, it’s not about getting an answer quickly. So it’s really changing a teacher mind-set.

Which also led to a shift in my teacher role. Having to let go of that control that I was used to having and of my voice being the voice that was mostly heard in the classroom, to making sure that actually my voice was the voice that you heard least. It was about the children. It was about them learning together and not about me being the authority who was there to be listened to that knew everything. I certainly had a role which was to be noticing and responding to the mathematics they were bringing to the classroom and using and pulling that together to make connections to a big mathematical idea, but it wasn’t to be telling the children what or how or when to learn.

The upshot of this was a huge change in my and the children’s perspectives of what being smart in maths meant. So at the beginning of the year, children thought being smart in maths was about knowing, like I did, about knowing your times tables or your basic facts. I had one boy that said: “oh I think being smart at maths is about square roots.” And then he came to me afterwards and said: “what’s a square root anyway, Miss?” So really changing to actually being smart in maths as being able to ask good questions. It’s being able to justify your thinking. It’s being able to stick at a task even when you don’t know the answer. Just as narrowing the curriculum doesn’t lead to greater learning, neither does narrowing assessment. So I really learnt to open my eyes to the learning that was happening all the time in the classroom.

There’s a number of pathways and points of entry to be assessing mathematical development: Maximising opportunities. So for example, body language. It’s really easy to see if someone’s understanding what’s going on. If they’re looking confused it gives you as a teacher, an opportunity to say to them: Hey, you look like you’re a bit confused, what are you thinking?

The key to a good question is actually genuinely listening to the answer. You would be amazed at how many teachers play a game of ‘guess what’s in my head’ and they’re trying to lead children towards the answer that they want to hear. So that’s not a good question. And it’s not being respectful to your learners. So good questions are actually inquiring into: what are you thinking? I wonder – not trying to correct a misconception, but I wonder where that came from. How can I write a problem that’s going to address that so that we can move their learning forward tomorrow?

So questions and observing. Just taking the time, rather than being in there talking to kids all the time, trying to give them all your amazing knowledge, actually observe. What are they doing, what are they saying, how are they approaching a problem?

Using mathematical practices like arguing and justifying and sharing your thinking in a mathematics classroom is the curriculum in action, particularly the key competencies. In DMIC classrooms we see children relating to others, they’re participating, they’re contributing. When we put the richness of the curriculum at the centre of learning is when the learning happens.

I’ll give you my last word. My last word is: I feel proud in my maths lesson today by carrying my family with me, and my culture. And these are the kind of changes we can make for our kids. Kia ora.