In our recent blog, A New Class, A New Year: The Role of Classroom Agreements, we discussed ways to work with students to establish classroom agreements that support the development of an equitable and inclusive mathematics learning community. In this blog, we share some of the ways the Investigations curriculum supports teachers in doing that work.
In the first few days and weeks of school, students in Investigations classrooms work independently, with partners, and in small groups; make choices and use materials during Math Workshop; and participate in whole-class discussions. Such activities give teachers the opportunity to establish classroom agreements that support giving respectful feedback, being a good math partner, making Math Workshop successful, and having productive and equitable math conversations.
The Investigations curriculum builds explicit opportunities for such discussions into the first unit of each grade. Below are examples of one of these opportunities at each grade, though many of the ideas described are built into and apply to all grades. They include teachers sharing what they’ve noticed about students working together; making intentional errors and asking for feedback; discussing expectations and preferences about participation in math; establishing routines and expectations for Math Workshop; and discussing ways to give and receive help while solving problems. Each of these is an opportunity to review, revise, and expand your class agreements.
Many Kindergarten sessions end with a discussion called Checking In. This 5-minute whole-class meeting focuses on something the teacher noticed while observing students at work, whether mathematical, logistical, or management-related. The first such discussion happens at the end of Session 1.1 and focuses on issues that might arise as students explore math materials (e.g. sharing) and strategies for dealing with them (e.g. role-play a fair solution). Reminders to discuss such topics appear throughout Unit 1. For example:
A discussion early in first grade is designed to raise disagreements between students about how many objects are in a particular bag. It begins with the teacher making purposeful counting mistakes and asking students for feedback. This gives the teacher the opportunity to review and perhaps expand their agreements for disagreeing respectfully, offering help or feedback, and being a helpful partner – before students are expected to do so with each other.
One of the first whole-class discussions in grade 2 focuses on agreements about Math Workshop, a structure that provides an opportunity for students to choose among a variety of activities, focused on similar mathematical content. This provides an opportunity to discuss creating an environment conducive to learning and taking responsibility for one’s own and others’ learning. (Parallel discussions appear in K and 1.)
The first activity in grade 3 focuses on participation in math class. This is an opportunity for the teacher to share what math class will be like, and to ask students what helps them engage in mathematics activities that involve solving problems and playing games, working alone and with others, and explaining their thinking. (Parallel discussions appear at the beginning of grades 4 and 5.)
A conversation about agreements and expectations for Math Workshop happens early in grade 4 (and also in grades 3 and 5). This provides an opportunity to discuss working together, making choices, working productively and other aspects critical in making Math Workshop a valuable use of class time.
The Grade 5 Mathematical Practices Essay highlights the importance of helping students persist and persevere in tackling new and challenging problems, and knowing what it means to ask for and provide support.
Maintaining and Sustaining Classroom Agreements
While much of the work of establishing agreements is embedded in the work of Unit 1 of each grade, such opportunities and reminders appear throughout the curriculum. Class discussions flag places where disagreements may arise, and support teachers in handling them. Math Practice essays support the enactment of the eight standards for math practice. Teacher Notes discuss the ways students come to understand math ideas and the range of strategies they typically use. Dialogue Boxes provide examples of classroom discussions, issues that arose, and the ways the teacher responded.
Connecting Agreements and Equity
While we, the Investigations staff, see many opportunities for ongoing conversations about agreements in the Investigations classroom, we have been discussing the role such commitments play in developing an equitable math learning community, and the ways they can support those who have been historically excluded from engaging with deep and rigorous mathematics. Classroom agreements keep issues of equity present in planning, reflecting on, and implementing the curriculum. Having them posted and revisited are a visible, tangible way for teachers to pay attention to the dynamics in their classroom. A commitment to developing and sustaining such agreements moves us closer to equitable and just learning communities.
- Developing Classroom Agreements in the Investigations 3 Classroom - October 25, 2021
- Meaningful Math Discussions: It’s about the Ideas, Not Where You Discuss Them - April 12, 2021
- Teaching Investigations 3 Remotely: Not So Different - February 22, 2021