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Oregon Math Project

Oregon Math Project Meaningful Math for Every Student

OMP Overview

The Oregon Math Project (OMP) advances mathematics education in our state by cultivating a network of educators that promote equitable math experiences for all students through guidance and support of policies, standards, curricula, assessments, and instructional best practices. The vision of math education in Oregon is to ensure that all students attain mathematics proficiency by having access to high-quality instruction that includes challenging and coherent content in a learning environment where each student receives the support they need to succeed in mathematics.


Uri Treisman of the University of Texas at Austin shared a metaphor of math education being engineered as a filter, one that sorts and labels our students as “math” or “non-math” people.

In place of the filter, the challenge before us is the work of reimagining an equitable system, engineered like a pump that moves and lifts all students to the goals they want to achieve. This metaphor resonated deeply with the State Board of Education as we presented the 2021 math standards for adoption.

The work of engineering a more equitable math system is centered on four cornerstone principles of the Oregon Math Project: Focus, Engagement, Pathways, and Belonging.

Focus: Learning experiences in every grade and course are focused on consistency of core mathematical content and practices that lead to mathematical understanding. Content and practices progress purposefully across grade levels, from K-12 and into college.

 

Engagement: Mathematical learning happens in environments that motivate all students to engage with relevant and meaningful issues in the world around them. Students view mathematics as a creative human endeavor to which they contribute, constructing knowledge individually and collaboratively with peers.

 

Pathways: All students are equipped with the mathematical knowledge, skills, and scaffolding necessary to identify and productively pursue any postsecondary paths in their future. Students have agency to explore and choose within and between courses, contexts, and applications they find relevant.

 

Belonging: Growth mindset is key, as participation in mathematical learning builds students’ identities as capable math learners and fosters a positive self-concept. Students’ cultural and linguistic assets are valued in ways that contribute to a sense of belonging to a community of learners. Students see the beauty and experience the joy of mathematics.

 
Any proposed instructional approach, curricular change, or system design element should be evaluated by the degree to which it builds on these four cornerstones. When new approaches are built within the framework of all four-cornerstone principles, we will be on our way to engineering a reimagined system.




The goal of Focus within mathematics learning and instruction is for students to develop mathematical understanding of both content and practice that builds throughout across grade levels. Mathematics understanding can be accomplished by students experiencing mathematics in depth at all grade levels. To be mathematically capable, students must have opportunities to focus on foundational, conceptual understanding and develop procedural fluency in mathematics. Students who have seen math procedures but can do little to apply learning to new and novel situations are likely to experience difficulty in future grades. Emphasis on coverage of too many topics can trivialize the mathematics that awaits students, turn the study of mathematics into the memorization of discrete facts and skills, and divest students of their curiosity. By delving deeply into well-chosen areas of mathematics, students develop not just self-confidence, but the ability to understand other mathematics more readily and independently.

Internalization of mathematical skills is a secondary objective of focus. Following the development of understanding, as students use the skills they have learned in different contexts, they gradually internalize math routines. Thus, in the best of mathematical environments, there is no dichotomy between gaining understanding and gaining skills. A curriculum that is based on depth and problem solving can be quite effective in developing both understanding and fluency in mathematics.

What Focus Looks Like in the Classroom:

Teachers provide opportunities for students to share their personal backgrounds, interests, cultural values, future aspirations, and connect to math content. Teachers provide activities and tasks that use real data, whenever possible. Technology is used to assist students in visualizing and understanding important mathematical concepts.

Students contribute personal experiences, where appropriate, that connect to classroom experiences. They actively seek connections between classroom experiences and the world outside of class. Students use data reasoning skills to investigate or understand issues, problems, and needs within their communities that interest them. Students use technology to assist investigations with problems that might otherwise be too difficult or time-consuming to explore. As they become accustomed to using a variety of tools, students consider the relative usefulness of a range of tools in particular contexts. They understand that the use of tools or technology does not replace the need for an understanding of reasonableness of results or how the results apply to a given context.

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The primary goal of mathematics engagement is to motivate students to interact with meaningful and relevant issues. In other words, solving problems that engage and interest students - because they want to rather than were told to. Problem solving is the essence of mathematics. Problem solving is not a collection of specific techniques to be learned; it cannot be reduced to a set of procedures. Problem solving is taught by giving students appropriate experience in solving unfamiliar problems that interest them, engaging them in a discussion of their various attempts at solutions, and reflecting on these processes. The goal is the development of open and inquiring minds. Experience in solving problems gives students the confidence and skills to approach new situations creatively, by modifying, adapting, and combining their mathematical tools; it gives students the determination to persevere until they can explain their answer.

Students are more likely to become intellectually venturesome if it is not only expected of them, but if their classroom is one in which they see others, especially their teacher, thinking in their presence. It is valuable for students to learn with a teacher and others who get excited about mathematics, who work as a team, who experiment and form conjectures. Students should understand that it is appropriate behavior for people engaged in mathematical exploration to follow uncertain leads, not always to be sure of the path to a solution, and to take risks.

What Engagement Looks Like in the Classroom:

Teachers engage students by presenting tasks that require students to find or develop a solution method and that allow for multiple strategies and solution pathways. Tasks include the use of previously learned skills and strategies in new contexts and teachers provide opportunities for students to share and discuss their different solution pathways. Teachers provide opportunities to solve problems that are relevant to students, both in class and on assessments. Tasks utilize authentic real world contexts, rather than contrived applications that look real, but are not actual problems solved outside of class. These are posed on a regular basis and require a high level of cognitive demand.

Teachers model the problem-solving process using various strategies. They encourage and support students’ exploration and use of a variety of approaches and strategies to make sense of and solve problems. They model and provide opportunities for students to pose questions that can be answered using mathematics or statistics and answer their posed questions.

Students apply previously learned strategies to solve unfamiliar problems. They explore and use multiple solution pathways and actively share and discuss different solution pathways. Students are willing to make mistakes, learning from them in the problem-solving process. They use tools and representations, as needed, to support their thinking and problem solving. Students recognize problems that arise in the real world, as well as everyday decisions, that can be solved with mathematics or statistics. They contribute thoughtful questions and insights that further mathematical discourse and assist in developing models or solutions using mathematics.

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The pathways cornerstone aims to help students develop independence and resilience as the complexity increases. Students will build independence through analysis, logic, and discourse. A student who can analyze and reason well is a more independent and resilient student. Gradually students develop the ability to make choices and justify those choices. As they build a mathematics identity, students become better able to make choices in solving problems, justify those choices, and listen to and evaluate different choices made by their peers.

While solutions to problems are important, so are the processes that lead to the solutions and the reasoning behind the solutions. Students should be able to communicate all of this, but this ability is not quickly developed. Students need extensive experiences in oral and written communication regarding mathematics, and they need constructive, detailed feedback in order to develop these skills. Mathematics is, among other things, a language, and students should be comfortable using the language of mathematics. The goal is not for students to memorize an extensive mathematical vocabulary, but rather to develop ease in precisely discussing mathematics being learned.

What Pathways Looks Like in the Classroom

The instructional emphasis at all levels should be on a thorough understanding of the subject matter and the development of logical reasoning. Students should be asked “Why?” frequently enough that they anticipate the question, ask it of themselves, and construct compelling arguments to explain. A classroom full of discourse and interaction that focuses on reasoning is a classroom where independent analytic ability and logic are being developed.

Teachers introduce concepts in a way that connects to students' academic background, life experiences, culture and language. They intentionally bridge from informal contextual descriptions to formal definitions. They also clarify the use of mathematical and statistical terminology and symbols, especially those used in different contexts or different disciplines. Teachers engage students in purposeful sharing of mathematical and statistical ideas, reasoning, and approaches using varied representations.

In classrooms with a developed pathways cornerstone, teachers help students develop independence with productive struggle. They anticipate what students might struggle with during a lesson and are prepared to support them productively through the struggle, providing instruction about the role of productive struggle in learning. Teachers allow time for productive struggle and ask questions that scaffold students’ thinking without interfering with their progress. This necessitates providing students with non-graded opportunities that allow them to learn from mistakes without fear of a failing grade.

Students develop the ability to present and explain ideas, reasoning, and representations to one another in pair, small group, and whole-class discourse using age-appropriate, discipline-specific terminology, language, and symbols. Students seek to understand approaches used by peers through clarifying questions, making sense of, and describing approaches used by others. They listen carefully to and critique the reasoning of peers using examples to support or counterexamples to refute arguments. Likewise, they are able to adjust their own thinking and problem-solving strategies after sharing discourse with peers.

Students make sense of tasks by drawing on and making connections with their prior understanding and ideas. They persevere in solving problems and realize that it is acceptable to say, “I am not sure yet how to proceed here,” while staying engaged in the problem solving process. They understand that productive struggle with math tasks is an important step to new insights.

High School Pathways

High school pathways described in the 2+1 course model are an innovation that high school faculty can use to create equitable opportunities that connect mathematics to student goals and interests as educators plan pathway options to create math pathways options for students.

This includes leaning into new and innovative ways to incorporate instructional best practices, such as NCTM’s Principles to Action, to create student-centered instructional experiences that should be a focus as we look to implement the standards this next decade. Resources and courses created today can lay a strong foundation for high school experiences in the future.

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Helping students develop a sense of belonging in mathematics requires that they experience the joy and beauty of mathematics and build the confidence to independently engage in problem-solving. Students who spend years studying mathematics, yet never develop an appreciation of its beauty, are cheated of an opportunity to become fascinated by ideas that have engaged individuals and cultures for thousands of years. While applications of mathematics are valuable for motivating students, and as paradigms for their mathematics, an appreciation for the inherent beauty of mathematics should also be nurtured. Experiencing the joy of math is to see it as more than just its utility. Opportunities to enjoy mathematics can make the student more eager to search for patterns, for connections, for answers. This can lead to a deeper understanding, which also enables the student to use mathematics in a greater variety of applications. An appreciation for the aesthetics of mathematics should permeate the curriculum and should motivate the selection of some topics.

For each student, successful mathematical experiences are self-perpetuating. It is critical that student confidence be built upon genuine successes—false praise usually has the opposite effect. Genuine success can be built in mathematical inquiry and exploration. Students should find support and reward for being inquisitive, for experimenting, for taking risks, and for being persistent in finding solutions they fully understand. An environment in which this happens is more likely to be an environment in which students generate confidence in their mathematical ability.

What Belonging Looks Like in the Classroom

ODE supports national calls to consider detracking math experiences for our students and teachers. For the purposes of ODE guidance, the term “tracking” will refer to the practice of creating different levels of the same course that group students by perceived abilities. Detracking would ensure that all students have access to the same content and experiences for any given grade level or course.

Within the classroom with belonging, teachers provide activities and tasks with accessible entry points that present meaningful opportunities for student exploration and/or co-creation of mathematical understanding. They facilitate students’ active learning of algebraic, numeric, geometric and data reasoning through a variety of instructional strategies, including inquiry, problem solving, and critical thinking. Teachers apply Universal Design for Learning (UDL) to support active learning within the context of math and the modeling process. They support students in developing active listening skills and respectfully asking clarifying questions to their peers to deepen understanding. They Invite students to take risks and share their rough-draft thinking. Overall, teachers create a safe, student-driven classroom environment in which all students, particularly students from underserved communities, feel a sense of belonging as a math learner, know that their views are valued in the class’ collective sensemaking, and that “incorrect” answers or conceptions can be important contributions to shared understanding.

Students engage with teachers and peers in discussions to make sense of mathematical concepts, procedures, and applications. They actively support one another’s learning and solve problems compassionately with others by sharing strategies and solution paths rather than simply giving answers. Students seek to understand and address the reasons for their struggles to help them make progress in solving problems and overcome challenges in the course. They reflect on mistakes and misconceptions to improve their mathematical understanding, and make decisions about how to connect math content to topics and contexts they are interested in.

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Oregon Mathway Grants

The challenges of Oregon math reform are complex and will require the collaborative efforts of educators across the state. The Oregon Math Project seeks to build capacity among educators to implement responsive pedagogy as well as to create relevant and engaging courses from which students can choose to best achieve their goals. The 2021-23 Oregon Mathway Grants were focused on supporting implementation of relevant high school pathway courses options that are relevant or responsive to students’ postsecondary goals.

Grant goals for the 2021-23 grants included creating and/or curating relevant course content and instructional materials aligned with revised Oregon State Standards and providing professional learning opportunities statewide to increase the efficacy of mathematics instruction. Resources from these grants will be posted here as they are reviewed for content and accessibility requirements.