Momentum for math

By Learning Forward
June 2020
Vol. 41, No. 3
Peek into a math classroom, virtual or physical. What are students doing and saying about their math learning? Are they engaged? Are they thinking critically — evaluating solutions, assessing their understanding, revising their strategies, explaining concepts, and connecting mathematics to real life? According to the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, “When students take an active part in monitoring and regulating their learning, then the rate of their learning is dramatically increased” (2007). The meta-cognitive abilities to think about what they currently know and don’t yet understand and the skills of setting learning goals and monitoring progress toward achieving these goals are vital to students’ success today and tomorrow. Helping all students become more self-directed in their mathematics learning is especially necessary in the online

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Partial list of student competencies for self-directed learning of mathematics

•          I can use math vocabulary to explain my math thinking.
•          I can ask questions if I don’t understand.
•          I can ask for help if I need it.
•          I can restate another student’s idea.
•          I can use different strategies to solve problems.
•          I can work independently.
•          I can work collaboratively.
•          I can represent my math thinking visually.
•          I can use strategies to persevere with challenging problems.
•          I can prove my answers make sense.
•          I can learn from my mistakes.
•          I can use feedback from others to improve my math work.
•          I can set goals for my math learning and track my progress.
•          I can reflect on my math learning.
•          I can explain what I need to know and be able to do on assignments.
•          I can use my math journal as a learning tool.

Jumping jacks math task

  1. How many jumping jacks can our whole class do in one minute? Make an estimate.
  2. Compare and discuss your estimates with your group.
  3. Talk about some ways you might gather data to help answer this question. Record your plan here.
  4. Your homework for tonight is to gather data to help solve this problem.
  5. Tomorrow you will share the data you collect with your group and prepare to present your investigation findings to the class.
  6. Be ready to talk about what this investigation has to do with measurement.


Hammond, Z. (2015). Culturally responsive teaching & the brain: Promoting authentic engagement and rigor among culturally and linguistically diverse students. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

Joyner, J.M. & Muri, M. (2011). INFORMative assessment: Formative assessment to improve math achievement. Sausalito, CA: Math Solutions.

Knight, J. (2019). Students on the margins. The Learning Professional, 40(6), 28-32.

National Council of Teachers of Mathematics. (2007). Five “key strategies” for effective formative assessment (NCTM Assessment Research Brief).

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Learning Forward is the only professional association devoted exclusively to those who work in educator professional development. We help our members plan, implement, and measure high-quality professional learning so they can achieve success with their systems, schools, and students.

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