In this blog I’m going to continue to explore some of the ways we can incorporate the First Peoples Principles of Learning (FPPL) into our daily math lessons. Last blog, we looked at incorporating experiential learning and multiple strategies and so I’d like to continue to unpack this principle:
Learning is holistic, reflexive, reflective, experiential, and relational (focused on connectedness, on reciprocal relationships, and a sense of place).
My ethnomathematics experiences have taught me the value of holistic learning. I consider holistic learning to include learning in authentic contexts as well as learning that is centered on the wellbeing of the person and their communities. Learning in authentic contexts is integrated or cross-curricular learning (can also be problem-based or project-based learning). In terms of learning that is centered on the well–being of the learner, I think about the different worldviews and value systems as well as choice, being outdoors and moving while learning.
a) This lesson centered on the Gorge Waterway incorporates different subject areas such as Social Studies, Science, Math, English Language Arts and focuses on the importance of the waterway for the Lekwungen peoples and all of us who live in Victoria.
b) As a class discuss some problems that are specific to your community (classroom, whole school, surrounding community) and then students will work in groups to solve them or at least understand the problems in more complex ways. An example for teachers at Cedar Hill is to approach the owners or managers at Fairways grocery stores and discuss food waste while also looking at the statistics for how many folks in Victoria use food banks. Students can use different charts, maybe percentages and will likely perform many other operations as they determine the total food waste per day, week, month, year, etc. Ideally, they’ll be able to provide some ideas for reducing food waste and supporting those who don’t have enough to eat.
Reflexive and Reflective:
I’ve had a lot of experience with reflective learning and teaching but reflexive was a new term to me. I’ve found different definitions but have found the following ones useful:
When we encourage students to be self-reflexive, we are asking them to understand what they are learning as they are learning. Additionally, self-reflexivity not only allows students to understand what they learned but why they learned it.
Teachers who promote reflective classrooms ensure that students are fully engaged in the process of making meaning. They organize instruction so that students are the producers, not just the consumers, of knowledge. To best guide children in the habits of reflection, these teachers approach their role as that of “facilitator of meaning making.”
-I consider both of these important aspects in developing student agency – helping students to be the drivers of their own education, rather than passive receivers of information.
a) As students are problem solving stop them periodically to check-in. Ask them to reflect on what they are doing and have done so far: “what’s working?” “what’s not working?” “Do you understand why you are doing?” “Do you need to think about it differently?” “Could you think about it differently or solve it in a different way?” “What could help you in this moment (picture, discussion with others, tools, etc.)?”
b) Students can keep a learning journal or keep their own notes to document their current understanding of math concepts and as they are doing this they can be asking themselves “if I read this in a month, will I know what I’m talking about?” They can use pictures, analogies, examples, or anything else that will help them to communicate their understanding.
c) Use contexts often – this helps with the ‘why are we learning this’. When students solve problems rooted in contexts they see it as useful and meaningful.
d) Ask “WHY?” all the time. Annoyingly often. We want our students to get into the habit of proving and justifying their ideas. You might also give sentence stems (on a poster) for students to use (especially helpful for ELL and FRIM learners):
“My estimate is because ______”
“I think the answer is ______ because ______”
“I used (this method) to solve the problem because ______”
In my experience it does take some time to get students into this habit and at first, they don’t like the “becauses”, which I understand – it’s challenging to explain our thinking at times but it’s also really important
e) Do daily reflections at the end of every lesson. I recommend leaving 4-7 minutes for this. I usually do this orally for a few reasons: it’s faster, easier for most students and I like the students to hear each other’s reflections. I usually ask students to rate their level of understanding of the concept with their fingers (1-4) as well as a verbal reflection in answer to a question specific to HOW we learned such as “how did using the base 10 blocks affect your understanding of place value?” or more general questions like “what was the most challenging aspect of today’s lesson?” “What mistake helped your learning today (their own or someone else’s)?” etc.
I also feel the need to reiterate the fundamental message from my first blog in this series: relational learning is key! If we truly want to use the FPPL then we must start by building respectful relationships with our students and also we MUST look for each student’s strengths and gifts, rather than viewing them through a deficit lens. I first heard the expression “bias of lowered expectations” used at a FNESC conference a few years ago and it hit me like a bus because I knew I was guilty of it. When we are looking at our students through our own set of values we may not even see their gifts because they are not what we might consider academic or ‘school related’ gifts. I wonder what would happen if we found their strengths and incorporated them into our teaching.
Relational learning means that we learn from each other. There is a reciprocity of learning and teaching. This is also a way to share power with your students. Search for ways that you can learn from your students – I really think you might be surprised at what you learn and also how this relationship dynamic changes how students show up for learning.
Lastly, I want to encourage you to really listen to your students’ mathematical thinking. It may seem wrong or illogical at first but be curious about their ideas, rather than being on the hunt for the ‘right answer’. If we can meet our students where they are at, in terms of their understanding, we can better support them in moving forward. I’ve often had to ask students to repeat their thoughts 2 or 3 times as I try to make sense of it and understand it and this act shows them that their ideas are worthy of talking about and thinking about.