Exploring Problem-Based Instruction in Grade 8

Area(s) of Focus: math
Division(s): Intermediate
Level(s): Grade 7, Grade 8

Exploring problem-based instruction, teacher-friendly diagnostic assessment tools and use of achievement chart to represent final math assessment in grades 7 and 8.

As a teaching team, we explored the various math resources (ministry and various publishers) to collect, evaluate and create rich three-part lessons (that incorporate problem-based instruction) for us to use in class with our students. We have struggled with finding rich three-part lessons that meet the needs of our students and are “relevant” to our school community. We would like the time to go through resources together, and collaborate to select tasks (and create ones when needed for each strand).

As a team, we were looking for more a detailed math assessment tool to use in class. We purchased and explored the use of the Leaps and Bounds diagnostic tool.

We were also looking for a better way to communicate with our students and parents about the achievement chart and the elements of math that appear on the provincial report card. We explored creating teacher/student/parent-friendly rubrics that are reflective of the achievement.

Team Members

  • Saba Ahmad


  • Candide Dovey


  • Francesca Telesco


Professional Learning Goals

  • explore various resources that are available for grade 7 and 8 tasks (both ministry and various publishers)
  • create various three-part lessons (problem-based instructional tasks) based on TIPS4RM
  • collaborate to create meaningful math achievement charts

Activities and Resources

  • collect and collage various grade 7 and 8 math resources (contact math coach for supports)
  • meet regularly to discuss student progress and create sample problems to complete with class (based on TIPS4RM)
  • purchase Leaps and Bounds and receive training in implementation as a classroom diagnostic tool
  • collaborate on Google Docs to create teacher/student/parent-friendly achievement charts
  • purchase various manipulatives as needed to support student learning

Unexpected Challenges

Initially we applied for two grants (one for Grade 7, one for Grade 8), and were told we received both of them. Then, after much confusion, we were informed that only one grant (Grade 8) was approved.

After submitting the grants, one of the two Grade 8 team members went on leave, and was no longer part of the project.

At the end of first term, one of the two Grade 7 team members had their teaching assignment changed unexpectedly and was no longer teaching math (and therefore chose not to participate in the grant).

After many unexpected changes in staffing, we decided to merge the remaining members of the two teams.

Another difficulty we faced was booking supply teachers to cover team members. On more than one occasion, a meeting had to be rescheduled due to no occasional teacher picking up the job.

Enhancing Student Learning and Development

  • Leaps and Bounds – Provides better understanding for the teacher of where knowledge gaps are a picture of student understanding
  • Three-Part Lessons – Collaborating to build three-part lessons has provided more consistency, and by using TIPS4RM as a starting point, it helped us to better understand the ministry expectations and set high expectations for students
  • Achievement Charts – Helps create a clearer understanding for students and parents of the components of a “math mark” on the report card and areas for improvement




What we planned to do – Project updates will be given to teachers at each staff meeting and with teachers from other schools at family of school HUB meetings. A collection of all created materials will be shared on our school’s internal shared drive. A final project will be shared with parents and staff at school’s Math Night. And final project will also be shared at Superintendents family of school leadership team meeting.

What we were able to do (based on current job action) – Updates were given to teachers after each collaborative meeting. Resources were shared in hard copy and via Google Docs.

Sharing outside the school community and with parents will take place during the 2015/2016 school year.

Project Evaluation

  • Leaps and Bounds – This diagnostic tool provided useful information about student prior knowledge and I would use it again with my class. In the future, all staff would benefit from access to these documents and training on how to use them.
  • Three-Part Lesson – It was successful in that we were able to collaborate and create materials that were meaningful for our students, and other grade team members appreciated receiving them. In the future, it would be helpful to have an entire year of spending time collaboratively planning and working through these lessons.
  • Achievement Chart – These provided an opportunity to reflect on the parts of the program, and thinking about assessment created rich professional discourse. The others at the school appreciated getting copies of the resource and all teachers (regardless of subject taught) could use this resource.

Resources Used

Leaps and Bounds Towards Math Understanding 7/8, Marian Small, Nelson Education, 2012

TIPS4RM – Targeted Implementation and Planning Supports for Revised Mathematics


Government of Ontario Mathematics Curriculum Grades 1 – 8, 2005


Resources Created

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