Supporting Mastery Learning Through Access to Technology

Area(s) of Focus: technology, math
Division(s): Intermediate
Level(s): Grade 9, Grade 10

Incorporating mastery-based learning through the use of technology (iPads) in the grades 9 and 10 applied math classrooms. D2L and Google Docs are used as the platforms for curriculum delivery.

Though our academic-level students perform well in mathematics, our applied-level students (as evidenced by weak EQAO results) and FNMI students continue to struggle. Forty-eight per cent of our grade 9/10 FNMI math students did not pass math this past year. A new strategy must be initiated!

Our goal was to get technology into the hands of our students to allow them to pursue independent, mastery-based learning, as well as to seek out and develop a wide variety of resources to allow students to learn independently in the manner of their choosing. We planned on using existing online learning resources, as well as developing new resources to meet the needs of our diverse population of students, ensuring success for all.

Team Members

  • Tina Balfe

    Rainbow District School Board

  • Heather Theijsmeijer

    Rainbow District School Board

  • Erin Rose

    Rainbow District School Board

Professional Learning Goals

  • becoming comfortable with incorporating the use of technology in the math classroom
  • practising methods of how to successfully differentiate instruction to multiple students at once
  • creating an interactive classroom atmosphere to allow more individual time with students
  • learning the technology itself, both software and hardware aspects (iPads versus computers, apps versus programs versus Internet use)


Activities and Resources

The team met twice formally as a group and then often informally through Google Hangouts and chats and casual meetings during and after the school day. We all used iPads and computers daily as a method to deliver curriculum to our students in our classrooms. Various members worked on different aspects of this to more efficiently test the waters and further our learning.

Various apps on the iPads were tested out: general use (Explain Everything, ShowMe, Mind Mapping, lino, Padlet, Twitter, ePortfolio) as well as math-specific ones (Desmos, Khan Academy, EasyMeasure, Trigonometry, Number Patterns, Mathletics, TeacherTube, Algebra Tiles, Gizmos and a few others). Quite a variety of websites were also used routinely, with a few of these being: LearnAlberta, Khan Academy, MathsIsFun, Cool Math Games, CK-12 and YouTube.

Livescribe pens were also tested out and various interactive projection methods such as Reflector and Chromecast.

One of our teachers is currently learning the ins and outs of Google Classroom and uses Google Forms/Docs/Spreadsheets efficiently as a method of delivering and receiving student work.

We did purchase Mathletics subscriptions for our Grade 9 applied students. I wasn’t very impressed with the ebooks (as there are a lot of other better online resources for learning), but the kids enjoyed the multiple choice quizzes (that have example questions similar if help is needed) on every topic in the curriculum. There are some students who won’t do anything else in the course, but will complete their Mathletics activities. I don’t know that I would purchase subscriptions for a whole class again, but it may be worthwhile to get a few for some IEP students to use. On the upside, the company was very willing and helpful in regards to support in using the various aspects of the program. I will be honest in saying that I did not use all aspects (lesson planning, course planning) of the program to the fullest.

Unexpected Challenges

One of the biggest unexpected challenges was poor Internet connectivity with websites frequently crashing, as well as dealing with certain websites being blocked by our board (YouTube, Dropbox and Twitter).

Another challenge was just trying to get the students to engage in the tasks at hand, to see if this method actually helped students to learn. Many students in the math classrooms would not partake in ANY form of math instruction or learning and therefore it was hard to assess the validity of effectiveness of instructional methods.

Enhancing Student Learning and Development

One of the math classrooms is an extremely rowdy bunch with a few very shy, quiet and non-social students within. This method of instruction delivery allowed these students to progress at a pace faster than the class because it allowed them not to be slowed down by the rowdiness and disruptions of others.

As we are a rural school, many students also have a hard time concentrating in the classroom, either because they are distracted by the behaviours of others or because they use their school time as their social time. They commented that they have nothing to do when they get home so they would rather spend that time working on their school work where they can more efficiently work and concentrate. Having all the lessons through an online platform allowed students to be able to do this outside of the classroom.

Lastly, it always gave students an option for the method in which they would like to learn. They all learned the same material, but some chose to watch videos, some chose hands-on activities, some chose teacher-directed lesson and some just liked to read through websites or classnotes and examples.


We have a small school and so we interact daily with other teachers on our staff. We have done sessions on this with our staff at PA days (slideshow and interactive use of technology during) and staff don’t hesitate to come find us or email and ask for help as needed. We also were to do an OAME session on this material, but because of job action (strike) we were unable to present as planned this year. We will likely further our investigations and apply to present next year on a similar topic.

We have a blog started that over time we will continue to add to and all of us are on Twitter and contribute to chats via that method. One of our team members hosted a Twitter chat session recently on BYOD classroom management as well as holding an Adobe chat session with members in our board on the BYOD classroom.

Project Evaluation

Overall, I feel the project was a success as all the teachers involved directly are much more comfortable with the physical devices themselves (computers, projection, Livescribe, iPads), as well as a few of the key apps, websites and delivery methods.

On the student side of things, I feel that despite a rowdy, unengaged group of students, the students who wanted to learn were able to do so more efficiently and with more teacher time than they would have had otherwise due to classroom control. Students who had a lot of absences were able to go back and learn or relearn material from missed days. They were also able to access all of those lessons during the strike time as well, which was a bonus for some students who were behind and wanted to catch up.

We will have a better idea at the end of the semester as to pass rates, but for the students who were wanting to be engaged and learn, they were able to do so. It did not necessarily help out students who were not willing to try, but if their parents wanted to make them complete the work at home, they would be able to.

In the future, we would like to find a way to easily link the resources to the parents directly so they can follow along with their students’ learning as well, along with keeping completion checklists (of learning goals and lessons) that students could fill in so as to keep track of their own learning also.

I myself also need to “pretty up” my lesson instruction layout so they are a little less text and more visual to find your way around. This will hopefully come in the future.

Resources Used

Khan Academy (also an app) – math instructional videos and practice

Mathletics (subscriptions available for purchase)

– ebooks and practice assessments for all components of Ontario curriculum

Maths Is Fun

– easy-to-follow instructional math website with examples and some interactives

Manitoulin Math

– our technology/math blog

Website with links to many good math blogs

Kyle Pearce – “Tap into Teen Minds” – great leader of iPads in the classroom as well as engaging lessons (and can be followed on Twitter also)

Keeler, Alice. 50 Things You Can Do with Google Classroom.

(can also follow her on Twitter)

Jon Orr’s website (also on Twitter) – math teacher with great ideas who uses technology and hands-on to engage students

Favourite apps for general use (any subject) –

Mindmapping, Tellagami, Sock Puppets, Explain Everything, Show Me, Educreations, Nearpod



Favourite math apps –

Gizmos, Khan Academy, CK-12, Nearpod

Estimation 180 – daily number sense worksheets/activities

(not technology-based, just a good resource)

Jo Boaler’s website for engaging math activities (again, not technology-based but good site!)

Nearpod (also an app)

– if you buy the teacher subscription ($100 per year), you can assign lessons for kids to do at their own pace or whenever they like

(either make your own lessons or find paid or free interactive lessons designed by others)

EDpuzzle (also an app) – lets you EASILY take any YouTube video and insert questions and comments throughout to ensure student is engaged and learning the important aspects of the video

– also lets you save the video so that it will play for the students when YouTube is blocked!

Socrative (online quiz maker/taker) – also an app

Kahoot! – fun online quiz maker/taker

If people have any questions or would like resources we have created or would like to contact us, we’d love to hear from you:

Erin Rose (business teacher) – [email protected]

Tina Balfe (math – 1P and 2P especially) – [email protected]

Heather Theijsmeijer – (math and science (physics especially)) – [email protected]