Using Developmental Continuum to Address Student Learning Needs

Area(s) of Focus: math, curriculum
Division(s): Primary, Junior
Level(s): Grade 2, Grade 3, Grade 4

Teachers developed a framework to use developmental continua to support student learning. The project increased teacher and student efficacy and was clearly evident in the deeper understanding of mathematics in children.

  • Collaborative inquiry conducted by teachers from three different schools
  • Deepen understanding of developmental continua and how to use them to be responsive to student needs
  • Use one of the developmental continua to develop questions and tasks to support student learning
  • Increase teacher efficacy (by noticing and naming the math)
  • Deepen our understanding of how to address student needs

Team Members

  • David Tran

    Peel District School Board

  • Alwin Cheng

    Peel District School Board

  • Shareen Engalla

    Peel District School Board

  • Amanda Wang

    Peel District School Board

  • Cathy Calvano

    Peel District School Board

  • Kiran Pothula

    Peel District School Board

Professional Learning Goals

  • Explored various developmental continua (e.g., PRIME, Lawson’s, Fosnot, etc.)
  • Used developmental continua to address students’ misconceptions
  • Learned to notice and name the math by anticipating possible misconceptions
  • Developed good questions to target learning

Activities and Resources

  • Explored the developmental continua (e.g., PRIME, Lawson’s, Fosnot, etc.)
  • Developed a framework to use developmental continua to inform our teaching and look for gaps in learning
  • Created questions and tasks to guide student learning through context, inquiries and problem-based situations
  • Developed a framework for assessment of student learning, gathering evidence through triangulation of data
  • Examined student work
  • Used technology to differentiate for the needs of all learners in the classroom (e.g., virtual manipulatives, apps, Dash/robots)
  • Snap cubes, number lines, fraction circles, base ten blocks, play money, counters

Unexpected Challenges

  • Additional time is needed to meet and debrief
  • Changes to participants on the project (e.g., sick leave)
  • Challenging to change parents’ perception of student learning and an understanding of how to help their children at home (difficult to move math worksheet)

Enhancing Student Learning and Development

  • Students took ownership of their learning
  • Development of computation fluency through conceptual understanding (e.g., Number talks)
  • Reduce stigma/fear around multiplication
  • Increase student efficacy by providing “scaffolding” questions
  • Students are more willing to take risk – developing a growth mindset given the openness of questions
  • Easy to scaffold to meet student needs
  • Easier to address student needs given the framework
  • Use games to build fluency and facts
  • Use word problems to contextualize the math
  • Students are using multiple representations to show deeper understanding of concepts (e.g., using manipulatives, open number lines, visual representations, number sentences, concrete, abstract, etc.)
  • The framework benefited students in risk – clear learning trajectory for students and direct intervention


  • Share with colleagues at staff meetings
  • Share with colleagues during Professional Learning Day
  • Share with cross board Professional Learning Community
  • Share with colleagues at a Math Network
  • Share with colleagues at the EML Conference in PDSB

Project Evaluation

  • Collaboration (cross school and working with our instructional coaches) allows for the exchange of ideas
  • The planning and collaboration allows the deprivatization of practice and sharing of resources
  • This opportunity allows teachers to learn new ways to teach mathematics
  • Improvement in student achievement
  • The framework is helpful in planning
  • Teachers have a better understanding of possible misconceptions of the math
  • Teachers are engaged – self-directed collaborative inquiries
  • Change in assessment practices (e.g., triangulation of evidence)

Resources Used

Lawson, Alex. What to Look for: Understanding and Developing Student Thinking in Early Numeracy. Pearson Canada Inc., 2016.

Small, Marian. PRIME (Professional Resources and Instruction for Mathematics Educators): Number and Operations Strand Kit. Nelson Thomson, 2005.

SanGiovanni, John. Mine the Gap for Mathematical Understanding: Common Holes and Misconceptions and What to Do about Them, Grades 3-5. Corwin, A SAGE Company, 2017.

Smith, Nanci N. Every Math Learner: a Doable Approach to Teaching with Learning Differences in Mind, Grades K-5. Corwin, A SAGE Company, 2017.

Fosnot, Catherine Twomey, et al. Contexts of Learning Mathematics – Multiplication and Division. Heinemann, 2007.