1. Leading From The
Nerang State School
During 2011 teachers from Nerang State
School were involved in the Leading from the
Middle Project aimed at improving outcomes
in Maths for indigenous students. Four
teachers were involved, two from the junior
school (Year 2 and 3) and two from the senior
school (Year 6 and 7).
Each team completed three successful Action
Learning Cycles during 2011, the results of
which were presented at the Make It Count
Conference in early 2012.
3. The project continued during 2012, this time involving all
The aim now was expanded to include improving the
outcomes in Maths for indigenous and non-indigenous
students school wide through sound and sustainable
The Action Learning model was maintained with problem based teaching chosen as the focus area.
Back To Front Math (B2FM), a problem-based teaching
resource developed by Tierney Kennedy, was selected as a
useful tool to achieve the aims for 2012.
A flow chart of the planned actions for 2012 follows.
The need for such an approach is outlined in the extract
‘What Does That Mean For Me’ taken from B2FM website.
After successful discussions with Tierney Kennedy in
January 2012 it was decided to organise in-service
sessions led by a B2FM representative to enable
teachers to evaluate the B2FM resource. An outline
of what problem-based teaching looks like in the
B2FM format is shown in the extract taken from the
Each teacher was given the opportunity to observe a
lesson which highlighted the main features of the
B2FM approach. These modelled lessons covered
lower, middle and upper levels and were followed by a
meeting briefly outlining the features of the B2FM
resource and the associated web site.
5. Following a trial period using the site, teachers decided this
was a worthwhile resource. Purchase of a school license was
To ensure teachers had a sound working understanding of the
site, a further in-service session was organised. During this
session teachers were walked through how B2FM works in
practice. An outline of how B2FM works is shown in the
extract taken from the web site.
Teachers were shown how to access the lesson bank section
of the site and the B2FM lessons which are aligned with the
6. To establish a base line, all indigenous students completed a
moderation task for their year level. This provided an overview
of where the students were at across the proficiency areas of:
Problem Solving / Thinking and Reasoning
Reasoning / Communicating
Understanding / Reflecting
The results of the moderation task for each indigenous student
7. Planning Action Learning Cycles 1 and 2
To prepare Cycle 1, teachers were provided with a
planning session to decide :
- which unit/s from C2C would be
assessed. (eg 1 unit from a 5 week block)
- which lessons from B2FM would be
integrated into the chosen C2C
- which students would be involved.
(Indigenous students or all students)
Teachers built Cycle 2 into their C2C units.
8. To assist teachers in the effective delivery of
the B2FM lessons a copy of the ‘Tips For
Teachers’ booklet was provided with particular
attention drawn to the questioning techniques and
the common misconceptions student are likely to
Teachers were also provided with a booklet
explaining what each proficiency area means and a
guide outlining how to make judgements about the
level each student has achieved in these areas.
9. Data Collection
At the completion of Cycle 1, work samples, data, anecdotes
and photos were collected from classes and the results for
indigenous students and some non indigenous students
At the completion of Cycle 2, updated results for the same
students were recorded.
A summary of these results follows.
10. Final Observation
While results for indigenous students were mixed, it
must be remembered that improvement for all
students may not be realised overnight. For
problem-based maths to be successful, it must be
implemented consistently over time.
The true measurement of the success of this
approach to teaching will be reflected in future
As Tierney notes “The Australian Curriculum places
a very heavy focus on deep-level understanding
and mathematical reasoning,” and “ The new
requirements are best met through student inquiry
and active participation in problem-based teaching
To ensure the benefits of problem based Maths
teaching continue to be realised and students are
assessed in all the proficiency areas described in
the Australian Curriculum, the following
suggestions are made :
Teachers are encouraged to ensure they establish
a classroom environment that encourages and
rewards risk taking.
Following the suggestions outlined in the Tips For
Teachers handout is also encouraged. A major
focus should be placed on using good oral
questioning techniques as these are the key to
leading students to self discovery.
avoiding saying no.
asking non standard questions eg. working
backwards, filling a gap, multiple steps.
Generalising and Connecting questions.
13. As identifying common misconceptions plays an
important role in successfully leading students to
work out a new concept, it is recommended
teachers revisit the “Did You Know’ sections from
the First Steps program and combine these with
the suggestions made in Tips For Teachers to help
identify some common misunderstandings students
are likely to have.
As access to the B2FM site will conclude at the end
of this year, teachers are encouraged to develop
their own problems and use the How To Make
Judgements handout to assign grades in the
proficiency areas of Problem Solving, Reasoning
The following flow chart is an example of how one
teacher successfully organised problem based
lessons in their classroom.