Title of Project: RabbitMath Grade 11 Teacher Workshop

Year of Competition: 2018-19

Grant amount: $800

Project Duration: Single Year

Type of Report: Final

Period Covered: August 2019

Description of Activity:

  • Peter Taylor, Professor, Math&Stats, Queen’s University;
  • Chris Suurtamm, Professor, Math Education, U Ottawa;
  • Ann Arden, Math Consultant with the Ottawa-Carleton DSB;
  • Nick Nielsen Senior Teacher, Delphi SS Toronto DSB.

Project Summary:

Over the past few years we have been constructing a mathematics curriculum that:

  • is more sophisticated and works with powerful “stories”
  • encourages investigation, teamwork and communication
  • uses “real mathematics” to develop mathematical thinking
  • engages students in the process of design and construction.

In the process of building the curriculum, we have worked with classroom teachers and graduate and undergraduate students at Queen’s and UOttawa. We have been talking about this curriculum at PD days and conferences (such as OAME). The technical objectives of the curriculum are based on and fully meet the requirements of the Ontario Math Curriculum.

The Grade 11 curriculum has now been constructed. It is project-based with 15 mathematically engaging projects each lasting about a week. We have developed a partnership with Callysto which supports us in putting Jupyter Notebooks onto the students’ screens giving them a platform to build animations. In the spirit of Seymour Papert, we have found this an effective way to incorporate our objectives of design and construction.

The workshop:
In late August 2019 we held a 2-day teachers’ workshop in Ottawa to acquaint teachers with the Grade 11 curriculum and give them a chance to interact with one another around issues of content and pedagogy. There were 34 participants 27 of whom were classroom teachers mostly in the Ottawa area.

The first day was spent acquainting them with as many of the projects as possible and the second day was devoted to the pedagogical question of how to facilitate classroom activity. In many ways, this was a remarkable day. Teachers worked in small groups, each group taking one activity with the objective of developing a day-by-day plan for the week. It was a real eye-opening experience for both Chris and me to watch them struggle to find the different ways they thought their students would think about the problems and set up the calculations. And then to end the day, the teachers themselves presented their results and their views on how they thought the unit would develop in the classroom.

Assessment of Effectiveness:
Almost all of the 27 participants will be using activities from the curriculum this fall and some declared their interest in using the entire set of activities. The teachers found that the workshop gave them a high level of professional activity. They found the experience challenging, but made two significant points, first that the problems worked well to facilitate teacher collaboration, and second that their students really needed this kind of experience. We illustrate this below with summaries of their comments.

The Workshop did attract support from Callysto which sent an ambassador, David Hay, to the conference to interact with the teachers and assist in presenting the Jupyter Notebook program.

Comments from some of the 30 teachers that attended the workshop Let me begin by saying that this workshop on Grade 11 RabbitMath was the most challenging, stimulating and relevant secondary mathematics professional development I've engaged in yet. And I'm thrilled to be part of an initiative that furthers learning for our senior university-bound students. Collaborating with teachers, university students, and professors was a first for me and definitely enhanced my learning experience. Not only will I use this curriculum to teach two classes of MCR3U this year, but I look forward to collaborating further with the RabbitMath team as I do. It is an incredible experience that I would encourage all secondary mathematics teachers to have, not restricted just to grade 11 university mathematics teachers. The problems -- both mathematical and pedagogical -- offered fantastic opportunities for us teachers to collaborate. The material will allow for students to work collaboratively on a rich task that incorporates many ideas in the grade 11 curriculum and requires many different curriculum outcomes to be used to solve the problem. The flexibility of the curriculum allows for a variety of uses and entry points. It was clear that the focus on pedagogical content knowledge (both mathematical and other) allowed teachers to anticipate how students would interact with various problems, how they might monitor student engagement as well as how they might respond to students' approaches. I also appreciate that we got time to really dig in and anticipate what working through one of these problems with a class would look like. I think doing both of these things together really gave us a chance to see that the problems were interesting (but not too hard or too scary) and think of how we might scaffold supports along the way. At the workshop, I particularly appreciated the opportunity to choose one of the problems and work with other teachers on designing an actual plan for using it the classroom. When school started, I presented it to my colleagues and we decided we would all in try it out. There are entry points for students at all levels and the activity provides a collaborative learning experience. I can't think of any 2 days since I started teaching over 20 years ago, in which I generated more ideas about the math itself. It was a rare and extremely valuable opportunity to collaborate with researchers and math education leaders focused around a specific course, MCR3U. The problems presented were engaging and interesting, and I plan to use several of them with my Grade 11 students this year. I hope to foster curiosity and wonder in my classes, so the commentaries that accompany the problems are very useful. I really liked the Jupiter notebooks resources which allows students an entry point into coding. They don't have to build the code from the ground up, which makes coding accessible to beginners. I believe the ability for students to use coding to change and update the videos demonstrating mathematical concepts will create engagement because they are no longer just watching a video, but are now allowed in the driver's seat by being given the ability to create them.

Future Plans (if any):
Future Plans

  • January Teacher Workshop (Ottawa)
  • Monitor Grade 11 curriculum in the classroom (SSHRC)
  • Build Grade 12 curriculum
  • August Grade 12 workshops—Ottawa and Toronto
  • Monitor Grade 12 curriculum in the classroom (SSHRC)
  • Continue with workshops, curriculum construction and monitoring.
  • Start at grade 9 for a four-year suite, grades 9-12.


The RabbitMath Grade 11 Workshop
Held at University of Ottawa, August 27-28
Overall Financial Report:

Registration Fees$1,360.00
Fields Institute$4,000.00
Total Revenue$5,360.00

ExpensesDescriptionAmountSource of funds
Catering2 lunches&breaks$1,335.96Registration Fees
Workbooks40 100-page books$412.23Fields
Speakers and organizersMileage$697.74Fields
Speakers and organizersAccommodations$460.32Fields
Speakers and organizersRental cars&fuel$281.99Fields
Speakers and organizersMeals (dinner)$157.00Fields
Speakers and organizersParking$163.41Fields
Speakers and organizersTaxi$9.39Fields
T-shirts40 shirts$457.59CMS
Registration Rebate8 x $36.61$292.88CMS
Total Expenses$4,268.51
Total Fields$2182.08
Total CMS$750.47


For completeness we list our different types of support.

For the workshop:

  • Fields Institute GSA grant - $4,000
  • CMS Endowment Fund - $800
  • University Of Ottawa - facilities

Curriculum development:

  • Math Knowledge Network - $2000 (2018-19)

Curriculum monitoring:

  • SSHRC Insight Development - $69,200 (2019-21)

Contact Name: Peter Taylor

[October 16, 2019]