By Catherine Hoven

“As the children responded, she acknowledged the differences in their thinking and in their strategies, and she adjusted her course accordingly. While she honoured divergence, development, and individual differences, she also had identified the landmarks along the way that grew out of her knowledge of mathematics and mathematical development. These helped her plan, question, and decide what to do next.” p. 16

Understanding Cathy Fosnot’s landscape is pivotal in changing the way that we think about, plan for and facilitate our student’s learning of mathematics.  The above quote taken from her book, summarizes the task that we are called to do. Although only a few brief sentences, it forces us to rethink how math has been taught throughout the years.  The following points were key in my thinking;

  • She acknowledged the differences in each child’s thinking. We need to fully acknowledge that each child is unique and will bring to a task their experiences and unique ways of thinking, planning and working.  The thinking of all children needs to be valued and validated, and we need to accept and celebrate this. Where would society be if this wasn’t the case?

  • She adjusted her course accordingly.  The teacher saw the big picture and was equipped to help guide each student to “their” next step. She didn’t see their learning as a locked-in step but was flexible in her approach with each, tailoring her questions and prompts to each student as needed.  She met each where they were, and did this without hesitation because it was best for her students.

  • She honoured divergence, development and individual differences.  Not only did she recognize their differences, she honoured each, and was excited to move them along in their thinking.

  • She had identified the landmarks along the way.  This teacher clearly understood the curriculum and the connection between big ideas, strategies and visual models.  The goal was moving all students forward,  not all children doing the same ‘it’, and ending at the same point.

  • …That grew out of her mathematical knowledge and mathematical development.  This teacher had capacity, and had been exposed somewhere along her learning journey to an alternative form of teaching math from what many of us have experienced.  She saw another way to do things that was derived from knowledge of both math and child development.  She was open to possibilities.

  • These helped her plan, question and decide what to do next.  Foremost, this teacher had planned a skillfully crafted task that allowed all children an entry point and that was born out of a real context.  She didn’t just turn to page 44 and assign every second question to be completed individually at a desk.  This teacher also reflected throughout the course of the class and used what she observed to guide her next steps, and questions.

Fosnot’s landscape of learning is relatively new for me, and although I had seen it before I didn’t have an opportunity until now to reflect deeply on the content of the landscape, the structure, and how it requires us to change how we approach math teaching and learning.  I am excited and a little overwhelmed with the possibility of doing something differently as I help support Resource Teachers in our schools.  It will be messy for sure, and there will be hills and valleys as we explore the landscape.



Featured image by Paul Bence on Unsplash