Are Your Students Engaged in Math and How Do You Know?

October 11, 2023

One of the best ways to help students recover from the COVID disruptions and improve math learning loss is through engaged instructional time. Currently, engagement is being discussed by describing students’ levels of involvement with teaching and learning. Students' engagement and academic achievement have been shown to be directly correlated as teachers have been able to incorporate the three levels of engagement; cognitive, behavioral and emotional. This engaged math instructional time has been proven to be meaningful and relevant only when all of the three elements are interconnected.

According to Dr. Catherine Attard, in her article “Engaging Maths” (2018) she indicates that engagement can be defined as a multidimensional construct, consisting of cognitive, operative (behavioral) and affective (emotional) domains. COGNITIVE ENGAGEMENT is where students value learning and show a content connection with an understanding of math concepts and applications OPERATIVE (BEHAVIORAL) ENGAGEMENT is where a student is attentive and is involved in active participation and discussions in both academic and social activities. AFFECTIVE (EMOTIONAL) ENGAGEMENT is where a student has interest in the school work and has positive reactions to school, peers, and academics.

In 2003, Kong, Wong and Lam created a framework for measuring engagement in mathematics through research and validation, resulting in the identification of significant markers that indicate engagement or therefore, lack of. Educators may use these markers as a pathway to identify successful student engagement.

COGNITIVE ENGAGEMENT: Surface Strategies: rote practice and test taking strategies Deep Strategies: making connections, understanding, summarizing and explaining BEHAVIORAL ENGAGEMENT: Attentiveness, Diligence, Time Spent on Task AFFECTIVE ENGAGEMENT: Positive Aspects: Interest and Achievement Negative Aspects: Anxiety and Frustration

NOTE: This research indicates that student engagement is increased if instruction is authentic or relevant (connected to the world beyond the classroom).

Finally, Dr. Catherine Attard, University of Western Australia, summarizes elements of instructional practice that can improve student engagement and reduce math learning loss. LOOK FOR: Make math activities positive and successful for ALL students. Provide an element of choice Link the relevance of math to a child’s experiences outside the classroom Embed technology in math lessons to enhance math understanding Include a variety of tasks that cater to the diverse needs of students. Student work should be the starting point for discussions about the connections between various strategies for math solutions and the content.

“A student is engaged with mathematics when, he or she has been positively influenced by a teacher’s instructional practice and all aspects of the classroom culture.”

Teachers invite students into the classroom teaching and learning environment through their engaging practices, processes, policies and programs. Researchers who have investigated the relationship between student engagement and academic achievement have found a positive correlation between these two variables. Students who have demonstrated higher engagement received higher grades and performed well on standardized tests (Ladd & Dinella, 2009).

BlueStreak Math is a solution that improves student engagement in math. The BlueStreak Math program involves elements of social emotional connections, active participation and cognitive understanding that is meaningful and relevant to students. Each component of the BlueStreak Math Program: assessments, digital gaming, strategy logs and reports directly impact student engagement. BlueStreak Math connects students’ gaming experiences, outside the classroom, with relevant foundational math content strategies and skills. The adaptive engine in BlueStreak Math provides students with constant positive opportunities for success because the pre-test diagnosis determines the individual “Sweet-Spot,” where students begin their path to mastery of foundational skills. BlueStreak Math is a solution that engages students in all three instructional domains: cognitive, behavioral, and affective with the result of improving student achievement in mathematics.

Ladd, G. W., & Dinella, L. M. (2009). Continuity and change in early school engagement: Predictive of children’s achievement trajectories from first to eighth grade? Journal of Educational Psychology.

Jim Gilliat