Sunday, September 15, 2013

Bansho: Applying Primary School Strategies to MS Math classes

A quick summary of a Bansho from my understanding would be that students solve a problem, share their unique solutions to the rest of the class allowing the teacher to identify various strategies and methods that could be used. The teacher consolidates the methods by creating a summary of a good strategy by identifying or combining various students work. Students then take ownership over the work and feel it is possible to understand since a peer/peers were the originators of the ideas.

I decided to use a Bansho as a way to assess what skills and understanding students had about percentages. I did the Bansho on the first day of class (lesson plan here) also to create the sharing and collaborative culture that exists in my Grade 8 classroom. As students went through the period, they experienced the values of creativity, perseverance and selected challenge. I created a small slide show to guide the work (found here) and and wrapped up with only four questions for homework.

I adapted the idea of the Bansho that I was introduced to match both my teaching style and needs. By using this method I was able to see more than just who was able to solve the problem, but also able to see the following:

  • Clear awareness of students who have been taught in a procedural method
  • Risk taking abilities
  • Number sense abilities
  • Ability to explain and justify their ideas
  • Ability to see similarities and differences in mathematical procedures
  • Ability to make connections to prior knowledge
  • Preferred learning style (visual, oral, etc)
  • Prior understandings
  • Introverts/extroverts
For an activity that took only 50 minutes, it provided me with a better understanding of who my students were and allowed me to flag students who needed both support and a greater level of challenge and where that would need to take place. More than I have ever done on the first day of class. 

Upon reflection I would say that a Bansho would be a valuable teaching strategy for all grade levels. In the high school level it would be a beneficial activity prior to introducing a new functions, rates of change, geometry proofs, to beginning calculus. By asking the students to come up with as many different solutions to a problem you could see their understanding of previous concepts, ability to compare methods to each other and analyze what aspects of various methods create a more accurate and useful solution. For me since the Bansho, I was able to understand how my students already viewed proportional relationship problems and then teach to their methods directly. Overall a great experience and one that I highly recommend to all teachers at all teaching levels. 

Learning from other divisions. How I learned about Bansho.

Last year I attended a OAME conference (Ontario Associate of Mathematic Education) and participated in a "Mathematical Literacy" group. Sitting among the teachers, I quickly realized that I was the only middle school teacher, or pretty much the only teacher that was above the Grade 5 level. As the presentation proceeded, my eyes were popping out of my head as I was seeing strategies that I felt would bring the clarity and ownership of mathematical procedural learning to my students.

However, as I looked around to the other teachers, I saw that they were not as interested as I was. When questioned as to why they weren't as "blown away", one women sitting at my table said "Honey, I've been doing this in my class for 10 years. This isn't new information to me.". A few sessions later, I was sitting in a session meant for Grade 11 and 12 teachers only this time I was the one telling those senior school teachers that the "amazing" strategies that they were being introduced to were common practice in middle school classrooms. It was at this point that I realized the valuable strategies that work for students are not being used or applied beyond the designated Primary, Junior, Intermediate and Senior divisions. So I made it a goal to see what I could take and use from the Primary/Junior divisions, as those are the areas that I have never taught in. And this is how I was introduced to a Bansho.


  1. Hey Ruth!

    This is a great start to the year! I'm only commenting on this blog, but I've read your others, and the way you're starting the year is superb. I like your use of Google Hangouts to give personal, private feedback - simple and quick for sure, What a great option!

    With regards for this post, what you've said about different strategies from different divisions resonates with me and the work I've been doing with Tribes. Our school went to Tribes for the Middle School, but I've been applying some of the strategies with great success in the Sr. courses as well.

    Keep up the awesome work!

    1. Hi Garth,

      Thanks for the feedback. The Google Hangouts was a great success for sure and I am hoping to do it again this year. It was just a challenge to determine what activity I wanted to do it with to ensure that the time that I put in was valued in the end.

      I have also been looking at Tribes for a few years and was wondering about how they would work in the senior school classes where the students change each period. Are you finding it makes your classroom discussions and sharing more valuable since a trust and community has been built?

      I would love to hear about any specific activities that resonated well with the senior students. Celeste I think has done the training and has used the Tribes techniques in her junior classes. Hopefully she will also look to use them in the middle school now that she has moved up.

      Thanks for the reply!