Mathematics Learning Goals Serve as a Guide

Posted on January, 2017 by Victoria Bill and Laurie Speranzo

You learn what you get opportunities to experience, explore, write, and talk about

Teachers are asked to regularly plan for instruction. Frequently, the lesson plans are organized around the activity that will be completed for the lesson, rather than around goals for what they will teach students (Clark, 1978). Often the plans focus on a list of events to occur during the lesson and rarely is thought given to a necessary change in the lesson based on student thinking. (Kagan & Tippins, 1992). By setting clear goals as the basis of the lesson, teachers can plan for and then assess student learning during instruction and make corrections to better meet the needs of students (Huinker, D. and Bill, V., NCTM in press). Stein argues that setting mathematical learning goals provides teachers with guidance on how to design and structure their lesson, making it clear to students what they are to glom onto and make use of from the lesson (Stein, NCTM in press). In the recent IES study of math coach teacher discussions in Tennessee, when coaches focused on having deep and specific discussions of mathematical goals, teachers had an increased chance that they would engage their students in deep and specific math discussions (Russell, Stein, Correnti, Bill, 2016, IES Grant).

Are all goals created equal?

We recently examined the math goals we have been setting for our students. We realized that the types of mathematical learning goals that we were associating with our lessons made a difference in how we planned and carried out our lessons. We found ourselves setting two different types of goals: performance goals and mathematical learning goals.