Can they do it?

The principal and vice principal decided to give all teachers descriptions about Learning Goals and Success Criteria to hang up in their classrooms. These papers aren’t meant for students, but are more reminders for teachers about what Learning Goals and Success Criteria look like as we all work at developing our own.

It just so happened that the principal, Paul Clemens, came by with the papers to hang up this morning. As I was putting them up at lunch today, I read through them, and the focus on curriculum expectations really made me think. During math today, I planned on co-creating Success Criteria with my students for our unit on Order of Operations. Reading these sheets had me reflect on how I was going to do this.

Based on what I read, I decided to start the lesson by pulling up the Math curriculum document. We looked at a list of the five strands, and students told me that we would look for expectations under Number Sense and Numeration. Together we went through these expectations and highlighted the ones that are addressed by this math unit. Then we looked at our TLCP Success Criteria, and discussed how we need to develop I Can statements that link to our learning goal (i.e., We are learning about the need for a standard order in performing operations, and investigating what happens when we change this order.).

At this point, I’ll admit that I was worried. Developing Math Success Criteria is something that’s new for me, but since I’m focusing on math as part of my Annual Learning Plan, this seemed like a logical next step. Thankfully , one of my Daily Shoot photographers decided to take some videos today to show learning, instead of taking photographs, and a portion of this lesson was captured in the video below.

Math Success Criteria

My initial plan was to finish now, but just the other day, I had a fantastic conversation with Jo-Ann Corbin-Harper, an amazing Grade 7 and 8 teacher at the school. Jo-Ann spoke to me about how she uses the achievement chart with her students, and how she has them identify which questions are assessing Knowledge and Understanding versus Thinking versus Communication versus Application. Until speaking to Jo-Ann, I never would have thought of doing this with my students, but Jo-Ann made me realize the value in having students understand the differences between questions and understand why they’re doing what they’re doing.

I thought of Jo-Ann at this moment then, and I showed the students the achievement chart. We spoke briefly about Knowledge and Understanding, Thinking, Communication, and Application. I explained that our Success Criteria needs to address all four areas. Together, we need to determine if it does. These next two short videos show my discussion with students, as we add K’s and U’s, T’s (or Th’s), C’s, and A’s beside each item in the Success Criteria.

When I started this lesson, I questioned if I was expecting too much. I wondered the value in doing what I was doing. As I listen back to these recordings though, I realize that I need to go through this process more. Getting students involved in the process really makes them reflect on their learning and understand the rationale behind what we do in the classroom.

I know that I continue to have more to learn as well. I wonder if some of the items on the Success Criteria are more items that belong on an Anchor Chart, and I wonder if we need to reword some of this Success Criteria to show a more direct link with the curriculum expectations. What do you think? I’ll be examining this more as I continue to use Learning Goals and Success Criteria in math.

While this lesson is not perfect, I know that the students and I both learned a lot from this activity. So thank you to Paul (the principal), Tammy (the vice principal), and Jo-Ann (the Grade 7 and 8 teacher) for changing my teaching practices and making me realize just what students can do.

How do you create Success Criteria with your students? How do you have your students examine and understand the curriculum expectations? I would love to hear about your experiences!



16 thoughts on “Can they do it?

  1. There is a lot of debate on the use of learning intentions and success criteria in true inquiry math lessons. The criteria needs to be open ended enough to meet all of the students needs, for example, we are learning how to solve problems in multiple ways. That needs to be the intention instead of a specific curriculum expectation. In an inquiry math program the mathematically processes are the guiding intentions.

    If using an open ended math problem then one group might be using multiplication, another using open number lines, another using grouping strategies or fractions to solve the problem. If our learning intention is too specific it tells the students what to do as opposed to letting them use problem solving techniques to solve the question.

    Just something to ponder,


  2. Thanks Angie for your comment! I actually completely agree with you, and your comment made me realize a few things I neglected to include. We actually created this Success Criteria at the end of our unit on Order of Operations. If anything, this was a way for students to reflect on what they’ve done throughout the unit, and remind them of the key concepts.

    I also included a photograph of our Success Criteria, which is actually quite open-ended, and I don’t think tells the students how to solve what they’re solving. Now is there value in having this then if this is how it’s set-up? I’m really not sure of the answer to this quite yet, as this is something that’s new for me too. For some students though, I think that this Success Criteria might be a good way to highlight what they’ve learned and remind them of this important learning too. What do you think?


  3. This makes it a little clearer. Your criteria as more about the mathematical processes and not specific expectations. I’d argue that you don’t need number one. Two to four outlines the math processes. Number one could be worded, I can explain what operations I used and why I used them for each step.

    I know you and I are in the same page. I try to read your blog as someone who is new and trying to learn from you. I worry there could be misunderstandings about posting criteria at the beginning of a lesson, thanks for clarifying its a reflection process.

    Glad you are having fun in grade 6. Good teaching is good teaching regardless of the grade.


  4. Thanks Angie! I really like how you reworded the first one. This keeps it more about the mathematical process as well.

    Thank you too for your comment, and for helping me clarify what I did! Sometimes I forget to include all of the details, and this really is so important. Your comment helped me clarify more, and I really appreciate that!


  5. What a great discussion! After focusing on literacy for some many years I am enjoying focusing my professional development more towards math this year. I have a 1/2 class.
    How do I create math success criteria with my Gr1/2 students?
    I use to have my success criteria at the beginning of my lesson but now I have embraced the 3 part math lesson and really focused on open and parallel tasks to differentiate my instruction. I co-create the success criteria with my students using our math bansho wall during consolidation. During the action part of my lesson I give them an open or parallel task and they choose the strategy or tool to complete the task. Afterwards I sort their work on the wall (for example by communication). I don’t assign a level to the work however we make notes on the wall as to what work best communicated the answer.This essentially turns the bansho wall into a bump it up wall. I next give them a similar task and their goal is to use the criteria on the bansho wall to improve their work. Anyways, I am still kind of playing around with all of this but it has made teaching math much more enjoyable and seem lots of improvement quickly. Here is a link to my post to parents about this:
    Patrick @patmjohnson

    • Thanks for your comment, Patrick! It’s really interesting to hear and see what you’re doing as well. I love the set-up of your wall. What a great way to create a Bump It Up Wall in math. I never really considered this before, but now you have me thinking as well. It’s funny: even with such different grades, we can definitely learn a lot from each other! 🙂


    • Hi Patrick,
      Yes, the posting of the work is a great way to reflect and learn. I think during the math congress part of the 3 part lesson we help point out the learning the group did or help,the group articulate their learning.

      Two suggestions I received was to keep the learning intention and success criteria on the math processes and not the content and focus on the learning skills. It’s alright to have a learning intention about working together or participating in a group. When a teacher is first starting inquiry math it’s essential to focus on group work skills first. Help the students understand how they listen and respect opinions, take turns recording and use manipulatives correctly. This might be the focus on the pattern or group work in the beginning of a lesson but by the end you can draw out the curriculum expectations that were achieved.

      Thanks for the reflective conversation,


      • Thanks for clarifying this, Angie! I think that it becomes confusing sometimes, as Learning Goals and Success Criteria in math seem to vary from Learning Goals and Success Criteria in Language. This discussion is helping me clarify my thoughts on how it works best for students.


  6. Creating meaningful Math Walls and using Learning Goals and Success Criteria is what our school is focusing on right now too. We’ve been told (and I have done this in the past) that the learning goal and success criteria need to be created BEFORE. It’s like a “road map” of where they need to go. They need to be able to communicate what they are doing and how they can achieve their goal throughout the unit. The posted learning goal and success criteria can help them with this. The success criteria may be done after a first open ended math problem, to get students thinking to record their strategies. Then they have this anchor chart and strategies posted for everyone to achieve the goal. However, if this isn’t done until AFTER the unit is fully completed, how do students know what is expected of them? I totally understand the use and need of reflection and to summarize what they’ve learned. BUT, I question, is there a way that it can be done BOTH before and after?

    • I understand what you’re saying, Jenni, and this is something that I’m struggling with as well. Last year, our Math Facilitator, spoke about creating at least some of the Success Criteria near the end of the lesson (or at least after a 3 part lesson), as the idea was that students explore the concepts and make meaning of what they’re learning before we tell them how to learn it. I guess that sometimes by posting this Success Criteria in advance, we “ruin” this inquiry (for lack of a better word). I hope that I’m saying this right, and if I’m not, I hope that someone else will jump in and correct me here. In fact, I think that I’m going to email a link to this post to my Math Facilitator from last year, as she really helped me see Learning Goals and Success Criteria differently when it came to math, and I’m hoping that she can lend some insight to this discussion.

      I’m very curious what others have to say about this too!

      • I’d love to get more insight on this – thanks for sending the link to your Math Facilitator. I understand exactly what you’re saying Aviva, about “ruining” the inquiry. I think it’s the tricky thing about inquiry – how do we let the students run with the idea AND give them direction to where they need to go (direction, which would be based on creating the criteria from their thinking). We’re told that both concepts are important for students, it’s the HOW part, that I’m struggling with. HOW do we do both successfully for students?

        • Jenni, I’m so glad that you mentioned this, as this is what I’m struggling with as well. I want students to inquire and learn from what they inquire, but I want to support students that need it, and help direct the inquiry too. There must be a way to do everything. I hope that my Math Facilitator from last year can lend some insight into this. I think that I’ll send this blog post link to my Math Facilitator from this year too, as I’m sure that he’ll have some insight as well.


  7. I am trying to create success criteria in math with my grade 2s. I have also read that it should be based around our achievement chart and so instead of blanket I CAN statements I came up with ones to fit each section of the chart, example, for Knowledge – I KNOW, Thinking – I THINK, Communicate – I SHOW and Application – I APPLY. So far away it works and makes sense (sometimes the sentences are I can apply etc). I’m limiting the number of criteria also, for much becomes overwhelming.
    What I am finding is some math expectations lend themselves to a learning goal ex I can count by 1s, 2s, 5s, 10s, and 25s to 200. Bit didn’t lend themselves to success criteria. I have included context (using hundreds charts and number lines) but have decided criteria is not necessary. As I get further in the year/curriculum I feel I may come across this again. Have you noticed this also?

    • Heather, I like the way that you’re making the achievement chart accessible to your Grade 2’s. The use of I know, I think, I show, and I apply statements, instead of I can ones, would definitely help. When do you make this Success Criteria with your students though? Is it before you begin a unit or near the end of the unit? My understanding with Success Criteria was that it has to link to the learning goal, and that it should be, “I can” statements. Does the change in the language of the statements matter in this case? I’m really not sure. These are many of the things that I’m grappling with as I try to bring Success Criteria into my math class.

      Thank you for adding your thoughts to this very interesting discussion!


  8. What great discussion. It is so wonderful to see us moving forward with learning goals and success criteria for math. I really believe that it helps connect students with their learning.

    There are certainly different approaches you can take with SC. I think the way I approach is is probably closest to what Patrick has described. At the end of each lesson, following g the math congress, pull the success criteria from the students. Ask”what did we learn today” and turn that into your SC. Some days you might only have one point, others maybe two or three. I would add to the list as you go along in the unit. If you base the lesson on the expectations and it goes they way you plan, the kids should be able to identify the key learning, if they can’t then they didn’t learn it yet and there is no “I can” statement.

    I also think that the process expectations produce their own SC. I worked with a grade 8 class last year and we called it Success Criteria for young mathematicians (I’m not that creative). This worked so well that we wrote a whole lesson based on pulling apart the process expectations and developing the list with the students (similar to what Aviva was doing in her lesson with the kids). If you take this approach then the content produces its own SC and you don’t get the repeat SC in every unit. I also think it really helps the students to zero in on what they understand and what they don’t.

    One last thing, the connection to the achievement chart is important. Students need to understand that math isn’t just about a right answer. Identifying the categories is a great tool for deepening that understanding.

    • Kelly, thank you so much for chiming in on this conversation! I like the approach that you described as well, as then we’re continually looking at the Success Criteria, but still looking at what they’ve learned after they’ve learned it instead of before. I guess then that the Success Criteria would evolve over the course of the unit.

      Thanks for adding your comment too about the achievement chart. I guess that by showing students that math is about more than the right answer, you’re also showing them that it’s about more than Knowledge and Understanding.


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