360 Degree Math

Whiteboards make everyone's work visible

The sixth graders gather in small groups around about a dozen whiteboards, chatting seriously. Wisps of conversations about how to determine and chart the growth percentage of blue whales, lions and pandas can be heard throughout the classroom. Some groups of students begin writing. If any group seems stumped, co-teachers Jesse Weiss and Jeanne Kellachan encourage the students to look at other groups’ work, and at their example, to determine how to proceed.

This is 360 Degree Math, a simple yet revolutionary approach that is used at John Jay Middle School and now expanding to the district’s fifth grade classes. While it includes direct instruction and individual assessment, its hallmark is that students’ work happens in groups and is easily visible to everyone.

"more students are engaged"

Weiss took a moment to speak to the visiting teachers about the approach. “Students do a lot more of the work,” said Weiss. “This transfers responsibility to them and teaches them perseverance. More students are engaged.”

After all students had created line graphs of their work, Weiss invited them to do a gallery walk and look at each other’s approach. Once they were back at their desks, he asked them to share what they noticed. One student noted that the larger the animal, the greater spike between one year and adult. “Is that true?” asked Weiss. “Let’s look at the graphs.”

Afterwards, the fifth-grade teachers discussed how 360 Degree Math changes the social culture of the classroom. “Working on standing whiteboards increases each student’s ability to take risks,” said Hedigan. “Math becomes a more active learning experience.”