Student Attributes for Math Success (SAMS)

Developing and enhancing the right student attributes can go a long way in determining math success.

Developing and enhancing the right student attributes can go a long way in determining math success. Taking personal responsibility for learning, a willingness to persevere in the face of time-consuming or complex tasks, attending to detail, curiosity, and being able to contribute to and benefit from group problem-solving are all essential to the successful completion of any math problem or course. Students begin developing these attributes early on in school, but often at varying levels of skill. And because math places a premium on these attributes, many students find they are in need of enhancement in one or more of these areas.

As our state’s remediation data bear out, too many students enter higher education – particularly 2-year institutions – needing basic skills. Because of this, the SBCTC is proposing an intentional, statewide focus on student attributes using the Student Attributes for Math Success collaboratively developed by Washington state math teachers and faculty with the clear outcome of developing a rich array of easily accessible exemplar classroom resources and lessons learned in the form of rich case studies that promote replication, adoption, and continued refinements.

During the academic 2009-2010 year the State Board for Community and Technical Colleges (SBCTC), through the Transition Math Project (TMP), is using a grant from College Spark Washington ( ) to support a coalition of high school teachers, college faculty and administrative leaders comprised of five demonstration sites around the state, building on existing TMP partnerships and work: Yakima Valley, Kitsap County (Olympic Peninsula), Seattle, Renton and Highline. The broad goal will be to contribute toward improved student preparation for post-secondary success by deepening and extending existing curricular work and teacher professional development in support of implementing the Student Attributes for Math Success.

These attributes are a critical component of and foundation for the College Readiness Mathematics Standards developed by math teachers and faculty around the state as part of the Transition Math Project (for more details see ). The coalition in the current project will develop, implement, share, and evaluate products, and lessons learned that then can be broadened and extended through partnerships with Washington state’s Navigation 101 schools, Achieving the Dream college partners and through existing Transition Math Project (TMP) local partnerships, some of which have already developed classroom materials in support of math attributes. Further details about the SAMS project can be found at

Major Project Activities

  • Formation of teacher-faculty and administrator teams representing each pilot site: Teams will form inquiry groups (IGs) that will be customized locally but based on three key structural commitments: (1) a sustained, consistent connection will be maintained over the course of the grant, (2) a collaborative and cross-sector engagement, and (3) a focus on the exploration of evidence of the improvement of teaching and learning.    
  • Student Attributes Institute: Pilot sites will meet to share, provide feedback, and adjust their activities and evaluation plans. A focus of the Institute will also be on exploring case methodology as a teacher inquiry tool in support of implementing student attributes. The SBCTC will work closely with each pilot site to tailor an approach to using and creating cases as a resource to capture evidence and foster reflection and learning on attributes. Case methodology will allow for in-depth analysis in a short period of time on key aspects of learning and/or teaching from each pilot site, while leading to hypothesis generation that will support the extension and deepening of the local work.
  • Bi-Monthly webinars. Webinars will be driven by teacher-generated questions based on the impact of their attributes work on student learning. The goal will be to investigate teacher-generated questions in ways colleagues can build on.
  • Develop knowledge sharing and peer review capabilities using Web 2.0 technology: Creating a networked, online commons and sharing gallery for the pilot sites. The online virtual workspace will be designed to make all work accessible to the pilot sites to allow all sites to observe and share each other’s success, struggles and processes. Products will be arrayed to allow for pilot site-wide critiques thereby creating a distributed learning environment. Critiquing each other’s products, resources, emerging case studies will be the norm, and viewed positively by each pilot site. The SBCTC will leverage the Transition Math Project-supported resource (Washington Math Assessment and Placement) to allow pilot sites the opportunity to create, adjust, and re-vise their ideas online over the course of the grant year.
  • A final Institute focused on extending and sustaining the work generated over the course of the year, will be coupled with the TMP Summer 2010 Institute.

Student Attributes

Success in college depends on a student’s ability to respond to the challenges presented by new problems and new ideas. In addition to the process and content standards that follow, the attributes described below are crucial to success in college-level courses, both in mathematics and in other disciplines.

 Demonstrates intellectual engagement.
  • Perceives mathematics as a way of understanding — a view that mathematics must make sense, and is not a sequence of algorithms to be memorized and applied.
  • Actively explores new ideas, posing questions about their meaning, significance, and implications.
  • Recognizes patterns–as well as deviations–from previously learned patterns in data, diagrams, symbols, and words.
  • Appreciates that abstraction and generalization are important sources of the power of mathematics.
  • Is willing to take risks and be challenged as part of the learning process.
  • Contributes to and benefits from group problem-solving activities.
Takes responsibility for own learning.
  • Attends nearly every class session and when absent, seeks ways to learn the material covered in class.
  • Conscientiously prepares work assigned for class.
  • Examines and learns from his or her errors and seeks help when needed.
  • Takes advantage of available resources — class time, notes, textbook, assignments, tutoring services, supplemental materials.
Perseveres when faced with time-consuming or complex tasks.
  • Sets aside the time necessary to be successful.
  • Is willing to work on problems that require time and thought, particularly problems that cannot be solved by mimicking a previously seen example.
  • Successfully completes tasks that require organizing and implementing multiple steps, concepts, or techniques.
  • Recognizes when an approach is unproductive and makes logical modifications to that approach or switches to another approach.
  • Is convinced that effort is an important component of success in mathematics.
Pays attention to detail.
  • Correctly follows all parts of oral and written directions without needing additional reminders.
  • Makes few notational errors, e.g., accidentally changing digits, dropping or altering algebra symbols, incorrectly positioning points on a grid, etc.

Local Project Grant Overview

A spreadsheet that lists the five successful grantees and pertinent information related to each organization: Go to project overview document [xls doc]