A Change That Makes Me Happy!

As I was reading through my Twitter stream, I happened upon a link to this article about more math classes for Ontario’s students and teachers. Now I can’t seem to remember or find the person that tweeted this article, but please know that I do thank you for sharing it. The article shares some information that makes me very happy. It looks at the slipping math scores on EQAO and shares some general plans to help Ontario students improve in math. Here are the parts that I particularly loved:

  • According to Liz Sandals, “our young people are actually quite good at basic math skills.” (Link to the article.)
  • The solution for more math time rests in integration: making the links to Math in other subject areas such as Science. (Link to the article.)

Why did this news make me happy? 

  • Because I think it’s a push for moving away from teaching subjects in isolation.
  • I think that it will help move us towards more real world math problems.
  • I think it will help change student perceptions on math. If students can see that “math is everywhere,” maybe they’ll find different ways to make sense of, and connect with, the subject.
  • I think it will help us focus on developing thinking skills in math. We can still work on computations, but the results seem to show that we need to work on more than that.
  • I think it will help us move away from the textbook. I know that a textbook is a resource, and I’ve used it as that before, but I think that math needs to be about more than answering 25 questions on a page. This article is showing me that it will become about more than that.
This tweet that I saw in Matthew Oldridge's Twitter stream makes me think of what this new math plan could mean for teaching math.

This tweet that I saw in Matthew Oldridge‘s Twitter stream makes me think of what this new math plan could mean for teaching math.

I know that this kind of solution is likely to result in some backlash. Questions such as, who will be responsible for assessing math (if it could be taught through multiple subject areas) and how we have time to address our other subject expectations if we are now adding in a greater focus on math, are sure to be a couple of the ones discussed. But I can’t help but wonder if this kind of solution could be the starting point in having us reconsider the flow of our day and a period-by-period subject model. As I continue to embrace inquiry in our classroom, I see the need for longer blocks of time to let students read, write, question, and explore (and this was as true last year in Grade 5, as it is this year in Grade 1). I think that this new math plan could result in bigger changes than just how we teach math, but ultimately, have us re-look at how we teach.

What are your thoughts on these possible changes to come? What impact do you see them having on your classroom program? What do you think that these changes will mean for kids? I’d love to hear your thoughts!


6 thoughts on “A Change That Makes Me Happy!

  1. For me, knowing that the Ministry is “staying the course” with the curriculum is important. We have barely begun to tap the potential of problem based math (of which inquiry could be the key.)

    “Back to basics” was, and always will be, too simple a solution, by far.

    That said, I think we need to really look at teaching concepts, well, conceptually. Otherwise, what Ms. Sandals is saying won’t be true. A surface level problem based program that doesn’t engage with math concepts is no better than a “drill and kill” classroom. Can you tell I’ve thought a lot about this topic?

    • Thanks for the comment, Matthew! You make a great point here. I agree with you about the need to teach concepts, but I just hope that the need to do so doesn’t mean more “drill and kill.” What would you suggest? I’m curious to find out more about what the Ministry decides to do.


      • I completely agree! While I still have a LONG way to go towards running a fully integrated math program, I’ve learned that the more we focus on problems and concepts – and work through real-world problems with a focus on the PROCESS and not the product, the more confident and comfortable problem-solvers we help to create. It’s really incredible to see. Looking forward to hearing more about this!

        • Thanks for the comment, Becky! I’m glad that you’re also seeing the benefits of this type of math program. Do you find that other people at your school are seeing the same thing? If not, how do you help show these benefits?


  2. I think that’s good news from our Education Minister. If I had to recommend good math resources for all teachers to read it would be “A Guide To Effective Instruction in Mathematics.” created by the Ministry of Education in 2008. Even though this resource is older it has provided me with some sound foundational knowledge of math instruction. I have revisted this resource along with using “Big Ideas from Dr. Small” by Marian Small as to way to focus on concepts in a more inquiry based program. Even though I have a ways to go, I am enjoying the program more as are the kids. I have barely used the textbook at all.
    I think teachers often forget to teach real world applications of mathematics. Yet, I know kids buy into it more if we use such an approach. You don’t have to answer that question, “Why are we learning this in Math?” or “When will I use it in real life?”

    Thanks for another one of your blog entries that I will thinking about Aviva.

    • Thanks for the comment, Herman! This is an excellent point. I love the resources that you mentioned here, and all of them help with providing those real world connections. I wonder if and how making these connections change students’ perceptions of mathematics.


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