Sunday, February 23, 2014

National Post and Math Changes

National Post article.

National Post pinpoints some of the findings done on a comparative study of EQAO math results of same students taking it in Grade 3, Grade 6, and Grade 9.  Those students, who have trouble reaching the standards in elementary years, are much less likely to achieve to achieve them in Grade 9. The studies show the decline in percentages for math, but growth for reading and writing.  The growth is dedicated to Ontario’s liberal government as they have paid “heavy attention” in that regard. The same kind of initiative and focus should be applied to math.

A question rises in my mind, “If all the money spend on EQAO was spend on helping students and teachers to assist them with math, would the test figures change?”

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Music and Math

While surfing the web, I came across this great website that shows an amazing music box with variations. Each variation creates a different music box with different patterns.  It is amazing to see all the patterns created.  Check the ones that have prime numbers or non-prime numbers only.  It would be cool to show it to students and open discussions.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Homework Help

The Student Success teacher was away a day last week and asked if I could make a 30 minute presentation to my grade 10 history class. I was a bit hesitant, because I didn't know a lot about the program she wanted me to introduce. It's called Math Homework Help and it's sponsored by TVO. Students can log in and they get a 'ticket'. When their number is up, the tutor helps them. There is a whiteboard that the tutor and student can both see, and there's audio. We posted a question on the board and the tutor wrote on the board and instructed us how to solve the problem. Students can log in from home and there are tutors there from 4:30-9:30 (I think those are the times). VERY effective and interactive program.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Changing Education Paradigms

I came across this video by RSA Animate discussing an overview of the education system. He says we educate children in the 21st century with a framework developed from a different age. He compares how we educate children in pulic schools to a factory, through a daily schedule operated by a bell system, and sending students through the system in "batches, sharing the same date of manufacture (age)." He touches upon rising dropout rates, schools' declining effort in the arts, and ADHD. Take a look and see what you think!

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Kakooma or SatisFraction anyone?

A while back I went to a workshop by Greg Tang. As part of the workshop he showed us a math game that was on his website called Kakooma and it was really addictive. He showed how it can be used to get students noticing patterns and relationships between numbers. For students struggling with fractions, and negative numbers I found it is really helpful. You can challenge them to beat a certain time before they can move on to a more difficult level. for younger students it was great to practice addition and multiplication facts and notice certain patterns when adding and subtracting.

Another game that was great was SatisFraction. For the students who are uncomfortable with fractions it is a neat way to build up their confidence.

Check them out and let me know what you think.

Friday, February 7, 2014


With the buzz of EQAO in the air, I've been hearing students question the testing. In one of the schools I volunteer in the students in grades 3 and 6 completed a practice EQAO test last week. I provided assistance as a scribe for both grades. I found students in grade 3 don't really question much in terms of the test. The students accepted the questions as they were written and quickly (and do I mean QUICKLY!) chose an answer. However, the students in grade 6 were a completely different story. The students that I scribed for, and some students that I didn't scribe for but tutored later that day or the next, were quite vocal about how they felt the test was unfair. Generally they felt the test was unfair because in their everyday learning and testing they are allowed to use reference text to help them find an answer. They complained the during regular testing the teacher can help them understand a question or word, whereas EQAO testing did not allow for that. I must say that whenever a student asked me to explain a question during EQAO testing and I could not answer them, they appeared to shutdown. They gave up. They felt defeated. Listening to the students, they feel the EQAO testing should reflect regular classroom experiences; they should be allowed access to resources that will help them understand what they are to do. I'm thinking the students may be onto something. Allowing the students to find their own resource to aid them in understanding the question may be something to consider.  What's more important in life: having all the answers right now, or knowing where to look for assistance to understand the question?

Direct one-on-one learning

I tutor students in grades 5, 6, and 7 in mathematics. I provide one-on-one direct instruction. I have questioned whether or not what I am doing is helping the students.  The other day I left school feeling like I just may have made a difference. This history: I've been working with students struggling with learning their times tables. As much as I want to tell them to just go home and memorize the table, like I was told to do in my much younger years, I can not. We've been running some drills, playing games, running patterns, and learning strategies. Week after week I leave school wondering 'is this helping'? Finally, after weeks of trying, my students are progressing! I even had another teacher tell me that what I'm doing is making a big difference in their classroom performance! From what I've been told the students really enjoy coming to learn with me. They appreciate the one-on-one instruction I provide and how I listen to them. I listen to their ideas of how they think they learn best, they listen to my suggestions on how we can advance those strategies. My students have learned from me and I have learned from my students. I owe them so much more than they could ever know! As I have been preparing them for the EQAO, they have prepared me for a teaching position where I will have students are varying learning levels. With my students' help, I feel better prepared for adjusting my teaching strategies and styles than I did when I came out of teacher's college. I sincerely thank my students. You have made a lasting impression in my life.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Math Game

It's important to master the basics before making further progress in math.  Practicing math skills over and over again could be boring. That’s why we can use math games to make practice fun and useful.

I suggest we play a math game.

Using mathematical operations get numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, 5,… and so on.
You are given four numbers to use. Since it is 2014 use only numbers 2, 0, 1, and 4.
You can use: +, -, ÷, ×, square root, exponentiation, brackets, ‘gluing’ numbers into a number.

There is a zero among given numbers 2, 0, 1, and 4 so first few should be easy.

1 = 1 + 2х0х4
2 = 2 + 1х0х4 
3 = 1 + 2 + 0х4 
4 = 4 + 2х0х1 
5 = 4 + 1 + 2х0 
6 = 4 + 2 + 1х0 
7 = 1 + 2 + 4 + 0 
8 = 2х4 + 1х0 
9 = 2х4 + 1 + 0

Can anybody continue? 

"It’s up to all of us to improve kids’ math skills"

I found this interesting article in the Globe and Mail, that discusses how although recent scores on provincial assessments are low, they do not tell the whole story. It talks about how there are many hard-working, caring teachers who want to help their students improve. One way, to do this would be by giving teachers (specifically math teachers) the support they need to improve their skills and knowledge to make them even more effective in the classroom.

“All of us who teach mathematics should always strive to further our own mathematical abilities by doing mathematics ourselves and by learning at least a bit more beyond the level at which we teach. Faculties of education should devote more resources to improving the mathematical abilities and confidence of their graduates. We as a society should devote more resources to providing current teachers with time during the school day to improve their subject-specific knowledge and ability,” The Globe and Mail (full article attached).

The article also points out the importance of not only literacy but numeracy. It discusses how there needs to be a better balance between the focus on literacy and numeracy in society. “People rarely seem embarrassed to tell you that they were never any good at math, but thankfully a small percentage in Canada are illiterate or would admit proudly to not being able to read” The Globe and Mail (full article attached). Why is this the case? Mathematics is all around us and part of every aspect of our lives.

In a recent post, we discussed implementing rotary-based teaching to ensure math teachers were very knowledgeable and comfortable in the subject area. This could be one solution. Or we could help to improve current teacher’s math skills to enhance their teaching. What do you think? What do you think would work best? 

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

What do you think about a two-year Bachelor of Education?

As everyone should know by now, teacher training in Ontario will be increased to two years starting in September 2015. This will cut the number of new teachers who graduate every year in half and increase the length of time it takes them to complete a degree in Ontario. “The move is aimed at curbing the growing glut of would-be teachers who cannot find work in their field – not only in Ontario, but in several other regions of the country. It is also designed to keep Ontario-trained teachers competitive with their counterparts in other provinces and countries, who follow longer courses of study,” The Globe and Mail (full article attached). It estimated that about one-third of all teaching graduates cannot find work, even supply work. Each year about 9000 students enroll in a teaching program and with this change each cohort will contain only 4,500. It has been argued by education professionals that the current eight month training is too crammed. Jane Gaskell, former dean at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education at the University of Toronto, called teacher training “crammed” into the eight months in a university year, and noted that hairdressers get more training — 10 months, The Toronto Star Article(full article attached).

What do you think? Do you think that the increase in teaching training will help decrease the growing number of teachers who cannot find work? Will it keep Ontario-trained teachers competitive? 

Monday, February 3, 2014

Have you ever thought how the World would be without Numbers?

People always think that numbers (and math) can make things seem more complicated. Some students gasp at the very mention of math because they see numbers and it all seems overwhelming. Yes, being a teacher and one who has a passion for math, I strongly believe in the importance of not only learning “how to do” math but learning how to love math. There is nothing more satisfying for a teacher AND a student than grasping that math concept. Once a student understands a concept, they can whiz through all those math problems and feel a sense of accomplishment. I want to teach students that math and numbers do not make things more complicated…in fact, math (and numbers) actually makes this world much easier!

Have a look at this short funny tale of a world without numbers "NoNumbers Land" and let me know your thoughts. How would your world be different without numbers?

Fraser Report (Toronto Sun)

Has anyone read the Sunday edition of the Toronto Sun? There are articles about the Fraser Report's findings that math scores are way down across the province. Saying there is too much time being spent on literacy and that the current exploratory style of math teaching is not working. We will see if the pendulum will start swinging back towards getting a solid start with basic skills before exploring can take place.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Qualified math teachers please

Just wanted to see what other people think about the way math is taught at the primary and junior level. There are excellent math teachers at these levels but there are also teachers with very little math experience or background. You will often hear teachers talking about not being comfortable teaching a certain math strand or even say they would rather not teach math.
     It just seems crazy to me, that school boards don't move to a rotary based system where people with math qualifications are teaching math. It's no wonder that we have so many students who dislike math or are not comfortable with it. Having great math teachers who have a passion for math and want to teach the subject would make all the difference in the world.

TED Talks: Killing Creativity?

What can I say...I love TED Talks! I can honestly say that I've never seen a bad TED video. I was viewing a Khan Academy video and clicked on a recommended video which featured Ken Robinson ( While his video is not math-specific, it casts a light on what is happening to education. Robinson argues that we are no longer educating the 'whole' child- we use children to fulfill an image that we already have of them. We do not let children control who they become. He argues that all children are born artists, but struggle to remain that way. Children are so afraid of being wrong that they stop taking risks...they stop having wishes and start having goals.

The definition of education has changed. This generation will produce more high school and university graduates than ever before, but professional degrees don't mean employment anymore. Everyone seems to be educated, but few really stick out. 

Robinson's theories ring true in my classes- especially math. Children are so afraid of being wrong that they often don't participate in class or do their homework. They would much rather commit to nothing than the wrong answer. I also teach science and students seem to be more capable of forming and testing a hypothesis...but if I ask them in math, they are incredibly reluctant. Students have it in their minds that there is only ever one answer, and if they don't definitively know that answer, they are wrong.

My question is, how can we teach creativity in high school? How can we awaken that inner child, who still believes in figuring things out and taking chances? While our math answers should be accurate, often finding them means being wrong a few times. How can we encourage students that it's okay to be wrong?