Thursday, November 24, 2016

Ontario's new math initiatives

I recently read an article from OECTA’s October publication regarding Ontario’s funding for new math initiatives for addressing continued poor performance in math scores.  Overall the article does a nice job of outlining all of the aspects of these initiatives and it sounds like the Ontario government is taking some major steps in this direction.  We can only hope they have the desired outcome of improving math performance in students.

What interested me in particular were the comments regarding the training of lead math teachers for each school.  In response, the author underlined that all teachers in the elementary level are ‘qualified’ to teach math up to grade 8, and so OECTA will work with the ministry to ensure proper protocol is followed.  While all of this is true on paper, how many elementary teachers (who for the most part are generalists) actually feel ‘qualified’ to teach math?  As an occasional teacher I come in contact with many teachers in different schools, and so often these teachers express their concerns and anxieties about their math teaching.

I guess what struck me is the defensiveness with which the OECTA article was coming up against the idea of training math specialist teachers.  I do not believe the point is to question teachers’ current qualifications or professionalism, but for the benefit of students.  If this is how these initiatives are being received, I doubt they will yield the desired outcomes.  Coupled with many teachers’ existing math anxieties, it may be no wonder that many are reluctant to engage in such professional development programs.

Maybe the solution here is to create an environment whereby teachers are encouraged to become more familiar with and better prepared to teach math, but not by being coerced through aggressive tactics and the fears of poor EQAO results…  

The link to the OECTA magazine  is here and the article is located on pg 26.


  1. I loved your post! I see it all the team teaching grade 8 math (where here is considered elementary level) a lot of my colleaugues don't want to teach math and are thankful we do rotary because I love math! Again, they don't feel at ease with the curriculum at higher levels. We definetely need to create an environment where we are comfortable taching math. I am thinking of making the plunge in to high school and I can unfortunately relate to the fear.

  2. I believe that the rotary of subjects, typically in grades 7 & 8, is a good strategy to support learning. With teachers very comfortable in teaching those primary subjects such as math. The scores for EQAO come from grades 3 & 6 and we discussed gaps that formulate in these younger years. So I believe the concentration of effort should be towards supporting and developing strategies to strengthen the capabilities of teachers for math from grades 1 - 6. I've been in schools where they have an inhouse Math lead who supports the home room teacher during lessons or teaches a lesson themselves. Although this is meant to support both the student and teacher I've heard comments from the students that the differing styles of teaching a concept can add more confusion than make it clearer.