Elementary students to get hour of math every day under new Ontario plan

TheStar.com – Your Toronto/Education – Education Minister Liz Sandals unveiled $60 million math strategy Monday in wake of troubling decline in elementary math scores.
Apr 04 2016.   By: Louise Brown, GTA

Concerned about a troubling slip in elementary math scores, the Ontario government will require all students from Grades 1 to 8 to have at least 60 minutes of math instruction every day starting in September.

In a $60 million “renewed math strategy” unveiled Monday by Education Minister Liz Sandals, Ontario also will require each school to have at least one “math lead teacher” — and larger schools, up to three — who are “deeply knowledgeable about teaching math” and who would receive up to five days of math professional development every year.

The government also promised to offer more math supports for some 500 schools where math achievement is a challenge, more parent resources and tip-sheets, better access to online math homework help, and professional development in math for some elementary schools’ entire staff.

“We know the jobs of today and tomorrow require key math skills and knowledge,” said Sandals, who noted that while Canadian students are still among the strongest math performers on global tests, scores on Ontario’s standardized math tests slipped 7 percentage points in Grade 6 over the past five years, and 4 points in Grade 3.

“We’re doing fine, but we need to improve how we help students who are struggling with math,” especially in a “tech-driven world,” said Sandals.

It is the first of the 3 Rs for which Ontario has stipulated how much time it must be taught. The province encourages teachers to spend 100 minutes per day on literacy, but some of that can be woven into lessons in other subjects, from art to science. Too, Ontario requires all students in elementary schools to have 20 minutes of daily physical activity.

But Sandals said the 60 minutes of math instruction must be actual math instruction. Using math in other subjects would be considered above and beyond that requirement.

Sandals has left it to local schools to figure out how to timetable the new math requirement, but said she didn’t think it would require cutting another subject, noting many schools already provide 60 minutes a day of math.

However some teachers took to social media, asking what they will have to cut to make time for this much math.

Sandals also said she does not think the falling schools reflect a weakness in the way math is taught, since Ontario seeks to strike a balance between the mastery of arithmetic skills such as multiplication tables, and the ability to apply those skills to solving problems.

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