Posts tagged ‘Math’

June 4, 2014

Life is more than Math: Don’t narrow our public education curriculum

By  Ben Sichel | Published May 30th, 2014 by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives

What is our public education system for? To judge by much of the talk coming from politicians and business leaders, education is purely a matter of preparing students to be workers in a vaguely defined “new economy.”

Certainly, students need to be able to survive economically in the world. But public education is about much more than narrow job-skills training: it’s about teaching our kids how to create and sustain a healthy, engaged society.

This isn’t always reflected in the way we prioritize certain subjects in school.

Take the example of math. A staple of the curriculum since the dawn of schooling, it’s often perceived as the most serious and rigorous of subjects. Why? Because it’s seen as the key to gainful employment, especially in higher-paid fields. Love it or hate it, many students are ingrained from a young age with the idea that their financial future depends on their ability to solve quadratic equations or prove the Pythagorean theorem.

I have nothing against math; in fact, it was one of my majors. But there are some problems here. One is that only a small percentage of jobs actually use anything beyond junior high math – about a fifth, according to a recent Northeastern University study.

Furthermore, jobs aside, is the material learned in a high school math class necessarily that much more important in life than, say, learning about one’s health, macroeconomics, a second language, or Canada’s treaty obligations with First Nations?

These are not just philosophical questions. In the U.S., a decade of education policies focusing on “career and college-readiness” – Bush’s No Child Left Behind Act, and Obama’s Race to the Top and more recent Common Core State Standards – have resulted in an obsessive overemphasis on standardized test scores and narrowing of the curriculum.

As teachers spend an inordinate amount of time teaching to the test, subject matter seen as extraneous, i.e. anything not easily testable or immediately relatable to a job, is pushed to the margins.

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December 4, 2013

Canadian students front-runners in study of worldwide math skills; Quebec students rank highest

By Andrea Hill | Published Dec 3 2013 by The Montreal Gazette


Math skills – the main focus of the 2012 PISA survey – were broken down by province, with Quebec students found to be outperforming their peers as they had three years prior.

Quebec youth scored well above the Canadian average in math skills, while students in the Maritimes, Saskatchewan and Manitoba saw results lower than the national average. Scores from Prince Edward Island fell below the average for OECD countries.

Quebec was one of only two provinces that did not see a decline in math skills since the last PISA survey. The other was Saskatchewan.

While Johnson acknowledged Canada is not alone in seeing a downward trend in math skills — most OECD countries are witnessing the same thing — he said there is a need for Canada to “take action” to prevent further slipping.

Johnson suggested that provinces look to Quebec for clues on how to improve their own education systems, and said Quebec’s push to provide specialized training for math teachers may be part of the solution.

“One of the best places to spend your money is on teaching quality,” he said. “We need more investment on teachers with more specialized training and expertise in teaching math.”

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November 18, 2013

First Grade Math Tests in Finnish and American Classrooms

By Tim Walker | Published Nov 16, 2013 by Taught by Finland blog

In October, Carol Burris, a principal in New York, was approached by a colleague who was shaken-up by her child’s first grade math test. She documented her experience here. 

With the parent’s permission, she linked the controversial math test here. Take a look..

Burris was bothered by many aspects of the test. The percentage grade. The multiple-choice questions. The complexity of the math exercises.

Earlier this week, I sat down with a Finnish first grade teacher at my school and we studied this math test together. My colleague’s reactions to the test were illuminating.

The Demands of Reading

The Finnish first grade teacher was immediately shocked by the sheer amount of text on the test, wondering how her young students would fare. In the fall, first graders all across Finland are just getting their feet wet as readers.

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