Canada’s English-speaking provinces need not look far to see how they can improve their own students’ math results. French-speaking Quebec has been on top of the math rankings for over a decade and this is thanks to two major initiatives. The first is ensuring teachers are better trained and better prepared to handle the subject in the classroom, the second is that focus is given to conducting simple math drills over convoluted problem solving. It’s clear that the answer to improving students’ relationships to math across the nation is to make it easier to understand through constant practice, and to introduce tools helping ill-equipped teachers explain it better.
In Quebec, a degree specific to education takes much longer to complete, and as a result, teachers spend several hundred hours in elementary and secondary school classrooms before they begin working full time. This gives them a lot of exposure, so they can test which methods of teaching work before they take responsibility for delivering a subject. They’re also required to have far more math training; in English-speaking provinces, an elementary school teacher only needs to have completed grade 11 math.
Furthermore, rigorous mathematics education begins sooner because high school in Quebec begins in 7th grade, and students are provided with instruction by specialists a whole two years before their English-speaking counterparts. By the time Quebec’s ninth or tenth graders are tested, they’re much closer to working with mathematics at a university level.
According to the experts at Knowledgehook, children have not changed much over time, and their ability to retain lessons remains as strong as it was ten years ago, but the present style of teaching math often does more harm than good. Provinces like Ontario, Alberta, and Manitoba have turned away from a practice-makes-perfect attitude in favour of fostering a broader understanding of concepts, but drilling is something they must bring back in order for their students to find success on assessments.
It doesn’t have to be done in a high-stress environment either. In fact, if you stop by Knowledgehook you’ll find that educational apps are more sophisticated than ever before and they subtly deliver drills through game-playing, making the idea of repetition for the sake of retention a lot more entertaining and engaging for students. Students can participate in these games as a class or individually, and teachers can collect the data from the apps to sooner learn where their students are struggling. Educators can also take tips from the apps to make their own lessons more accessible and effective.
While completely overhauling the rest of the country’s educational curricula to better reflect that of Quebec’s is not likely to happen overnight, what school boards can do is take small steps to conquer larger-scale problems. Finding a middle ground between making math a discovery and an important skill to be trained through routine, is a potentially sound option. This can be done through introducing educational software into the classroom that asks straightforward questions for the purposes of achieving a mission, a long-term goal – making math more interesting while also securing strategies into the minds of students.