Ontario reveals new math curriculum: Here's what students will learn in each grade
TORONTO -- Ontario students returning to elementary school in September amid a mix of online and in-class learning will also be met with a new math curriculum that includes financial literacy, coding and "back to basics” fundamentals.
The Progressive Conservative government has long promised to change up the inquiry-based math curriculum, arguing that test scores through the Education Quality and Accountability Office have slowly been decreasing over the last five years.
Speaking at Queen’s Park on Tuesday afternoon, Ontario Premier Doug Ford said that his government is “proud” to have delivered on his campaign promise to reform math education.
“Starting in September, parents can look forward to a math curriculum that not only goes back to basics but equips our next generation of leaders and community builders with the math skills they need to build a bright future for all of us," Ford said.
Ford also said that the government will be cancelling this year’s EQAO tests for Grade 3 and Grade 6 students while they adjust to the new curriculum.
The curriculum presented on Tuesday was developed after two years of consultation with parents, math educators, academics and math experts, the government said, and has been divided into six sections.
The learning of financial literacy between Grade 1 and Grade 8 is the biggest difference between the two math curriculums. In this new strand, students will need to demonstrate an understanding of Canadian currency, financial management and consumer awareness.
Here are some examples of what students will be learning:
Grade 1: Students will learn about Canadian coins up to 50 cents and bills up to $50.
Grade 2: Students will identify different ways of representing money up to 200 cents in coins and up to $200 in bills.
Grade 3: Students will estimate and calculate change for simple transactions.
Grade 4: Students will identify various methods of payments, estimate and calculate the cost of items. Students will also learn about the concepts of spending, saving, earning, investing and donating.
Grade 5: Students will learn how to estimate and calculate the cost of transactions including taxes, design sample basic budgets and understand the concepts of credit and debt.
Grade 6: Students will learn the advantages and disadvantages of payment methods, identify financial goals, and learn about interest rates and fees.
Grade 7: Students will compare exchange rates, convert foreign currencies, and create a sample budget.
Grade 8: Students will create a financial plan to reach a long-term goal, accounting for income, expenses and tax implications.
Socio-emotional learning skills in mathematics and the mathematical processes
This is the second new strand in the province’s math curriculum and focuses on giving children the confidence they need to learn and think critically. It will also be integrated into other strands in the curriculum “in order to promote a positive identity as a math learner.”
No firm examples were provided in this strand, but the curriculum notes that it will help students identify and manage emotions such as stress and anxiety, communicate effectively and maintain motivation as they work through challenging math problems.
This strand represents the Ontario government’s return to basics ideas and focuses on the learning of numbers, fractions, percentages and “properties and relationships.”
The expectation is that students will be able to not only develop an understanding of numbers but also how they can be used and applied in everyday life.
Students will then take their understanding of numbers and learn to identify patterns and make predictions, “including those found in real-life contexts.”
Those in Grade 1 will work on determining patterns, solving problems and creating “computational representations of mathematical situations by writing and executing code.”
Grade 8 students will compare repeating, growing and shrinking patterns, determine pattern rules, evaluate algebraic expressions and “read and alter existing code involving the analysis of data in order to inform and communicate decisions.”
By the end of each grade, the government says that students should be able to “manage, analyse and use data to make convincing arguments and informed decisions, in various contexts drawn from real life.”
This strand will include sections on data collection, sampling and organization.
Grade 1 students, for example, will learn to display data sets in charts while Grade 8 students will use “mathematical language” to describe relationships between variables and make arguments.
This strand will focus on describing and representing shapes, locations and movement using geometric and spatial properties. Students will construct three-dimensional objects, plot and read coordinates, and learn to measure length, area and mass.
Is now the time to introduce a new curriculum?
Last week the Ford government introduced three options for students returning to school in September amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Students have been participating in online learning since schools were shuttered in mid-March as the province dealt with the spread of the novel coronavirus.
After presenting the three options and saying it was up to each school board to decide how to proceed, Education Minister Stephen Lecce said they will be directing boards to introduce a mix of in-person and remote instruction.
This “cautious adaptive delivery model” would only allow 15 students inside a classroom at a time with a single teacher. Students would attend class on an alternative week schedule.
The Ontario New Democratic Party said that changing the curriculum during a pandemic, as school boards are trying to adjust to new models of learning, is “irresponsible.”
“Not only has the Minister of Education failed to properly consult educators and parents about the new curriculum, he has not bothered to consider the additional burden this will cause for teachers, and for parents who are already struggling to help their children learn from home,” NDP education critic Marit Stiles said in a statement.
When asked about whether it was responsible to unveil a new math curriculum for September, Lecce said it was necessary to move forward, adding that the curriculum hasn’t been changed in 15 years.
“I appreciate the broader challenge around us but we must move forward with these necessary reforms for students so that when they graduate they can aspire to get a good paying a job, a job related to the future economy, a job that could give them a yield to own a home one day,” he said.
“I choose the curriculum and my preference is a curriculum that is relevant to the job market and actually relevant for the skills of our students.”
Shortly after the announcement, the union representing elementary teachers in Ontario saying that while they are not opposed to changing the math curriculum, they felt the reforms were rushed, especially considering the
“Educators, students and parents have all grappled with the stressful learning conditions forced on us by the COVID-19 pandemic," Sam Hammond, president of the Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario, said in a statement.
“This spring, the disparity in accessing learning resources has deepened inequities and had an impact on student learning outcomes that will carry over to the coming school year.”
Hammond went on to say that rolling out a new curriculum takes time.
"Given the significant changes to the math curriculum, and the fact that Ontario is still in the midst of a pandemic, successful implementation will require more than the two-month timeline that the ministry has set.”
Officials said that EQAO math scores for elementary students are significantly lower than test results for reading and writing. In 2018, scores for Grade 3 students were down to 61 per cent from 67 per cent four years earlier.
For Grade 6 students, the average math score has been stuck at 61 per cent for about a decade.