Teachers address gaps in math curriculum

Grade 9 students are being expected to know math concepts they’ve never been taught, the math and science co-ordinator for the Rainy River District School Board says.
They can’t even go to their textbooks for help since none exist that completely follows the new curriculum.
A dozen middle and high school math teachers gathered at J.W. Walker last Friday for an applied math initiatives workshop in an effort to address these concerns—and give teachers the tools to help students succeed in the subject.
“We’re focusing on gaps that exist in the Grade 8 and Grade 9 math curriculum,” eighth-grade teacher Larry Patrick explained.
Patrick said under the new curriculum, students are expected to know concepts such as how to solve in-depth equations or co-ordinate graphs when they hit high school. But they are not taught in Grade 8.
“The old curriculum addresses these but the new one eliminated a lot of areas so that now when they get to Grade 9, teachers expect the kids to know these things but they haven’t been taught,” said math and science co-ordinator Walker Rogoza.
“Kids find it so hard because there are so many areas missing.”
This frustration is compounded by the fact many high school teachers are unaware of the problem.
“The Grade 9 kids are struggling so hard and I was wondering what was going on,” FFHS math teacher Tracy Roen noted. “I realized there were a lot of gaps there that I didn’t have any idea were actually out there.”
On behalf of the school board, Rogoza just completed a course expectations assessment of the math curriculum, which outlined how many concepts students encounter for the first time in Grade 9 and must master to be successful in Grade 10.
While in previous grades, much of the material builds on what was taught the year before, almost half of the Grade 9 applied course and close to 80 percent of the Grade 9 academic one are completely new concepts.
“Math takes time for the concepts to gel in your mind,” Rogoza said. “But they have to address a concept and go on to the next one.
“If you spend hours and hours at home doing homework every day, you could consolidate this stuff, but this is only Grade 9,” he added.
This difficulty is compounded by the fact there are no textbooks that follow the new curriculum.
“There are gaps and when you go to do the EQAO [tests], they haven’t taught this stuff because it is not in the textbook,” Rogoza said.
FFHS students have been vocal about their frustration with the new curriculum. At a province-wide protest May 16, about 200 walked out to protest the new strategy.
At the time, one Grade 9 student said math was particularly difficult since you had to learn something completely new every day and then were expected to know everything by the end of the semester.
Rogoza applauded teachers who were working hard to help students cope. That’s why he helped host the math workshop last Friday to give teachers Web sites and online tools to supplement textbooks and to address the gaps in the curriculum.
The workshop was part of Phase II of the “Ontario Knowledge for Learning” program at J.W. Walker, one of seven schools in the province to be given funding for the project.