Teachers get new perspective on math

District teachers spent Monday learning to adjust to the new math curriculum in innovative ways during a workshop at La Place Rendez-Vous.
In response to Ministry of Education-dictated changes in the math curriculum at the start of the school year, the Rainy River District School Board brought in Ruth Dawson–a math, science, and technology consultant for the Halton District School Board in Burlington–to speak to almost 130 public school teachers here.
“At the heart of it, I’m trying to promote a change in the way mathematics is taught that, at the same time, will reflect the new curriculum,” said Dawson.
“We’re focusing on ways students can apply and show they have learned the required math skills,” she explained. “For instance, it could be through a project or something else not normally thought of as reflecting math knowledge.
“It’s a whole philosophical change for math–from kindergarten to grade 12,” she stressed.
“Today, we’ve been looking at math and other areas as it applies to real world,” enthused Alberton Central principal Ray Maynard. “It’s important to think of ways to assess and evaluate while keeping in line with what the province wants.”
Kerri Tolen, a grade seven/eight teacher at Donald Young School in Emo, agreed. “This has really got me into taking a different perspective of math in the classroom,” she noted.
Walter Rogoza, program co-ordinator of math/science and technology for the local public school board, said the new curriculum has meant change for teachers and students alike.
“A kid used to be graded on just a simple response. But now, a child has to explain how they got the answer,” he remarked.
“In the old days, we might have gotten, ‘Johnny wants to go to Vancouver. How far does Johnny have to travel?’ But now it’s more like, ‘You want to go to Vancouver. What’s the easiest way to get there?’” Rogoza explained.
Aspects such as mode of transportation, accommodations, travel route, and more could be part of the equation, he added.
“You don’t even have to be a human being to get the answer to the first. But that’s how we were taught in the past,” Rogoza said, adding he feels math has changed due to such factors as the widespread use of calculators.
By adding a contextual factor to teaching and learning, Dawson said teachers can be sure students are more accurately evaluated.
In turn, students could learn better by using literature (for younger students) and hands-on projects (for all students) that provide a built-in motivation.
“It’s about making math connect to the world,” Dawson noted.
“The reform in mathematics is a positive thing, and should be looked at that way,” she said. “In North America as a whole, math is becoming more accessible to students.”