There is one undeniable truth that unites parents, educators, and students in-tune with educational standards: there is something very wrong with mathematics education in Ontario. Year after year standardized test scores are plummeting, and various attempts that have been implemented as temporary or permanent fixes do not work.1
There are a number of possible reasons for this turn of events, including but not limited to: curriculum structure and content; inadequate teaching materials; insufficient time spent on teaching the content; and lack of comprehension of the material by the educators, resulting in sub-par knowledge transfer to the students.2
Attempted governmental fixes to this growing issue in the past and present include simplifying the workload and curriculum for the students, arguably worsening the issue instead of solving it. Simplifying the curriculum and thus reducing workload was thought to work. Making standardized tests easier for the students was attempted as a solution. An effort was made to amend math to be more “real-world” and “hands-on” for the students. Additional technology in the classroom was hyped up as the answer. Encouraging children to see math as “cool” through a variety of campaigns, slogans, and programs was also thought to work, pandering to emotion rather than actual benefits that the knowledge can bring. Organizing mandatory or voluntary additional education for teachers via seminars, programs, and tests in order to try to heighten teachers’ understanding of the material was also attempted.3
Parents made an effort on their part as well, either teaching their children math at home themselves, or enrolling them in after-school or summer programs that promised to boost their children’s mathematical comprehension.
Despite so many attempts at a solution, none of them are able to tackle the clear core issue of students not understanding the basics of mathematics. The basis of mathematical learning is not being properly introduced to the current Ontario student body. The aforementioned solutions do not work. There is a growing frustration among parents that is palpable in most households and parent-teacher meetings.
More time during school hours is naively being spent on math than ever before, but without visible results. The textbooks used are more updated, prettier and thicker than previous versions, but contain less and less true math with every new revision.
Teachers are more qualified than ever; math-learning games top the charts; online tests, videos, and lessons are easily found in huge quantities, yet our kids have more and more trouble with math.
There is a large increase in the number of private math tutoring programs, such as Kumon, Spirit of Math, and UCMAS to name a few. This increase of private programs skews the data obtained on standardized tests, implying that true results would have been even more worrisome. In addition, these programs do not usually follow the school curriculum, but specialize in certain specific areas of math. While there is some short-term gain from these programs, such as students being trained to do well on standardized and gifted tests, we argue that students miss out on the big picture and have large gaps in the basic knowledge and understanding that mathematics is based upon.
There seems to be a number of factors affecting mathematical education in both elementary and secondary schools in Ontario. The existing solutions are band-aids, patches that tackle some of these factors, but never get to the root of the issue. Furthermore, when we add the individuality of each student to the mix of potential solutions, all existing attempts to “fix math education” spectacularly fail.
If you are intrigued with our mission and find yourself aligned with our passion to help the students of Ontario get back on their feet regarding math education, there are things you can do to help us and our project.
The OntaOnta Team is grateful for your time and interest in our project. If you are interested in contacting us, please feel free to contact our team. We will do our best to answer any questions you may have, and we welcome any and all support we receive from those aligned with our cause.Sincerely,