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Mathematics: A Balanced Approach

This past week, the OECD (the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development) released its PISA (Program for International School Assessment) results and these results have created quite a stir, particularly in the area of math outcomes and Canada’s ranking relative to 33 other member countries.

As a fairly new Twitter subscriber (@MPerrySCS), I have watched with interest as various British educational organizations I follow have been tweeting up a storm with respect to what is wrong with their Math programs in response to low rankings on the PISA. After a story on CBC news http://bit.ly/1d24Hhq  as well as articles in the Globe and Mail http://bit.ly/IRmOgX  many in our community have reached out and suggested this issue would be a great blog topic….and here we are.

As Anna Stokke, Associate Professor of Mathematics, at the University of Winnipeg said in her interview on the CBC, “Math is the gateway course to all of the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) courses.” Professor Stokke goes on to speak of the importance of ensuring that fundamental, foundational skills are not only taught to our students but ingrained in them. She expresses her concern that there has been a shift in teaching philosophy and that shifts to approaches such project-based learning don’t necessarily translate into skill attainment. It is only when students have a solid foundation that they are able to apply these skills and delve into the complexities of mathematics and science.

When St. Clement’s developed and launched our strategic plan for 2012-2017 https://www.scs.on.ca/strategicplan there was a reason our first goal was entitled An Inspiring and Balanced Learning Experience. The word balanced is purposeful: St. Clement’s believes strongly that education must embrace multiple educational approaches and instructional methods in all subjects, and that every girl must have foundational knowledge and skills prior to applying them.

St. Clement’s has been focusing a tremendous amount of time and energy on Math over the last year, particularly in our Junior School. Our goal is, and always has been, to ensure that we are engaging all students in the fundamentals as well as their application. This is not simply to ensure proficiency, but also confidence in, and passion for, a subject for which we believe every girl has capacity.

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