Mathnasium 8560 8A Avenue SW, #415, Calgary AB T3H 1T1 (587) 999-0167   swcalgary@mathnasium.ca

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Take the first step towards providing your child with a solid math foundation. Give us a call to schedule your "No Risk Assessment"! We would be very happy to have you and your family stop by to visit Mathnasium of SW Calgary located in West Springs. Our meeting will give you and your child a sense of who we are, what we do, and how we can help. Call (587) 999-0167 or complete the form on the right to get started.  Please see our Parent Testimonials posted on the right under the REVIEWS Tab!  

 Awards for Mathnasium of SW Calgary

All members of the team at Mathnasium of SW Calgary are proudly honored to receive two national awards in recognition of the accomplishments our Math Centre has achieved by assisting students in Calgary.

                       

 

 Year After Year "Discovery" Math Fails to Educate Students Across Canada

 
Another School Year Begins - A New Math Class to Attend!

 

Summer is over and time to get reacquainted with friends as everyone returns to school and advances on to the next grade.  The start of a new school year is always filled with a sense of curiosity about what the new courses will be like, who will be the teachers guiding classes through the discovery of new knowledge and not surprisingly, there is a new Math Course found on everyone’s timetable.

It is a certainty that topics from previous math courses will be revisited in this year’s math class.  Previous concepts will be further explored and developed in greater depth broadening student awareness of the intricate association and relationship of certain topic areas existing in the world of mathematics.  Some concepts will be briefly reviewed as these are to be applied to new areas of study illustrating the cumulative nature of mathematics.  Keeping pace and being able to demonstrate mastery over concepts being explored in each math class is of paramount importance as new topic areas are encountered in this year’s math course.  Homework and devotion of extra time to reinforce understanding of mathematical concepts is required to prevent ‘gaps’ from forming in the learning process.  Lack of understanding of one topic area can lead to confusion and frustration when attempting to learn related concepts being covered in class.  A student not knowing numerous topic areas examined in previous math courses is at a distinct disadvantage when commencing their next math course at the start of any successive academic year. Visit the Alberta Government Programs of Study website to view the math syllabus for grades 1 to 12 – look for reoccurring concepts appearing from year to year; //www.learnalberta.ca/ProgramOfStudy.aspx?ProgramId=26061#

Clearly, addressing concerns in mathematics as soon as possible is the course of action needed when difficulties arise.  At the Math Learning Centre, taking a No Risk Assessment will identify gaps in the understanding of mathematical concepts at each specific grade.  Analyzing and reviewing the results of the assessment followed by preparation of an Individualized Learning Plan designed to address areas of concern prepares the child for the math topics currently being covered in the school math class and for future topics.  It is imperative students have the opportunity to catch up, keep up and get ahead in mathematics.  Not understanding what is taking place in the math class is like watching a foreign film without subtitles.  The individual sort of knows what is happening but is not exactly sure what the film is all about, what is being said, where everything is leading to and why certain things are happening.  How long would a student remain interested persevering to understand what is taking place in the foreign film or their math class under these conditions?  Frustration, anxiety, embarrassment and feeling lost during math class can erode a student’s confidence and performance in their entire academic program.  This need not be the case.

Visit Mathnasium of SW Calgary to see what we can do for your child!

Michael and Cathy

 

For The Sake of Kids, Embrace Math

Published in the National Posthttps://theconversation.com/for-the-sake-of-kids-embrace-math-106433

Mathematics is causing headaches in schools across Canada, Australia and many other parts of the world. Teachers in both Canada and Australia feel neither competent nor confident in math and, frankly, they are the first to admit it.  As researchers, educators and authors who have advised globally about best practices for improving learning and achievement, we have had opportunities to notice common trends and obstacles, and notable gains, in math education.  Up close, we’ve heard from teachers in Ontario, Canada, and in Australia and we’ve considered how people can best collaborate to protect and grow students’ love of learning.  We’ve seen that some math improvement efforts get bogged down by fears of the unknown. Others get an initial spark but soon lose energy.

Let’s start with the bad news.

‘Way more effective?’

In response to a year-on-year decline in math scores, Ontario, for example, has started to give math achievement high priority. An underlying principle of the Ontario mathematics curriculum is to “investigate ideas and concepts through problem solving.” A September report from Canadian think tank The Institute for Competitiveness and Prosperity pointed out that inquiry-based approaches to mathematics actually get better results than more “basic” alternatives.  But many parents and some educators remain skeptical, if not downright hostile, towards unfamiliar math strategies.

In Australia, critics of inquiry-based mathematics curricula have suggested a change of course. In a recent story in the Sydney Morning Herald, with the headline “There is a better way of teaching bored Australian students,” a research fellow at Australian think tank the Centre for Independent Studies lamented that “explicit, direct instruction across the board is way more effective in achieving higher student outcomes.” One could not help but wonder how many parents might have been nodding their heads over their coffee.

But while we can’t resolve the math problem simply by getting “back to basics,” we can revive good ideas about math education.

More oxygen please

From the early 2000s, Ontario’s government pledged to improve achievement in literacy and math (or numeracy, as it was then called). The government invested significant resources and established a Literacy and Numeracy Secretariat to spearhead the effort.

Principals made literacy their top priority. Expert coaches worked alongside classroom teachers, demonstrating effective strategies and giving teachers feedback on how to use them with students.

The gains in literacy were impressive and are now the envy of the world.

But, like in a number of other countries, the literacy strategy consumed all the attention and left math with too little oxygen. It’s almost impossible to reform literacy and math all at once — the scope is too great, so the effort either leaves one of them to fall by the wayside by default or just burns teachers out.

It’s time to give math reform the same treatment as literacy. But math reform has to confront an obstacle that literacy reform didn’t: Almost every primary and elementary teacher in many countries, including Canada and Australia, loves reading, writing and books, as do many of the kids.

Literacy reform had a lot to build on. This is not the case with math.

In interviews one of us conducted last year with more than 200 Ontario educators, teachers would say things like:

“I’m not a math person.”

One principal reflected how they had all been “amazing readers and writers.” But she also wondered:

“Did we share that similar passion and appetite for numeracy?”

Fear of math vs. higher salary

Compared to literacy, there is a shortage of teachers who feel competent in math and confident enough to teach students what mathematics is and what mathematicians do. Many schools also have shortages of colleagues with the expertise to help them.

Some of the current answers to this problem — such as more hours allocated to how to teach math during elementary teacher training, or assigning professional development days to improving math teaching — won’t do any harm. But we must also address how confident and comfortable, and not just minimally competent, elementary teachers need to feel about math.

In Ontario, for example, 80 per cent of elementary teachers have no university qualification in math. However, in Finland, one of the world’s leading performers in mathematics, around half of elementary teachers have studied math or science and how to teach them effectively during their university degrees.

Second, in Singapore, the world’s No. 1 performer in math, elementary teachers are paid as much as engineers when they start teaching. This means students who are good at math choose teaching based on their mission and purpose in life, not on salary differentials. Perhaps Canada and Australia need to think harder about how to attract more people with math and science backgrounds into elementary teaching.

Teacher and parent aid

Third, improving teaching mathematics should be built on collaboration between experienced teachers and those with less confidence in schools. This coaching should focus not just on how to teach math but also on teachers’ relationship to math generally.

Intensive coaching was a big factor in raising literacy achievement. Because math expertise is now thinner, teachers need more resources and resourcefulness in classrooms.

Last, parents have a responsibility for their children’s math development too. But two-thirds of surveyed Ontario parents don’t know how to help their elementary-aged children with mathematics.

Supporting school interventions known as family math that help parents converse about numbers and shapes with their children as easily as they might about words could do a lot to rectify this.

We need to make math as much a priority now as literacy has been. We need to get teachers in primary or elementary schools just as comfortable as well as competent with math and how to teach it successfully to all children as they are with reading in their lives as well as in their classes.

If we avoid falling for simplistic solutions, then eventually, the words “I am not a math person” may become a thing of the past.

 

Dismal Math Test Scores Across Alberta Spark Criticism
of Standardized Grade 9 Exam.

Reid Southwick · CBC News · 

Months before she even wrote her Grade 9 final math exam, Anita Hofer's daughter was already worried she was going to fail the standardized test.  The Calgary mom said she encouraged her daughter to "buckle down on her studying, and her note-taking and to be really paying attention in class," thinking a little more effort would be enough for the otherwise strong student.  "We really didn't have any indications from her report cards that she was going to be flunking the exam, and that's exactly what happened," Hofer said.

Across Alberta, 13,800 students in Grade 9 — a third of those who wrote the exam — failed the Provincial Achievement Test in math. A similar share of students in the Calgary Board of Education also fell short of the province's acceptable standard.

Alberta standardized test results in Grade 9 math

The high failure rate caused considerable hand-wringing among students, parents and teachers, especially given revelations the province considers a 42 per cent mark a passing grade.  Parents went to social media and call-in radio shows, openly worried about the quality of math education, and sparked debate over various teaching methods, including calls for a return to the old-fashioned way of memorizing times tables.  Days later, there was strong indication Albertans were not alone in their math woes when the Ontario government announced all new teachers must pass a mandatory math test before entering the classroom.  The debate over pre-high school math scores has raged in Alberta for decades. While some observers say the causes of the latest score slump are too complicated to narrow down, some teachers say what has been lost in the latest row over results is their claim that the tests — not the teaching — are to blame.

'Math-phobia'

On the last day of classes in June, some Grade 9 students left Alicia Burdess' classroom in tears after agonizing over the standardized math test. Some gave up, leaving swaths of the answer sheet blank.  Burdess, a Grande Prairie teacher who has coached colleagues on math education and once served on a provincial math council, said the timed exam was a source of stress and failed to accurately measure the math skills of her students.  She worries their angst over the test will only fuel what she calls "math-phobia," a systemic fear that has made it "socially acceptable to say we're not good at math, where we would never say that about reading."

She's not alone.

Union calls testing system 'broken'

After the results were released, other teachers shared with each other their own criticisms with the test. One point of contention was a new segment requiring students to solve 20 math problems in 20 minutes without a calculator, with some extra time allotted.  A teacher from central Alberta wrote to a colleague the non-calculator portion shouldn't have been timed, explaining the ordeal "has caused unnecessary stress and dislike for math and creates an environment that breeds math anxiety."  The teachers' union has a similar view. In interviews, the Alberta Teachers' Association said the standardized testing system is broken, and one local president in Calgary said the Provincial Achievement Test should be scrapped, saying it's not a reliable assessment of student abilities.  Burdess also has serious problems with the test.  "I have students that are doing bigger, more beautiful math than they've probably ever done, and they're learning it at a deeper level," she said.  "They're learning to problem-solve. They're learning how to collaborate with others. They're learning how to communicate their thinking. And it's just not possible (to assess those skills) on a test like that."

Testing system will change, minister said

Education Minister David Eggen said he understands the latest Grade 9 math test was difficult. But he believes scores will improve in the years ahead as students get used to studying without a calculator, adding that knowing how to do math the old-fashioned way is an important life skill.  Eggen said student assessments are essential to ensuring quality education in schools. But he said the testing system will likely change as the province rolls out a new Kindergarten to Grade 12 curriculum.  "We're constantly looking for feedback from students and teachers and parents to make what we do better all the time," he said.  Acknowledging concerns the exam may not properly measure math skills, Eggen said: "That is useful information, and I certainly will take it back to my assessment division."

'We're capable of doing a lot better'

The opposition to Alberta's standardized tests is not universal.  Jonathan Chin, a Grade 6 teacher in Calgary, said these exams accurately assess student understanding of problem-solving and mental math, though he notes they are challenging.  Still, he said he wasn't happy about the latest math results, arguing, "we're capable of doing a lot better."  Chin said many factors could be at play in why the latest Grade 9 scores were low. He said each student has to be assessed individually on what may be holding them back. Do they understand what the question is asking them to do, and do they know the calculations involved?  But the provincial test isn't the only standardized measure of student achievement. When stacked up against other provinces and countries in the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), Alberta students perform fairly well.

National and global comparisons

PISA results are based on a random sample of 15-year-old students, as opposed to Alberta's method of attempting to test every student in certain grades. This means the PISA results are an estimate.  In 2015, the latest year for which results are available, Alberta math scores were in line with the Canadian average, with only Quebec coming in higher than the national benchmark. Alberta math results were also higher than those of all but 10 countries or economies. Seventy-two were ranked.  In science, Alberta performed far better. Its average scores led the country and were better globally than all but one country — Singapore.

The province's Grade 9 math scores in the Provincial Achievement Test have long been lower than in other subject areas, said education researcher Elaine Simmt. She conducted a study of student performance in the late 1990s when Alberta Education officials were worried about low math test results.  At the time, Simmt looked into schools that were achieving high marks and interviewed teachers with novel approaches to helping students visualize math, like measuring the circumferences of circles with cans and string. Other teachers set high expectations and devoted time to math contests.

Even recording answers not easy

Simmt, an education professor at the University of Alberta, agreed with Chin that it's difficult to pinpoint the causes behind the latest low scores given that students have unique challenges and strengths.  She said standardized tests are not a perfect measure of student skills. Once students solve a given problem, she said they have to record what may be a complicated answer in a bubble sheet, writing the numerator, the fraction bar and the denominator in separate columns.  "Even filling out the sheet itself is difficult," she said. "It's not just about calculating; now it is understanding the language of numerator and denominator, and getting it on the answer sheet correctly."  The province declined to publicly reveal the questions from the latest tests because officials will use some of them in the next exam, and don't want to give them away. But Alberta Education did publish sample questions to help students prepare.  Simmt said the questions were complicated, though "I expect Grade 9 students to be able to answer them."

Some sample questions were 'ridiculous'

David Martin sees it differently. A high school math teacher who has led professional development courses across the province, Martin said some of the sample questions were bizarre.  For instance, one question that was meant to be answered in 60 seconds without a calculator asked for the square root of 145/4, to the nearest whole number.  "Some of these questions are ridiculous, for a lack of a better word," Martin said. "As a math guy, I can't even come up with a real-life example that you would even do this kind of math for, other than maybe a skill-testing question on the back of a ballot."  Still, Calgary mom Hofer said her daughter's performance in the standardized test has her worried about what the teenager may be up against as she starts a semester of Grade 10 math in January. Hofer said she's already hired a tutor.  "I'm hearing from lots of parents that their child's having a really hard time in math at this stage and that they're going into high school, and they're unequipped or they're ill-equipped, and they're paying lots of money for tutors to pad the education that their kids have already had."

 Parents and School Trustees are Demanding Changes to Report Cards in Hopes of Providing a Clearer and More Realistic Assessment of Student Skills.

Published by Eva Ferguson, Calgary Herald on January 5, 2018

Public school board officials will debate on Tuesday an administration report on math that concludes 91 per cent of K-12 students within the Calgary Board of Education met “learning expectations as measured by student report cards” in 2016-17, an improvement from the 86.6 per cent of students who met expectations in 2011-12.

But critics say that paints a false picture of a more troubling reality, where students are struggling with basic math and parents don’t even know it.

In fact, 2016-17 student results for grades 6 and 9 provincial achievement tests and Grade 12 diploma exams showed math scores to be consistently lower than other core subjects, with little to no improvement from previous years. And more than 25 per cent of students in grades 6 and 9 failed the exams, unable to achieve the acceptable standard of 50 per cent, according to data released by the CBE last fall.

Sarah Bieber, a mother of four students from grades 1 to 7 in the public system, says parents are given a false perception that their kids are “doing fine” in math because report cards continue to score students on a vague scale of one to four.

To meet learning expectations, students need only present a two or more out of four. Bieber says parents are never sure if that is good enough.

“This report does not reflect what is actually happening at all,” said Bieber, who also is a member of the Kids Come First parent advocacy group.

“I regularly speak to a lot of parents, who are saying their kids are struggling and they feel they have to find other supports for them outside of school because teachers keep telling them everything is fine.”

Bieber relayed the frustrations of one family whose son was achieving grades of two or three out of four in math in junior high, with teachers saying he was a strong student who exceeded grade level expectations.

But now that the same student is in Grade 10, where report cards are scored in percentages, he is achieving a 58 per cent average.

“Now that family is very worried, and they feel like it is too late for their son,” Bieber said.

 

Grade 4 math illiteracy rate has doubled in Alberta, international test shows

BY DAVID STAPLES (Calgary Sun Newspaper)

FIRST POSTED: THURSDAY, JUNE 15, 2017 08:24 PM MDT | UPDATED: FRIDAY, JUNE 16, 2017 07:08 AM MDT

Math education in Alberta has reached a new low, with the rate of math illiteracy doubling for Grade 4 students since 2011.  The latest results are part of a trend that has seen Alberta students sinking lower on international math tests for two decades.

In 1995, nine per cent of Grade Four students in Alberta ranked at the top level for math, meaning could apply math to relatively complex problems and explain their reasoning. But on the just-released 2015 Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS), only 2.4 per cent of Grade Four students hit that mark.

The number of Alberta students in the lowest category indicating math illiteracy, students who lack even a basic knowledge of math, has exploded. It went from six per cent of Grade 4 students in the 2011 TIMSS to 13.2 per cent in 2015.

More than 4,662 students at 154 Alberta schools took the 2015 TIMSS, which was administered in 50 countries worldwide at the Grade 4 level.  Alberta used to score average for a developed country in math education. Among Canadian provinces in 1995, it was well ahead of Ontario but behind Quebec. It now ranks in the same category as countries such as Turkey, Georgia and Chile. It is significantly behind both Ontario and Quebec and not remotely close to top nations, such as Singapore, Japan, Northern Ireland and Russia.

Math professors blame the failing results on the pervasive influence of a new style of teaching math, known as constructivism or discovery math, which has been embraced by university education professors and Alberta Education math curriculum consultants.

Education Minister David Eggen agrees with critique from these math professors that our students' problems in math are related to a move to discovery math: "I think their analysis is quite sound historically."

Eggen said the key to improving the scores is the coming rewrite of the K-12 math curriculum: "We are going to focus like a laser on improving math outcomes."

 

A video to share which you may find interesting!