Math scores don’t add up

Dana Petko

Where’s the math?

With Lambton County student math scores in decline the past few years, it’s a question we need to ask ourselves.  And it’s not just local math scores that are dropping; Ontario and Canadian students haven’t rated as well lately either.

Results from EQAO (Education Quality and Accountability Office) testing in Grades 3 and 6, as well as the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) for 15-year-olds, confirm it’s something our community needs to look at.

The good news is – we already are.

This spring, I had the pleasure of being involved in “Sowing the Seed of (Numerical) Literacy – Count Me In.” The planning committee looked at the local slide in math scores, considered the research, and decided to focus this year’s conference on numeracy.

Brenda Smith-Chant, a specialist on numeracy, spoke about how children learn math, and how adults in their lives can help. These adults were our audience: parents, educators, librarians, college students, etc.

They were not only given the latest research findings and ideas to implement in everyday interactions, they also attended hands-on workshops to create and take away learning materials to use with the children in their care.

So, where’s the math?  It’s a question we should ask our children and ourselves. We tend to shy away from the language of math and think we’re not ‘good at math’ – but we are.  We use it every day, and don’t even think about it.

We use classification when we sort and pair up socks in the laundry.  We use estimation when we guess how long it will take to complete errands, or the cost of filling up the car. We use multiplication and percentages to figure out a restaurant tip. We use geometry when we go shopping and buy cylinders (cans) and ice cream cones. We use measurement and fractions in baking, with ½ a cup of sugar or ¼ teaspoon of salt. We need to talk to children about the math we use.

Still, people are often unsure of the math they do know. The Learning Disabilities Association of Lambton County is planning to help some parents with that. A Family Math Program will be offered this fall for parents of children in Grades 2 to 5, to make them feel more confident in helping their children with math homework.

Local Ontario Early Years Centres have been offering Family Math for preschool to Grade 1. Now, a grant from the Sarnia Community Foundation will allow the Learning Disabilities Association of Lambton County to offer Family Math for children in Grades 2 to 5 who may be struggling. The Association will also be offering Jump Math for students in Grades 5-8 with support from the REACH foundation.

 Dana Petko is a parent support worker and program co-ordinator with the Learning Disabilities Association of Lambton County.