I have been a math teacher for the past 20+ years (currently an ACL too), and over the years, I’ve been observing how students are becoming more and more disengaged with the current math curriculum. Many students don’t even do homework anymore because a lot of the topics seem irrelevant to them. Math teachers have been employing a number of new strategies, integrating more and more technology into their lessons, exposing students to hybrid learning, trying more and more to make math fun, but students are still not as upbeat as they used to be even a decade ago. And students’ performance in math has been declining over the past decade. Students performance on the EQAO math assessment in grades 3, 6 and 9 is obviously telling.
I believe students can realize a greater success in math if we make it more relevant to the real world by incorporating more of the skills they will need to conduct their daily affairs now and especially later in life. The math curriculum should change to reflect more real life skills like Financial Literacy skills. Every student should be learning about topics (not limited to) like:
1. Good Money Sense
3. Doing their Taxes (Tax Returns)
4. Understanding Mortgages
5. Buying a Home: (Closing Costs, Moving Costs, Fixed/Variable Costs involve)
6. Buying or Leasing a Car: (Fixed/Variable Costs involve)
7. Using Credit Cards Responsibly and Calculating the interest associated with late payments
8. Lines of Credit Vs Credit Cards
9. Credit Scores and the importance of Maintaining great credit
10. Difference between Good Debt and Bad Debt
11. Using Good Debt to increase income
12. Saving for Education (Registered Education Savings Plan)
13. Saving for Retirement (Registered Retirement Savings Plan)
14. Saving for unexpected expenses/vacation and so on.
If we make things relevant and meaningful to students’ worldview, they will perform better. And the commonly asked question: “Ms/Sir, when will we use this in life?” or “Why do we need to learn this?” will become one of the past.
Topics like Quadratic Functions, Rational Functions, Transformation of Functions, Geometry and Trigonometry, to name a few, should be in optional math courses for those students who want to pursue careers like engineer, computer engineer, architecture, Actuarial Science and so on that require higher levels in math.
I would like to challenge you to ask yourself 2 questions:
1. “What percentage of the math I did in high school have I been using in my daily life?”
2. “How many of the topics listed above is relevant to my daily life?”
I came to this beautiful country in 2000 and so many changes as to how we do things have occurred since — The iPhone for instance was unheard of then, we used to rent movies from blockbuster, now children don’t even know what is blockbuster, there was no smart or 3D television or autonomous cars like Tesla — but it feels like we haven’t made any strides with our math curriculum to reflect the changing world. Except for a few minor changes that the liberal government made to the curriculum about 15 years ago, which was focused more on eliminating some topics like complex numbers, conics and integration, the curriculum has pretty much been the same since 2000.
The buzz in the media is that a curriculum change is coming for the 20019/2020 school year. I am very curious to see what change looks like. Check out this article: