Ontario reveals new ‘back to basics’ elementary math curriculum

Ontario has unveiled its new “back to basics” elementary math curriculum, which includes new sections on financial literacy and coding.

Students in Grades 1 to 8 will begin learning the updated curriculum when the school year resumes in September.

According to the Ministry of Education, the hope is the new curriculum will improve student learning and boost the province’s sagging math scores, which have been in a steady decline for the past decade.

The Progressive Conservative government has repeatedly blamed the previous Liberal governments for upending the math curriculum and focusing too heavily on experimentation and problem solving.

Documents provided by the Ministry of Education say the new curriculum will replace “outdated and abstract examples” with lessons that include “relevant, real life examples,” such as setting a personal budget or making e-transfers.

The curriculum also features a renewed focus on “getting back to basics to develop fundamental math concepts and skills,” the ministry said.

The new math curriculum is broken down into the following sections:

  • Social-emotional learning skills in mathematics and mathematics processes.
  • Numbers.
  • Algebra.
  • Data.
  • Spatial sense.
  • Financial literacy.

Lessons on coding will be taught as part of the updated algebra section starting in Grade 1.

The financial literacy section is all-new for the 2020 school year. Students in Grade 1 will begin by learning about the value of coins and cash. By Grade 8, the lessons will cover areas including long-term financial planning and the calculation of interest rates.

The social-emotional learning section is also new. It is designed to improve students’ confidence when studying math.

The province says it will also move toward a new report card format, where students will be given a grade for their overall math abilities, rather than individual grades for each section of the curriculum.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford has been signalling his intention to revamp the provincial math curriculum since before his election in 2018, though educators have warned that improving math ability among students will not be a straightforward task.


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