Ramping up efforts to improve declining math scores — including 25 new math coaches in 42 schools — public schools will continue to push a new math strategy that builds on better support for teachers, students and going back to basics.
Trustees with the Calgary Board of Education received a detailed update Tuesday on the newly implemented math strategy, which kicked in last fall, after years of declining scores.
Last year, results in 2016-17 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.
But Tuesday outlined “the year of action” according to administration, with a new framework to improve math culture and the deployment of 25 math learning coaches in grades 5, 6 and 9 classrooms across 42 schools, including 26 elementary schools and 16 middle/junior high schools.
Board chair Trina Hurdman said part of those efforts will include a transition to get back to basics.
“Math coaches are focusing a lot on automaticity, number fluency . . . and just basic math skills,” Hurdman said, saying the strategy focuses on what CBE heard from concerned parents.
“Being able to memorize times tables, and having that recall, is all very important.”
Since the fall, coaches, many of them math experts within the existing system, have been coming into schools where high need has been identified by teachers and principals.
Before the arrival of the coach, teachers and principals set goals around numeracy. When the coach comes into the classroom, they may model teaching, they may co-teach or they may just give feedback to the teacher while observing.
But trustee Lisa Davis, who campaigned last fall on improving math learning for students, said she’d like to ensure math supports are stretched beyond just certain grades in certain schools that are exhibiting high needs.
“There has to be a point of monitoring to see if this can roll out across all schools, and looking at what hard tools we can share so that we are not just dependent on individual coaches.”
Administrators said they will work toward putting “math leaders” in all schools in the coming years.
But for now, the next step in the strategy is circling back with parents this spring to ensure they are comfortable with the new efforts and whether they want more resources for math at home.
Hurdman said the strategy has already increased parent supports, such as “math night” at schools teaching parents what they can do at home.
The strategy is also working toward exceeding Alberta Education’s recommended instructional time in math for grades 1 to 9, and more school-based teacher development for improved teaching.
Trustees also approved strategy updates for literacy and Indigenous education, with continued efforts to encourage more reading at home in the early years and to offer more professional opportunities for teachers to learn Indigenous languages over the summer months.