A common concern for parents when enrolling their kids to a school includes the EQAO test scores, which are standardized evaluations on reading, writing and mathematics that Ontario students must take in Grades 3, 6, 9 and 10. The most recent 2018-2019 EQAO results revealed that only 58% of Grade 3 students met provincial math standard, which is down from 70% in 2009; 48% of Grade 6 students met the provincial math standard, which is down from 61% in 2009. Ontario students, in both grades 3 and 6 demonstrated stronger knowledge and understanding of fundamental math skills than they have the ability to apply their skills and to engage in related critical thinking.
(Source: Highlights of the Provincial Results, from EQAO)
The EQAO test results also showed that Grades 3 and 6 students had significantly lower math scores compared to Grade 9 students who enrolled in the academic mathematics course. Grade 9 results are relatively consistent over the years, but there is a persistent gap between students in the academic and applied courses – while 84% of Grade 9 students who enrolled in academic courses were at or above the provincial math standard, only 44% of those who enrolled in applied courses met the standard. The lack of ability to apply math knowledge carries from Grades 3 and 6 to Grade 9, and resulted in persistent discrepancy in achievement between students in academic and applied courses. In reaction to the steadily declining math scores over the past decade, the Ontario government developed a new Ontario curriculum that goes ‘back to basics’.
(Source: Highlights of the Provincial Results, from EQAO)
In addition, the EQAO’s Teacher Questionnaire responses indicated that teachers use various mathematics instructional strategies in the classroom to provide engaging math education in Ontario; the most common teaching methods are independent practice (91% in Grade 3 and 96% in Grade 6) and direct instruction (91% in Grade 3 and 95% in Grade 6). Independent practice would allow students to work independently to complete assessment tasks after receiving verbal instructions, allowing students to illustrate their thinking process, and use test-taking skills and strategies. On the other hand, direct instructions sometimes could be unclear. Teachers giving direct instruction should use an appropriate tone to explain the purpose of the task, provide examples and describe the specifics, break tasks into manageable chunks, and make sure the students understand prior to giving independent practice. The Ministry of Education suggests that effective math instruction does not occur in isolation. Teachers should help students recognize the importance of metacognition by asking questions such as “what am I doing?”, “why am I doing it?”, or “how does it help me?”. Such method allows students to make reflection on the critical components of their math tasks as opposed to simply completing math questions, and would possibly improve math education in Ontario.
Regional Performance in EQAO
The EQAO testing for Grades 3 and 6 students in the GTA revealed that math scores have shown little improvement over the years and remain low across all boards, with both public and Catholic Peel school boards ranking lower than average. In fact, this is the second time that almost half of Peel’s Grade 6 students (48%) failed to meet provincial standards. The Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board also scored below the Grade 6 math average, with only 49% of its students meeting the provincial standard.
Among all GTA school boards, Halton and York students score highest in the EQAO testing. The Grade 9 Academic Math assessment results in Halton region remained consistent with the previous year with 91% of students performing at or above the provincial standard; for the Grade 9 Applied Math, the results increased to 55% from 54% in the previous year, which is 11% above the provincial average of 44%. 71% of Grade 3 students and 61% of Grade 6 students in York region scored above the provincial average. With the emphasis on cognitive strategies, non-reliance on instructional tools such as use of calculators, and parental engagement, York students are ranked second on the EQAO test. A higher proportion of Halton and York region students meet the provincial standard compared to other regions due to the focus on closing the gap in achievement, building engagement and well-being, and creating welcoming learning environments for students.
Although the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) scored only slightly above average, it has seen a huge improvement from 2015 (only 18% of Grade 6 students met the standard in 2015-2016, and the number went up to 33% in 2016-2017). TDSB executive superintendent Manon Gardner explained the improvement was highly due to their new training/coach system for their math teachers.
Training/Coach System for TDSB teachers
To provide a more thorough math education in Ontario, the Toronto District School Board has launched a new training program for their teachers since 2016, in which re-developed math programs and made math more relevant and contextual for students to understand. Since only 6% of Grade 4 students in Ontario are taught by a teacher with a major or specialist in math, and over 80% of primary and junior teachers have never taken a post-secondary math course, the board decided to assign math coaches to elementary schools to ensure that teachers are properly and professionally trained with math topics. The board also realized that ‘speed’ does not necessarily promote understanding, and thus included a mandatory minimum of an hour of math class each day for all elementary school students. This strategy allows fuller math explanation, and promises math support each day.
In summary, students’ foundational math skills, the ability to apply those skills, teachers’ teaching methodologies, and learning environments, all play a huge role in shaping study behaviours and test results. While there are long-term fixes that need to be advocated for an improved math education in Ontario, a solid, specialized math tutoring program can provide students with a platform to learn life skills such as critical thinking and problem solving.
At Math Project, we pay close attention to not just our students’ learning, but also provide weekly performance feedback to foster a close relationship with the students and their parents. We build our students’ math skills by encouraging them to complete math questions without the help of calculators. Our students are also encouraged to show steps for solving a question so that our math tutors can understand their thought process rather than just grade them for the correct answer – helping children understand math at a deeper level, building confidence in their skills. Math Project achieves this through our professional, passionate, qualified teachers who are specially trained and equipped with mentorship and leadership skills. Our teachers also go through a rigorous selection process, and have a proven record of excellence in maths at university level.
Contact us at 1-844-628-4243 to learn more about our specialized math programs in Mississauga, Brampton and Oakville, or to book a free assessment.
EQAO Testing – settlement.org
Highlights of the Provincial Results – eqao.com
Ontario elementary students’ math scores declining: EQAO – cbc.ca
York and Halton students score highest in EQAO testing among GTA school boards – cbc.ca
Elementary school students will get 1 hour of mandatory math a day in September: province – cbc.ca
A Guide to Giving Clear Instructions to Students (That They Will Actually Follow) – wgu.edu
A Guide to Effective Instruction in Mathematics – Kindergarten to Grade 6 – eworkshop.on.ca
Why are elementary school math scores declining in Ontario? – competeprosper.ca
EQAO results show HDSB continues to perform above provincial average in Grade 9 Math and on Grade 10 Literacy Test (OSSLT) – hdsb.ca
York Region Public Elementary Students Continue EQAO Success – yrdsb.ca