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Ontario Modernized Math Course Prepares Students for Jobs of the Future and Life Skills
First update since 2005 will emphasize real-world applications and financial literacy
Ontario’s Minister of Education, Stephen Lecce, announced the release of a new Grade 9 math course, as part of the province’s four-year mathematics strategy to ensure all students can build the skills and confidence they need to succeed and excel. Intended to equip students with valuable learning opportunities that will support their success in the workforce, the course includes mandatory new learning on coding, data literacy, mathematical modelling and an emphasis on financial literacy.
The new course also ends the practice of streaming Grade 9 students into applied and academic courses, a practice that has in the past disadvantaged some students. Ending streaming will keep options open for all students to pursue postsecondary education and training in any pathway they choose. The Ministry of Education will also work with its education partners to ensure teachers and students are supported with the new math course.
The course represents a major update that reflects emerging job-market needs, emphasizes real-world applications and responds to key recommendations provided by employers and education experts. It is a significant shift in how Ontario teaches students about mathematics and represents the first update since 2005 – the same year YouTube was launched.
To better equip students with the skills they need to succeed, lift student math performance, and strengthen numeracy skills, the course:
- Ensures relevance to today’s job market with an emphasis on practical life skills – from the concept of interest, debt, savings, personal budgeting and price comparisons.
- Builds on learning from the modernized and landmark Grade 1-8 math curriculum to better prepare students for more advanced math to allow students to pursue any postsecondary, skilled trade and pathway in science, technology, engineering and mathematics that they choose.
- Helps students prepare for the jobs of tomorrow by introducing new learning of how to apply coding skills to understand complex mathematics and to make predictions. In addition, the course builds on students’ understanding of data to represent and analyze real-life situations.
Youth unemployment in Canada remains well above the rate of the G7 average in 2020. Too many young people are out of work, in work unrelated to their skills or underemployed. As part of its efforts to ensure that our curriculum reflects the life and job skills young people need today, the Ontario government is releasing a new Grade 9 course that will show how math can be applied in real-life situations, for example, in making major purchases by examining how interest rates and other factors affect pricing.
“Canada’s ability to compete in the global marketplace over the course of the next century will, in part, depend on our ability to provide young Canadians with the skills and training they need to succeed, including in mathematics,” said Mathew Wilson, Senior Vice-President, Policy, Government Relations, and Ontario Division at Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters. “By updating its Grade 9 math course to include coding, data literacy and mathematical modelling, Ontario is taking key steps to ensure future prosperity through a growing and innovative manufacturing sector.”
This new curriculum is the next step of the government’s four-year, $200-million math strategy to reverse a decade-long decline in performance of Ontario’s students. The new math course, which replaces the Grade 9 academic, applied and transfer courses, will be taught in Ontario’s publicly funded schools beginning in September 2021 and will provide students with key concepts and skills that build from the new elementary math curriculum released in spring of 2020.
“The jobs of tomorrow demand a solid understanding of mathematics. As we see more jobs being created in coding, data management and engineering, proficiency in math will become even more important,” said FIRST Robotics Canada President David Ellis. “By giving Ontario’s math curriculum a much-needed update, the government is taking decisive action to help students succeed in the job market and allowing them to unlock their full potential. We are excited about this change!”
The new course is also part of the government’s bold plan to end streaming for Grade 9 students to address policies and practices to address the achievement gap and creation of barriers for students from historically marginalized groups, such as Black students, Indigenous students, students from low-income families and students with disabilities or special education needs. With the introduction of this curriculum, all high school students will take the same math course in Grade 9 which will allow for the same eventual opportunities for all and an improved ability to pursue the pathway of their choice after their K-12 education.
The ministry has been meeting with school boards and community partners over the winter to plan for de-streaming to ensure teachers and students will be supported with the implementation of the new curriculum. Supports include parent and educator guides, educator webinars and modules, as well as classroom-ready resources, such as lesson plans. The ministry will also be requiring all educators to participate in mandatory Professional Activity days focused on anti-racism, anti-discrimination training, as well as mathematics, including the new curriculum. The ministry is also continuing to provide students with access to one-on-one online tutoring services through Mathify and Eurêka!, as well as through school board-funded programs.
“Parents, students and community leaders have been asking for changes for decades, finally we have a Minister who has listened,” said Shernett Martin, Executive Director of ANCHOR. “Streaming had dire consequences for Black and Indigenous students. They were disproportionately streamed into applied math courses which in many cases limited their outcomes. What de-streaming does is remove the inequities that have marginalized Black students. Math is a fundamental skill that needs to include current trends that will benefit students upon graduation. This new curriculum includes a financial literacy component, coding and fundamental concepts that will provide students with a broader knowledge to secure a better future.”
The Ontario government also announced additional targeted investments to support all students to improve math performance, with an emphasis on under-represented students. Those investments include:
$2.9 million for school boards for the Targeted Math and Literacy Support Focused on De-streaming funding to prepare students for their transition to the new de-streamed Grade 9 math course and to address learning loss.
$550.5 million, through the Learning Opportunities Grant, to fund a range of programs to help students who are at greater risk of poor academic achievement, including for literacy and numeracy, student success in Grades 7 to 12, student success teachers and literacy and numeracy teachers for Grades 7 and 8, and tutoring.
$150,000 to the Pinball Clemons Foundation, in collaboration with the Youth Association for Academics, Athletics and Character Education, to support two programs: the Weekend Academy program, which will provide elementary students with alternative academic support to meet the provincial standard in literacy and numeracy, and the Summer Institute program, which will provide a customized learning program for students to enhance literacy and numeracy capacity.
- The new Grade 9 math course is the first in Canada to include coding and the process of mathematical modelling as mandatory course expectations in math.
- In 2019, the Ministry of Education released a $200-million math strategy that provides funding for math leads in school boards and training for teachers to ensure students have a strong understanding of math fundamentals and how to apply them.
- Ontario is the only jurisdiction in Canada that separates students into streams as early as Grade 9. The evidence is clear: The current system of streaming students into applied and academic courses is not working. It creates a system that disadvantages some students and leads to unequitable outcomes.
- The new Grade 9 math course has been informed by extensive research, advice and guidance from a wide range of stakeholders, including academics, subject matter experts, educators and industry partners.
- Research suggests that students benefit when they learn together with others who have a range of abilities and interests.
- Toronto District School Board’s experience and research indicate that there was no reduction in the quality of student learning or engagement following the introduction of ade-streamed math course.
- A review of the Peel District School Board in February 2020 found that disproportional numbers of Black students are enrolled into applied and locally developed compulsory credit courses, including when they request to be placed in academic courses.
- In July 2020, the Ministry of Education announced a suite of new reforms to address racism and advance equity for Black, Indigenous and racialized students. This includes ending Grade 9 streaming into applied and academic courses, eliminating discretionary suspension for students, strengthened accountability against those who engage in behaviour of a racist nature in schools, and providing teachers and school board leaders with additional anti-racism and anti-discrimination training.
- The Ministry of Education is working with nine school boards to deliver the Graduation Coach Program for Black Students, a program that provides intensive, culturally responsive support to Black students to help improve their academic achievement and well-being. The ministry has allocated $1.57 million for the program in 2020-21 and is expanding the program by allocating a total of $2.94 million in 2021-22.
- The Indigenous Graduation Coach program has supported Indigenous students in obtaining an Ontario Secondary School Diploma since its implementation in 2018-19. The program is currently implemented in 21 school boards across the province, with a total of 29 Indigenous Graduation Coaches. The Indigenous Graduation Coach provides access and facilitates referrals to academic, social and community resources to support Indigenous student well-being and success. The ministry has allocated $3.3 million for the 2020-21 school year.
- The ministry will continue to engage with school board leads responsible for parent engagement, Parent Involvement Committee chairs and the provincial parent organizations to identify implementation strategies for the new Grade 9 math course.