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Math results mixed in Seine River

By: Jordan Ross

Posted: 03/3/2019 9:00 AM

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Elementary students are struggling with proficiency in basic math skills, but more students entering high school are choosing the ambitious pre-calculus stream, Seine River trustees learned Tuesday.

Matthew Nikkel, the division’s math consultant, walked trustees through the division’s latest numeracy assessment results.

In 2017-18, below-average math literacy rates increased slightly for students in Grades 2 through 5. Math problems become more abstract during those years, Nikkel explained, causing some students to struggle.

"I wouldn’t say we’re behind," superintendent Mike Borgfjord said.

Schools can compare themselves to the division, and the division to the province, but the division lacks the historical data necessary to trace internal trends over many years, Borgfjord explained.

Nikkel, who developed the division’s assessment tools in 2013, agreed with Borgfjord’s view of the elementary school data, and said the numeracy committee is emphasizing critical thinking in math to help students tackle abstract math problems.

He also noted that while many teachers are trained in literacy programs like reading recovery, relatively few are trained in math recovery.

"I think our kids just need some support," he said.

Division students are excelling in other areas, however.

Grade 9 math exam averages—the final key indicator before students must choose a high school math stream—have risen from 50 percent in 2015 to 60 percent in 2018.

Grade 10 students who choose pre-calculus have also seen their averages climb from 56 percent in 2016 to 58 percent in 2018.

The division trailed provincial averages for Grade 12 pre-calculus for many years, but has now inched past them, Nikkel said.

He also noted a "significant" upward trend in the number of Grade 10 students choosing pre-calculus, which bodes well for their prospects in university, he said.

High school math students are also performing more consistently regardless of age, gender, language of instruction, or school location, trustees heard.

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