WISE Math Mission Statement
The purpose of this initiative is to form a coalition among concerned parents, citizens, employers, scientists, mathematicians, and educators with the purpose of rallying together to improve K-12 mathematics education in Western Canada. We are advocates for improved math teacher training and strengthened K-12 math curricula. Our goal is to ensure that all children have the opportunity to achieve their full potential in math so that they may enjoy lives free of innumeracy, may experience the beauty in math, and so that they may have a wide range of career opportunities.
Some specific objectives for which we will advocate are listed below.
Teachers who are required to teach math must have a strong background in math beyond that which they are required to teach.
1. Every teacher who may be called upon to teach mathematics must have taken the academic stream of mathematics from high school in addition to math content courses at the university level.
2. Currently, almost all elementary and middle years teachers are required to teach mathematics in addition to many other subjects.
Recommendation. We recommend that math specialists be responsible for teaching math in elementary and middle years. These teachers would m0ve between classrooms and teach math full-time to many different classrooms of students, much like is the case with music teachers in elementary schools. K-8 math specialists should have taken a number of math courses at the university level which develop strong mathematical reasoning as well as courses that are specifically designed to delve deeply into the math contained in K-8 curricula.
3. Mathematics departments must have a strong role in the planning of degrees for all teachers who are required to teach math, both at the elementary and secondary levels.
We support a balanced approach between understanding and skills. Unfortunately, in the shift towards ensuring that children understand math concepts, which we support, several important elements of mathematics have been neglected, or completely eliminated, from curricula and math classrooms.
1. Professional mathematicians, and scientists from disciplines that use mathematics regularly, such as physics, engineering, business, economics or computer science, must have at least 50% representation on committees that shape and make decisions about overall content and the general methodology of mathematics teaching. Those who use and teach higher level math regularly are familiar with what students need to know to succeed in math and thus should have a strong voice in curriculum decisions.
Specific curriculum issues
2. Standard algorithms for addition, multiplication, subtraction, and division must be included in math curricula and they must be introduced to children early. They must be explicitly listed in math curricula, which is currently not the case in the WNCP math curriculum, and children should become fluent with these algorithms.
3. Students must practice math skills and arithmetic regularly to become proficient. Math curricula must support the development of understanding of math concepts AND the learning of basic skills and concepts through incremental practice. The two are NOT mutually exclusive. There must be a healthy balance between understanding and practice, to allow students to grow in both senses.
4. Calculator use in math classes should be minimized.
5. Teachers must be provided with appropriate instructional materials to assist them with covering curricula. Clear and well-written text books and teachers’ guides, that are free of errors, student workbooks, and worksheets are necessary tools in successful mathematics instruction. Mathematicians should be involved in reviewing and assessing recommended math text books and math instructional material.
Articles that argue for the objectives on which we have initially chosen to focus can be found here.
In 2006, the US President appointed the National Math Advisory Panel, which consisted of mathematicians, math educators, and cognitive psychologists, to explore ways in which to improve mathematics achievement for all students and to devise a report based on the available rigorous research studies. For a summary of the recommendations regarding math teacher training and curriculum content, visit this page.
There are many other issues that negatively affect the attainment of a solid education in math (and in other subjects). If you would like to discuss some of these other issues, please leave a comment at our Other important issues page.