Math That’ll Mess With Your Head

I just went into the school’s office to register for a brush-up session for Primary/Junior (K-6) math. You see, as part of my program, I have to sit an exam that’ll test my competency in math. I believe this is Ontario’s way of ensuring that teachers actually know math, before they teach it.

Here’s an article in The Globe about the state of math literacy amongst elementary level students in Ontario. As you can see, there is an issue that needs to be addressed. So, fine, test me on my math skills.

Anyway, I walked into the office to register for the math-test-tutorial-before-the-exam session. I was quickly informed that these sessions are only for students who are really confident in their math skills, because, well, “it’ll mess with your head” if you don’t know your math.

What the hell? If I’m confident in my math skills, I can attend the session. But, but!, if I’m not confident in my math skills, I have to rely on my know-how to pass the exam? This seems completely contradictory. Ridiculous, even.

When I applied to various teachers colleges in Ontario, I was disqualified from entering the High School – English program because I didn’t have the necessary prerequisites from my B.A.. I have a B.A. in Philosophy, with Minors in Anthropology and Political Science. I can also read and write. And, believe it or not, I was admitted into university, the first time around, based largely on my math and science grades – I spent my first year of university in engineering sciences programs.

Luckily, I was given the option to switch my application to the Primary/Junior program. I’m quite happy with the switch, and I’m really looking forward to the program and eventually teaching.

Still, the math, as it were, doesn’t add up. From my experience, what I’m seeing is that you have specialized teachers at the Intermediate and Secondary levels, with more generalist teachers at the Primary/Junior level. This is probably a necessary happenstance, but unless you introduce more specialized teachers into the Primary/Junior program, it doesn’t seem likely that you’ll be able to improve the state of numeracy in elementary level students.

I’m lucky that I have had some education in math at the Post-Secondary level, but what of the teachers that avoided those classes? They didn’t need those classes to get into the Primary/Junior program. They can read and write as well as any university graduate (we hope), but they mightn’t be able to math at the necessary level. And, I don’t think that introducing teacher training in math is a long-term solution.

I’ll probably have a better understanding of the situation once I get into class and start teaching, but, for now at least, the system seems broken.

Anyway, I should probably stop writing and start studying for this blasted math exam. I don’t want to be the unprepared idiot in class who doesn’t understand what’s going on.

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