Quebec students get top marks in math
Published Sunday, December 15, 2013 3:57PM EST
Last Updated Sunday, December 15, 2013 6:59PM EST
Quebec is at the top of the class when it comes to math.
While Canada's international math ranking has been on the decline since 2006, Quebec is outperforming, rating the highest of the provinces in recent OECD international student assessment scores among 15 year olds.
On its own, Canada ranks 10th among 65 nations, but Quebec as a province ranked 6th in the world.
It's difficult to determine exactly why Quebec 15 year olds ranked better than 15 year olds in other provinces, said McGill math education professor Annie Savard.
“Our guess is it might be something about teaching practice,” she said, explaining that teachers in Quebec get more education and training.
“We have a long history of having a four-year program. Fifteen years ago it was three years, but it was a certification program, and in some other provinces, teachers are trained. They're doing a degree and then they’re trained with a one-year certification,” she said.
Quebec math teachers also get more in-classroom training and more specialization.
“Here it's a specialization in grade 7 and 8, but in some provinces teacher are trained from kindergarten to grade 8,” she said.
As for Quebec's 'discovery’-style curriculum – as opposed to the traditional form of rote memorization - it has its detractors, but Savard believes teachers can't simply teach rote memorization any more.
“We're focusing on strategy. How did you get the answer? The answer is important, but the strategy - the solution - is important. We want students to think critically,” she said.
But math is not easy for everyone, and can cause a lot of anxiety, said Lester B. Pearson High School math teach Gabriel Chan.
“A lot of people just find or have this notion that if you don't know math in one shot that you're never going to be able to do it - and it's just incredibly wrong,” said Chan, adding that math can be mastered.
Student Sandy Rodrigue agrees, and says a good teacher can make all the difference.
“Well there are a lot of things that I love about it. I love that math is the same in every country. There's no language that has to come with it,” said Rodrigue.