Talking about Math

On Friday, teachers and CUPE staff worked together for part of the our professional day looking at math. The staff discussed many ideas related to how we teach math, and how students develop their understanding of math concepts.

Thanks to our district’s math resource teacher, Shannon Sharp, out staff participated in many rich discussions about teaching math. The information I am sharing was provided to staff by Shannon Sharp, and help frame our conversations.

In 2007, the new Math IRP was published, and there were some changes from the previous math curriculum. The main content changes can be summarized in 4 content areas:

  • Number
  • Patterns and Relations
  • Shape and Space
  • Statistics and Probability


For the above content areas, learning outcomes vary according to grade. Kindergarten and grade 1  students receive no formal instruction in Statistics and Probability. Grade 7 students start exploring patterns using linear relations, while grade 6 students look at tables and graphs to understand patterns.

What are the changes?


  • Focus on conceptual understanding in primary years
  • Stress personal procedures and mental math strategies
  • Fractions are introduced in grade 4 (wih decimals)
  • Operations with fractions are introduced in grade 7

Patterns and Relations

  • Equality concepts are introduced at grade 1
  • Use of variables (symbolic representation) begins in grade 4
  • The use of tables is more prevalent in the middle years leading to linear relations later on

Shape and Space

  • Temperature, optical illusions, money and direction (North, South, East, West) have all been removed from the Math IRP

Statistics and Probability

  • Emphasis is on interpretation of data
  • Outcomes have been removed for Kindergarten, grade 1 and grade 2
  • The first explicit technology reference is introduced at grade 4
  • Probability is introduced in grade 5

Along with the changes, there was an emphasis on the following mathematical processes:

  • Communication
  • Problem Solving
  • Visualization
  • Reasoning
  • Connections
  • Technology
  • Mental Mathematics and Estimation

These processes are connected to a number of learning outcomes (9 in Kindergarten & 25 in grade 7). Teachers create a variety of lessons that foster the development of numeracy knowledge, skills and attitudes.

M key thoughts from the day were:

  • Let children play with math in the primary years.
  • Focus on conceptual learning and the rote learning will come.
  • In primary classes, teachers can set a math task, and then guide students’ learning through play/practice.
  • Use pre-assessments to see where students are at is a good planning tool.
  • We want children to be engaged and talking about their math learning
  • Model mistakes – it is ok to be wrong. Take risks in learning. Check out this idea from the UK.
  • We need to help children take responsibility and ownership for their learning.
  • More is not always better – we don’t have to assign every question.
  • Math that will be coming home will look different.
  • Math should not be for homework.*

* This one might be a bit controversial. The thought is for teachers to do math where they can help children develop concepts and understanding. I will write more on homework issues later.  For now, try reading this blog.Parents can support the development of math concepts through games and other math activities. Visit some web site (Mathematically Thinking or Mental Math Strategies) if you want to look more into teaching math.

We will continue to talk about learning and teaching math. You may see some changes in math instructions. Please remember, if you have any questions, start with your child’s classroom teacher.

Take care.


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