All teachers need to know how to do basic math



Mathematics is timeless and convenient. Regardless of the times, students have always been learning topics such as addition and subtraction, fractions, order of operations, long division, and the value of places.

There is no doubt that math skills are important to everyone. Whether you need to make changes in the store or know how much wood to buy to build a new fence, math is a big part of our daily lives.

Even calculators everywhere do not rule out the need for basic math skills. People don’t have time to pull out their cell phone every time they add another item to their grocery cart. We also don’t want to rely entirely on technology to answer simple math problems.

Simply put, technology never replaces human reasoning.

Given the importance of learning math, it’s not surprising that parents want their teachers to teach math well. But here comes the problem. Some teachers lack the ability to teach math to their students due to their poor math skills. This is the ultimate example of a blind person leading a blind person, and perhaps more properly, the ultimate example of a myriad of people teaching a myriad of people.

That’s why the Ontario government introduced the math proficiency test in 2019. Future teachers will need to get a passing score on this test to qualify for teacher certification. The questions in this test assess whether the teacher knows and understands the Ontario math curriculum. They also reveal whether future teachers will be able to do basic math on their own.

To be clear, there is nothing new about the math proficiency test for teachers. Lakehead University in Sudbury has long required all elementary and junior high school students to successfully complete a math proficiency test as part of their degree program. The Ontario Government’s Math Proficiency Test only standardizes this requirement state-wide. All Ontario teachers now need to demonstrate basic computing power, regardless of the university they graduated from.

Unfortunately, not everyone likes the idea of ​​a math proficiency test. For example, the Ontario Teacher Candidates’ Council (OTCC) was founded in 2019 primarily in response to this test. According to the OTCC website, math proficiency tests are “not impartial, justified, justified, or backed by data.” OTCC also believes that test development is too early and is a waste of taxpayers’ money.

Given the strong opposition to the math proficiency test, it is not surprising that the OTCC has decided to challenge the use of the test in court. In filing with the Ontario Divisional Court, the OTCC broke Section 15 of the Canadian Rights and Freedom Charter because math proficiency tests affect racialized students disproportionately and unfairly alienate them from the teaching profession. Claimed to be contrary.

Surprisingly, the court ruled in favor of the OTCC and concluded that the math proficiency test was unconstitutional. He also ordered the University of Teachers in Ontario to grant accreditation to all teacher candidates who did not pass the math proficiency test but met all other accreditation requirements.

The problem with this decision, of course, is that it assumes that the disproportionate impact of the math ability test on racialized candidates is evidence that the test is discriminatory. However, there are essentially no racists in math itself, and it makes no sense to assume that race should have any influence on math skills.

Candidate teachers who struggle to pass math proficiency are much more likely to have received inadequate math instruction when they were school students. It makes much more sense to improve the quality of math instruction that all students receive at the expense of lowering the standards for teaching.

For current teacher candidates who are struggling to pass the math proficiency exam, they have already received multiple opportunities to write the exam. Corrective guidance can be provided and they obviously need to study for the test and take the time to practice important math skills. Putting them in a teaching profession with inadequate math skills is detrimental to both the teachers themselves and the students in their classrooms.

If you are serious about helping your students learn math, you need to make sure that every teacher knows how to teach math effectively. Expecting to pass a math test before being certified is a perfectly reasonable requirement.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

Michael Zwagstra


Michael Zwaagstra is a public high school teacher, senior researcher at the Frontier Public Policy Center, and author of “The Sages on Stage: Common Sense Thoughts on Education and Learning.”