Canada Learning Code’s education programs manager says Ontario’s updated elementary school curriculum is addressing serious gaps in tech education and digital literacy.

“One of the things that we strive towards at Canada Learning Code is to give equal opportunities to high-quality tech education and digital literacy across communities in Canada. At present, there are a lot of gaps in accessing this type of education or this type of knowledge and so what we’re trying to do is level the playing field first. Every single time we get news like this is really great news and it’s a win for us,” Anna Villanueva told IT Business Canada.

The Premier announced last week Ontario’s new math curriculum for grades one to eight, with the vision that places a renewed focus on skilled trades in STEM subjects such as science, technology, engineering and math.

“For the first time ever in Canada, elementary school students will learn coding, along with financial literacy skills as part of the math curriculum,” the Premier of Ontario Doug Ford said in the announcement

This is Ontario’s first new math curriculum for the elementary school in 15 years. 

The new elementary math curriculum is designed to reverse a decade of declining math scores. It will be available to students across the province beginning in September 2020. Developed over two years, it is informed by the results of Ontario’s 2018 public consultation with parents, educators and stakeholders which asked about the areas of focus that would help improve student achievement. It is a part of a critical investment of $200 million in the government’s four-year math strategy to get back to basics and make sure students and educators have the math skills and resources to succeed in the classroom and beyond, according to the announcement. 

Combined with components of the provincial math strategy, including over $25 million dedicated funding to hire a board and school-based math leads and facilitators, and $15 million for educators to engage in professional learning and training, the new mathematics curriculum will help to ensure the future success of our students by preparing them for jobs of the future as it aims to improve students’ critical thinking, fluency with technology and deepen their understanding of mathematical concepts, Ingrid Anderson, issues coordinator at the Ministry of Education, told the publication.

“Ontario used a variety of research and reference materials to support the revision process for the elementary mathematics curriculum. A review of the curriculum from high performing educational jurisdictions was performed, as well as a review of pedagogical frameworks and peer-reviewed research. Areas of focus included, but were not limited to, coding, computational thinking, computer science, mathematics and technology in K-12 and post-secondary education,” Anderson added. “We also received feedback on initial drafts from subject matter experts, parent organizations, educators, academic researchers and industry leaders.”

In Grade 1, students will be taught to write and execute code for various mathematical situations. They will learn to decompose large problems into smaller steps, and sequence instructions to obtain the desired outcome. In practice, students may code the sequence of movements on a screen, by a classmate or a robot to model addition and subtraction of whole numbers. They will also read and alter existing code, to determine how the changes in code affect the outcomes of the program, he explained. 

There are a lot of positive responses to the inclusion of coding and financial literacy skills into the new math curriculum and it shows that right now is the time to build this into the curriculum, Villanueva told the publication.

CLC hosted last week its seventh annual National Girls Learning Code Day where girls across the country were given the opportunity to learn how to better use technology and make a difference in their digital world.

“Organized virtually, this year’s workshop aimed to address the concerns of cyberbullying wherein CLC provided the participating girls with the necessary tools to combat this issue using technology to show that as much as technology can enable things like cyberbullying, technology can also help combat them. This year, CLC got the participating girls to build an anti-bullying assistant,” Villanueva told IT World Canada. 

Coming up next is CLC’s week-long conference TeacherCon where CLC will be releasing the K-12 Computer Science Education Framework that it has developed, along with a number of other organizations and its advisory group. Being organized virtually in July, it is a professional development opportunity for teachers to learn about how they can integrate coding and other computer science skills in their classrooms, said Villanueva. 

Related:

A summer of STEM: Rogers announces free online programs for youth

 

In addition to coding and financial literacy, education material on social-emotional learning skills has been incorporated in the new math curriculum to help students feel confident in their learning, allow them to learn from mistakes, build perseverance and support their overall well-being as they memorize multiplication tables.

“Coding provides a context for students to engage in an iterative problem-solving process allowing them to attempt, and reattempt, the development of effective algorithms and instructions to find a solution. This connects well to the learning of social-emotional learning skills in the new Strand A of the curriculum, where students will gain confidence in their own ability and a sense of identity as mathematics learners,” said Anderson. 

An interactive digital format of the math curriculum on the newly launched curriculum and resource website has also been developed. This will allow parents to see what their children have learned in the year prior and what they will learn in the current year and how they will prepare them for learning in the next year. These side by side views on the digital platform allow parents to see how their child’s math learning will progress. Parents can go online at Ontario.ca/Curriculum, Stephen Lecce, Minister of Education unveiled in the announcement. 

As a result of these changes, Premier Ford has directed the Minister of Education to cancel EQAO tests in grades three to six for the 2020-2021 school year, the announcement noted. 

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