BRITISH COLUMBIA has a great education system, and school districts throughout the province strive to maintain B.C.’s position as a global leader in education by pioneering systemic changes that prepare students for a rapidly changing world.
It’s why the curriculum has modernized and the Graduation Numeracy Assessment has become a key part of the assessment framework and a graduation requirement for all students.
But the Graduation Numeracy Assessment is not tied to a specific math course. Rather, it evaluates a student’s numeracy skills developed over the course of their education. Students are assessed for the province in Grade 10.
Math is to numeracy what grammar is to literacy. It’s a key piece of the foundational skill, but not the only component. Numeracy is the application of math and our ability to connect it to the world and communicate it.
It’s understanding what you’ll earn after three hours of babysitting considering the cost of the transit ticket you need to buy to get there and the craft supplies you bought to entertain the children.
How much time you’ll need to get to your next class if you stop for a snack and need to factor in the length of the lineup as well as the time to get across the campus.
Or how many Euros you’ll need for your field trip in Belgium if you want to pay for snacks, souvenirs and a rail pass. If you have a limited number of Euros, how will you determine what to spend them on?
Numerate students are confident in their ability to persevere and use mathematics in everyday life. They recognize there are multiple ways to solve a problem. They choose and use the right strategies and tools, and pursue accuracy as they solve the problem.
It’s an attribute that universities, colleges and employers are looking for in a new type of graduate — one with strong critical-thinking and problem-solving skills.
Beyond the Graduation Numeracy Assessment, SD73 has made improving numeracy a priority in ensuring every student acquires strong skills and core competencies. A locally developed assessment was piloted in several SD73 schools this year where students in Grades 3 to 7 from 19 elementary schools took part. Assessments for Grades 8 and 9 students have also been developed and have been piloted in three secondary schools.
The SD73 Numeracy Action Plan is well underway, helping teachers and students develop their numeracy skills, because starting in September 2020, district numeracy assessments will be mandatory for all students in Grades 3 and 6.
A district numeracy team is facilitating learning sessions to support teachers to create learning environments where students can develop a positive numeracy mindset and are encouraged to think, understand, and solve problems. They are supporting about 60 teachers from 32 elementary schools through six half-day sessions of learning and collaboration.
These teachers are in turn taking what they have learned back to their schools to spread their learning to their colleagues.
As students can also develop a deep understanding of mathematical ideas through real-life, parents will be supported throughout the district to aid with the real-life contexts of numeracy. Last year, 428 families in 16 schools participated in the Kindergarten program, You Can Count on Me.
This program has been incorporated into the Strong, Prepared and Ready for Kindergarten (SPARK) program, created to help introduce families and young learners to Kindergarten. This year, a program called Math Path for Grade 3 students is being piloted in district schools.
It’s a conversation starter for families to encourage children to persevere through math and problem solving by having conversations with them at home.
Kathleen Karpuk is chair of the School District 73 board of trustees.