New Brunswick students lag in math scores

The latest report from the Council of Ministers of Education shows Grade 8 students in New Brunswick continue to perform below the national average on standardized math tests.
A Council of Ministers of Education report shows Grade 8 students in N.B. fall below the national average on standardized math tests 2:15

The latest report from the Council of Ministers of Education shows Grade 8 students in New Brunswick continue to perform below the national average on standardized math tests.

Almost 32,000 Grade 8 students in New Brunswick took the 90-minute test in the spring of 2010.

Mean scores by province in mathematics

Canadian average500
British Columbia481
New Brunswick478
Nova Scotia474
Newfoundland and Labrador472
Prince Edward Island460

New Brunswick students scored an average of 478 compared to the national average of 500. The standard for their grade level was 358.

Quebec and Ontario scored 515 and 507, respectively, in the national test.

New Brunswick was below the national average, but it still beat out several provinces.

The results are putting a focus on new ways to teach math.

Doaktown teacher Erica Stymiest was one of several teachers learning new math instruction methods on Monday in Boiestown.

She said she hopes New Brunswick's low scores will soon be a thing of the past.

"I've only been teaching for two years and in the last two years one of the main concerns is, for us at the elementary levels, is starting to concentrate on those big ideas and giving kids a strong foundation," Stymiest said.

"So I mean, hopefully when my students get to Grade 8, that won't be the case."

The report said the New Brunswick students scored lower in all four categories of math — numbers and operations, geometry and measurement, patterns and relationships, and data management and probability.

As well the report says, the students lag behind students in more populated provinces.

Reasons for poor performance

John Grant McLoughlin, a math professor at the University of New Brunswick in Fredericton, said there are many reasons that could explain the province’s poor performance in math.

He said socioeconomic factors can impact the results. In addition, he said, New Brunswick has fewer international students, who he said tend to come with stronger math backgrounds.

Grant McLoughlin also said teachers need more help in how they teach math.

"I don't feel the teachers have the background or the support when they are trying to develop their mathematics as is trying to be done today," he said.

Grant McLoughlin is now visiting any school in the province that invites him to help inspire a love of math, especially in teachers.

Heather Sheehan is now a New Brunswick teacher and she said Grant McLoughlin inspired her to want to teach math.

Sheehan said she wants to inspire other young students.

"You have people that may say 'I'm not good at math. And that … wouldn't be acceptable if you were to say 'I'm not good at reading,'" she said.

"So for us to have a paradigm shift almost, where we just, you need to be thinking positively towards math and to help them at a younger age so it's ingrained as they go through."