A divisive debate about the place of mathematics in teacher education is heating up at the University of Saskatchewan, where some professors say aspiring educators could be learning even less about how to teach the subject.


A study released by the Frontier Centre for Public Policy last week blamed a new math curriculum for an overall drop in students' math skills. ((CBC))

Egan Chernoff, who teaches math education at the Saskatoon-based university's college of education, said teacher candidates currently have to take only one course on teaching math — something he says is already insufficient.

Now, Chernoff said, the college of education is considering changing the math education course to an elective from a requirement.

"Yeah, it's disheartening for me," Chernoff told CBC News. "Not only would we have issues with prospective teachers' content skills with mathematics, we would further have an issue with their knowledge of the teaching and learning of mathematics, which could make a bad situation worse."

study released the Frontier Centre last week blamed a new math curriculum for an overall drop in students' math skills.

University of Regina mathematics professor who spoke to CBC News last week agreed that the real problem is that teachers are not being trained well enough on how to teach mathematics.

Child-focused training

Cecilia Reynolds, the dean of education at the University of Saskatchewan, said the college is currently considering making the math education course an elective.

Reynolds said teachers would still be taught how to instruct children in math skills, but that training would be more child-focused, "taking into consideration if that child is aboriginal, taking into consideration if that child has autism, taking into consideration whether that child ate a breakfast that morning."

Reynolds added that the proposal is being driven by the prospective teachers themselves.

"Repeatedly, they tell us they need more information about how to work with diverse students, how to deal with racism in the classroom, how to talk with parents," she said.

Reynolds said teacher candidates could learn math education skills in a variety of different ways, not just with a course taught by a single professor.

"There are many theories about how to teach mathematics adequately, and the course only allows in many respects that one professor's view to be brought to the students. If you have modules, they're exposed then to a variety of theories," she said.

Modules could delivered by distance education or it could be a program taught by different professors, she added.

No timeline has been given on when the University of Saskatchewan's college of education would decide whether to make the current math education course an elective.

With files from the CBC's Geoff Leo