Kitchener-Waterloo

Adding up: Teachers at Kitchener elementary school create math strategies to boost student success

St. Aloysius is one of five schools in Ontario to be recognised for their success in developing math strategies to help students reach provincial standard.

New approach helps students at St. Aloysius Catholic Elementary School succeed in EQAO math tests

St. Aloysius was profiled by EQAO for their success in developing math programs to help students reach the provincial standard. (Google Maps)

Three years ago, students at St. Aloysius Elementary School were failing to meet provincial standards in math.

It was not unlike other schools across the province, but staff at the Kitchener school didn't want to see their students continue to fall short.

So they did something about it.

Teachers at St. Aloysius used several different strategies to help students meet the provincial standard. They used information from EQAO (Education Quality and Accountability Office) and their own classrooms to look at where students needed help.

For example, in Grade 6, students were given sample EQAO tests so they understood the testing process better. 

"The teachers look very closely at the specific answers that students give and began to make mock tests based on that," said John Klein, the superintendent for learning at the Waterloo Catholic District School Board (WCDSB).

"In the Grade 6 class, [the teacher] gets the students to look at the EQAO website and begin to break down the answers as well."

Focus on mathematics

EQAO testing has been around for about 20 years and is a tool to gage if students understand and can apply the curriculum in reading, writing and math.

Math, Klein said, has always been a bit of a challenge.

We have spent a lot time building up literacy. Now the focus is, as a province, on mathematics.- John Klein, WCDSB superintendent for learning

"We have spent a lot of time building up literacy. Now the focus is, as a province, on mathematics," he said.

Results from 2009-2010 to 2014-2015 showed provincially, Grade 3 math results declined by four per cent while in Grade 6, math results declined seven per cent.

Despite a provincial trend of sliding EQAO math results, St. Aloysius Elementary School has managed to make substantial improvements and it was profiled this year by EQAO to mark its success in developing math programs to help their students.

Ongoing work

Another strategy that helped students was the collaboration between staff, Klein said. In the past, one or two teachers would go to workshops and try to implement what they learned in the classroom. Now, teachers work with one another and compare what worked and didn't work.

"A lot of the professional development is done on an ongoing basis," Klein sad.

"If you're a Grade 3 teacher, you'll be working with other Grade 3 teachers ... in that same division. Together they are co-teaching and co-learning to move the students forward."

Students were able to gain confidence to analyze their own work and guide their own learning, he said. Teachers found that the student's self-assessment and critical-thinking skills were applied in other subject areas. 

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