Grade 9 Math Scores in Alberta
Recently, the Calgary Herald has been reporting on the dismal grade 9 Math Provincial Achievement Test (PAT) scores. Not only have more than 40% of the students in Alberta failed the exam, the pass rate for the exam was set at 42%. This has raised a great deal of debate as to why Math test scores are so low and what needs to be done to remedy the problem.
At Master’s College, only one student failed the grade 9 Math exam, meaning 98.5% of our students passed compared to the provincial average of 59.2%. In addition, 35% of Master’s students achieved “Excellence” on the grade 9 Math PAT compared to the provincial average of 15%. Below is a chart showing the overall grade 9 PAT scores for all core subjects, I have also included the results for our grade 12 Diploma exams. Keep in mind that the “Acceptable” level generally means a passing grade and the “Excellence” level is generally 80% or higher.
Math 9 at Master’s
Susan McAllister, our College principal, provides the following explanation as to how we teach math in our Junior High grades.
Our program at Master’s College is built on a conceptual approach towards mathematics. This means that students are presented with the foundational thinking underlying the processes that are used to solve questions. When students have conceptual understanding, they are able to apply their thinking to an application problem or to a new situation.
In junior high, the strengthening of mental math skills begins in grade 7 and is a key part of each year of our math instruction. For both mental math and calculator questions, students solve levels of questions that begin with the foundational ideas and move to the increasingly complex. These are supplemented with word problems that require multiple steps to solve.
The design of the math program is cyclical within one school year meaning that each unit of study is addressed at least twice. This allows time for students to continue to strengthen their math skills and then revisit each topic at a deeper level. By spiralling the learning there are more opportunities for connections between topics early in the school year.
Differentiation of instruction is used strategically to meet individual student needs. By varying the levels of support and by giving students some instructional choice for their preferred learning style, students get what they need when they need it. The students are coached on how to make choices for their learning that optimize their math experience. Our teachers are experts in the subject material and that, along with positive teacher-student relationships, combine for the optimal classroom environment.
At Master’s College we continue to out-perform all provincial norms, while preparing students with essential skills for the world of tomorrow.