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Math money

City educators are welcoming a $4 million investment in mathematics education for Ontario students.
File -- Students use tablets, laptops and other electronic devices at Kingsway Park Public School in this file photo from February 2013. (

City educators are welcoming a $4 million investment in mathematics education for Ontario students.

On Wednesday Education Minister Liz Sandals announced the funding that will be used for partial subsidies for teachers to take courses to upgrade their math skills.

The move aims to encourage more teachers to specialize in math, specifically at the primary and junior levels.

While it's unknown how the $4 million will be doled out across the province, Thunder Bay Catholic District School board director of education Joan Powell said the board is always thrilled to receive additional funding from the government, especially when it's focused on a program to help students.

The Catholic board saw 72 per cent of their Grade 3 students  and 60 per cent of their Grade 6 students pass the Education Quality and Accountability Office's standardized test in 2013; that's well above the provincial averages of 67 and 57 per cent.

Although the board is happy with those results, Powell said the numbers did fall a little from the previous year and math is an important area of focus.

"Math is not necessarily a subject everybody feels totally comfortable with and I think teachers who might not have really loved math as kids might not feel really comfortable teaching it," she said.

"The curriculum is very dense. There are five strands."

The additional training is a great idea, she said, adding the Catholic board has already started developing a course for intermediate teachers to bring their math skills up with the University of Toronto.

"We feel we're a little ahead of the curve on that," she said.

Lakehead Public Schools' director of education Cathi Siemieniuk said the pubic board also already has programs in place to improve math scores and while she's not sure how the money will be directed, any additional funding is welcome.

"I think that this announcement certainly confirms we're heading in the right direction," she said Thursday.

Sixty-one per cent of the public board's Grade 3 students passed the standardized test and 50 per cent of Grade 6 students passed in 2013.

There are already math resource teachers as well as additional professional development available for staff and Siemieniuk said they have a homework help program and their information technology plan also supports mathematics.

"It's our intent to make an optimal learning environment for all students. Any support we can give our teachers and support staff in helping create that is welcome," she said.

For teachers, there's always room to grow and any funding that goes to education is a positive thing, said Ellen Chambers, president of the local Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario.

"There's always room for more professional development and professional learning as part of a teacher's career," she said. "It's always ongoing learning. That's a good thing."


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