Roles and Responsibilities in Mathematics Education
It is essential that all students take responsibility for their own learning as they progress through elementary and secondary school. Mastering the skills and concepts connected with learning in the mathematics curriculum requires a commitment to learning that includes:
- continual and consistent personal reflection and goal setting
- a belief that they are capable of succeeding in mathematics
- developing skills in persevering when taking on new challenges
- connecting prior experiences, knowledge, skills, and habits of mind to new learning
- a willingness to work both collaboratively and independently
- dedication to ongoing practice
- an ability to receive and respond to meaningful feedback
Through ongoing practice and reflection, all students can develop a positive and healthy mathematical identity whereby they value and appreciate mathematics as a discipline, see themselves as mathematics learners, and understand what successful math learning looks like.
Students’ attitudes towards mathematics education can have a significant impact on their engagement with math learning and their subsequent learning and achievement of the expectations. Students who are engaged in their learning and who have opportunities to solve interesting, relevant, and meaningful problems within a supportive, safe, and inclusive learning environment are more likely to adopt practices and behaviours that support mathematical thinking. More importantly, they are more likely to enjoy mathematics and to pursue their desire to learn math beyond the classroom setting.
With teacher support and encouragement, students learn that they can apply the skills they acquire in mathematics to other contexts and subjects. For example, they can apply the problem-solving skills they use in mathematics to their study of the science and social studies curricula. They can also make connections between their learning and life beyond the classroom. For example, when reading or watching the news, they can look for applications of mathematical modelling and how it can be used to answer important questions related to global health and the environment or to help solve critical social issues that are relevant to their lives and experiences.
Parents are their children’s first role models. It is important for schools and parents to work together to ensure that home and school provide a mutually supportive framework for young people’s mathematics education. Research assures us of the positive results of parent engagement on student success – and parent-child communication about mathematics, including parents’ fostering of positive attitudes towards mathematics, is one of the many important ways parents may be involved.
Parents can support their children’s mathematics success by showing an interest in what their children are learning and by discovering with their children how what is being learned in class can be applied to everyday contexts. Math is everywhere, and parents can help their children make connections between what they are learning at school and everyday experiences at home and in the community – such as cooking at home, shopping at a store, and managing household finances. Parents can include their children when cooking at home by asking them to measure ingredients and to double or halve a recipe. They can include their children when making decisions at the grocery store by asking them to figure out what is the better deal and to estimate the total cost of items in their cart before proceeding to checkout. They can include their children in other ways – for example, when enjoying math-based puzzles and games – and they can create opportunities for mental math estimations and calculations and for making predictions. Parents can support their children’s learning by encouraging them to complete their mathematics tasks, to practise new skills and concepts, to apply new mathematics learning to experiences at home, and to connect mathematical experiences at home to learning at school.
More importantly, parents are an integral part of their children’s interactions and experiences with mathematics. Having a positive attitude towards mathematics and developing self-efficacy are important elements of students’ achievement of the expectations and of all future mathematics learning. By demonstrating a positive attitude towards mathematics, and by speaking positively and often about mathematics, parents can show their children that mathematics is enjoyable, worthwhile, and valuable. Parents can encourage their children to cultivate perseverance when solving problems, to acknowledge any difficulties, to believe that they can succeed in math, and to build their own self-confidence and sense of identity as mathematics learners.
Schools offer a variety of opportunities for parents to learn more about how to support their children: for example, events related to mathematics may be held at the school (e.g., family math nights); teachers may provide newsletters or communicate with parents through apps or social media; and school or board websites may provide helpful tips about how parents can engage in their child’s mathematics learning outside of school and may even provide links where they can learn more or enjoy math activities together.
If parents need more information about what their children are learning, and how to support their children’s success in mathematics, teachers are available to answer questions and provide information and resources.
Teachers are critical to the success of students in mathematics. Teachers are responsible for ensuring that all students receive the highest quality of mathematics education. This requires them to have high expectations of all students and to view all students as capable math learners. Teachers bring enthusiasm and skill in providing varied and equitable instructional and assessment approaches to the classroom, addressing individual students’ identities, profiles, strengths and needs, and ensuring equitable, accessible, and engaging learning opportunities for every student. The attitude with which teachers themselves approach mathematics is critical, as teachers are important role models for students.
Teachers place students at the centre of their mathematics planning, teaching, and assessment practices, and understand how the learning experiences they provide will develop a love of mathematics and foster a positive “I can do math” attitude in all students. Teachers have a thorough understanding of the mathematics content they teach, which enables them to provide relevant and responsive opportunities through which all students can develop their understanding of mathematical knowledge, concepts, and skills. Teachers understand the learning continuum along which students develop their mathematical thinking and can thus support all students’ movement along this continuum. Teachers support students in developing their ability to solve problems, reason mathematically, and connect the mathematics they are learning to the real world around them. Teachers provide ongoing meaningful feedback to all students about their mathematics achievement, which helps to build confidence. They recognize the importance of emphasizing the usefulness of mathematics in students’ lives, and of integrating mathematics with other areas of the curriculum – such as making connections with science, engineering, and technology to answer scientific questions or solve problems. They recognize the importance of helping students learn about careers involving mathematics, and of supporting the development of a positive attitude towards mathematics and student mathematical agency.
As part of effective teaching practice, teachers communicate with parents, using multiple ways and by both formal and informal means to meet the diverse needs of families, and to better understand students’ mathematical experiences outside of the school. In addition, teachers discuss with parents what their children are learning in mathematics at school. Communication enables parents to work in partnership with the school, leading to stronger connections between the home and school to support student learning and achievement in mathematics.
Principals model the importance of lifelong learning, and of how mathematics plays a vital role in the future success of students. Principals provide support for the successful implementation of the mathematics curriculum by emphasizing the importance of mathematics, by promoting the idea that all students are capable of becoming confident mathematics learners, and by encouraging a positive and proactive attitude towards mathematics and student agency in mathematics.
The principal works in partnership with teachers and parents to ensure that all students have access to the best possible educational experience. To support student learning, principals monitor the implementation of the Ontario mathematics curriculum. Principals ensure that English language learners are being provided the accommodations and/or modifications they require for success in the mathematics program. Principals are also responsible for ensuring that every student who has an Individual Education Plan (IEP) is receiving the modifications and/or accommodations described in their plan – in other words, for ensuring that the IEP is properly developed, implemented, and monitored.
Ensuring that teachers have the agency, support, confidence, resources, and tools they need to deliver a high-quality program is essential. Principals collaborate with teachers and school and system leaders to develop professional learning opportunities that deepen teachers’ knowledge of the curriculum, mathematical content, and pedagogy, and enhance their self-efficacy in teaching mathematics. Additional professional learning and support to increase teachers’ knowledge, awareness, and comfort level in teaching mathematics may be provided by principals where necessary.
Community partners are an important resource for a school’s mathematics education program. Relationships with local businesses, volunteer groups, and community organizations, such as those for newcomer families, can provide opportunities for authentic perspectives and real-world application of mathematics. Nurturing partnerships with other schools can facilitate the sharing of resources, strategies, and facilities; the development of professional learning opportunities for staff; and the hosting of special events such as family math nights or a mathematics community walk.
Communities provide social contexts for learning. Students bring knowledge and experiences from their homes and communities that can be powerful assets in creating productive environments for learning. By involving others in the community, teachers and principals can position mathematics learning as collaborative and experiential. Membership in a community also helps students develop a sense of identity and belonging and build their identity as mathematics learners.