Ontario unveils new Grade 9 math curriculum that eliminates streaming

Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce answers questions during a press conference at Queen's Park in Toronto on Wednesday, June 2, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

TORONTO - Ontario's new Grade 9 math course, which will be the first to eliminate the practice of "streaming," will involve more real-life applications of the subject and include lessons on financial literacy and coding.

Education Minister Stephen Lecce announced the details Wednesday, saying the course that will take effect in the fall will help set students up for success.

"The world has changed, the economy has changed, the job market has changed and so should the curriculum that informs and inspires your child," he said.

Students were previously streamed into "academic" or "applied" math courses in Grade 9. Academic courses focused more on abstract applications of concepts, while applied courses focused on the practical.

The practice drew criticism for years, with opponents contending it disproportionately funneled marginalized students into the applied stream, limiting their future prospects and worsening inequity in the province's education system.

The Progressive Conservative government committed last year to ending streaming for those entering high school and said math would be the first course to change.

The new Grade 9 course will feature coding, data and financial literacy, mathematical modelling and elements of STEM -- or science, technology, engineering and mathematics. It will also look at the importance of mathematics across cultures.

The course is part of a four-year government plan to change mathematics education in Ontario.

Officials said on Wednesday that possible revisions to the Grade 10 curriculum were being looked at, with more information to come.

Lecce said the focus on financial literacy will carry over into other grades. He said further announcements would come on changes to other courses, but didn't provide a timeline on Wednesday.

The minister also said consultations with communities affected by streaming would continue "to understand what more we can do" on the issue.

"My instinct is to go further," Lecce said.

The opposition New Democrats called on the government Wednesday to rapidly end streaming in other subjects and to properly fund the change.

NDP education critic Marit Stiles called the new math course a "long-overdue victory" and said students will need smaller class sizes and one-on-one learning opportunities to succeed.

The government said it would provide $40 million to train educators on the new math course.

Some training materials were to become available on Wednesday, though officials said educators won't be required to complete training over the summer. The province said it will include anti-racism and anti-discrimination training.

The president of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation said the union supports ending early streaming, but criticized the timing of the announcement, which came just a few weeks before the end of the academic year.

Harvey Bischof said it's "simply not realistic" for teachers to get caught up on the new course materials before September. He said the announcement lacked proper plans for implementation and support.

"Educators will do their best but they shouldn't be left on their own to try to implement this successfully," he said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 9, 2021.

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