Colleges and school boards tackle mathematics gap

TORONTO, March 9 /CNW/ - Findings of the Seneca-led College Mathematics Project (CMP) show the need for substantial improvement by students in post-secondary mathematics as Ontario moves to a knowledge-based economy driven by careers requiring strong mathematics skills.

The CMP's province-wide research finds that one-third of all those in first semester mathematics are at risk of not completing their chosen programs as mathematics is the underpinning for many programs, particularly in business and technology.

"Colleges and schools are collaborating to find solutions to produce graduates who can be successful in careers that will drive the new economy," said Laurel Schollen CMP Project Director and Seneca's Dean of Applied Science and Engineering Technology. "Unfortunately, our findings tell us that we are putting that success at risk unless our students are able to significantly improve their math skills."

The study has found that success in college mathematics is affected by course selection in high school, mathematics learning prior to and in college as well as the age and sex of students. Included in the study's recommendations are that school and college teachers teach math in a practical and applicable way and that education at all levels should integrate "learning skills" to better prepare students for higher levels of education.

The CMP research was reviewed at nine forums across Ontario during the fall of 2009 involving over 500 educators from both school and college sectors and both education ministries. Forum participants also learned about the many initiatives being undertaken at both levels to increase student success in mathematics. Deliberations at these forums identified important areas for improvement.

"The CMP examines an issue that is crucial not just for Seneca, but for Ontario," said David Agnew, Seneca College President. "This research provides guidance on how to improve a student's success in their chosen program and ultimately in getting on the path to their career goals."

Research findings

Some of the CMP highlights of the research findings:

    
    -   Older students are more likely to achieve good grades (A, B or C) in
        college mathematics, with 79 per cent of males in their 30s and 87
        per cent of females in their 40s obtaining good grades.
    -   72 per cent of older students or those from outside the province
        achieved good grades compared with 65 per cent of recent Ontario
        graduates.
    -   Males outnumber females in first-semester mathematics by almost 2:1,
        but females out-perform males in all age groups.
    -   As recommendations from previous CMP reports have been implemented,
        there has been a slight improvement in grades for students in first
        semester college mathematics; 67 per cent of students achieved good
        grades, while 33 per cent received grades of D or F or withdrew from
        the course.

    Recommendations based on research findings include:

    -   Students learn best when mathematics is presented in a practical and
        applicable way. School and college teachers are encouraged to work
        together to strengthen the range of available practical examples for
        students.
    -   Encouraging students, parents, elementary and secondary teachers to
        recognize the importance of topics that are taught in elementary
        school, including fractions, ratio and proportion and percentages.
        Students require a strong foundation in these topics to succeed in
        mathematics courses.
    -   Education at all levels should integrate "learning skills" such as
        self discipline, time management, study skills and independent
        learning into their courses.
    -   The creation of a provincial roundtable on improving the transition
        from secondary to post-secondary education.
    

Background:

In 2004 Seneca College initiated the College Mathematics Project (CMP) through the York/Seneca Institute for Mathematics, Science and Technology Education (YSIMSTE).

The first year of the project involved a small-scale pilot study of 500 students in three schools of technology at Seneca College. Since then, the project has been expanded across the province, with CMP 2009 involving all 24 Ontario colleges and 72 District School Boards analyzing the school and college records of approximately 80,000 students who entered these colleges in September 2008.

The College Mathematics Project is a collaborative program of research and deliberation concerning mathematics achievement of first-year college students in Ontario. It is funded by the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities, and led by a team of researchers from the YSIMSTE based at Seneca College.

To download a copy of the full report and for more information on the College Mathematics Project, please visit: http://collegemathproject.senecac.on.ca/cmp/index.php

More people choose Seneca than any other college in Canada. With 11 campuses across the Greater Toronto Area, Seneca provides internationally and nationally recognized education, training, and academic pathways key to graduate career success in the global economy. Every Seneca diploma, certificate and degree program is developed to a high academic standard, in consultation with industry, integrated with information technology, combined with technical and transferable skills, and reinforced by opportunities for ongoing education and re-training.

Find out more at www.senecac.on.ca "Follow" us on Twitter"Fan" Seneca's Facebook page.

SOURCE Seneca College of Applied Arts and Technology

For further information: For further information: Seneca College, Media Relations, (416) 491-5050 ext. 7018

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