Saturday, July 16, 2011

Summer School - Day Ten - What Are We Teaching?

During break, one of my students who recently came to Canada from South Asia, asked me what type of math he should take to get into university. The class I am teaching, Apprenticeship & Workplace (A&W) math, is designed for students going into trades. Universities will not accept A&W for basic entrance requirements.

My student told me he already had a grade 10 math credit from India. He only took this course in the summer to see what Canadian schooling was like. So I asked him what he studied in India. His answer blew me away.

Apparently Math 10 in India covers advanced algebra, functions, differentiation and integration. This student has already covered content that Canadian students don't see until first year university. He is 14 years old.

This reminds me of a Christmas vacation my wife and I took to visit her family in Uruguay. My wife's second-cousin was in grade 9 at the time and she showed me her math notebook. At 13 she was studying functions and algebra that my students back home wouldn't see until grade 12. And she was excelling.

I have 17 year olds who have failed Math 10 twice and have difficulty converting feet to inches or calculating a sale price. I can't imagine them grappling with parabolic functions let alone actually developing deep conceptual understanding.

Are our expectations so low for our students? They certainly do rise to the low bar we place before them.


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