Canadian students’ PISA math scores continue to decline

pisa math scores

Math is a driving force of progress and innovation.

Being proficient in math means being able to extend the knowledge to other areas. Even though fundamental math is often studied as a pure science, having a solid foundation allows students to apply their expertise confidently to global situations, from statistics that could help estimate death tolls from earthquakes to geometry that explains the architectural designs of structures around the world to exponential relations that show how modern day communication and media work. Math also helps establish more effective global business and cultural connections, since math is a universal language and various mathematical breakthroughs have been made by the representatives of various cultures of the world. Mathematics helps increase prosperity and develop society.

Canada, once a top 10 country in the world in mathematics education according to PISA, has now had its ranking decrease consistently for the past 15 years. Even though still above PISA global average, Canada definitely needs to get back on track with STEM education in order to ensure the country is well prepared for the future.

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PISA is the OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment. PISA measures 15-year-olds’ ability to use their reading, mathematics and science knowledge and skills to meet real-life challenges.

Every so many years students from dozens of countries are being assessed.

In 2018 tens of thousands of randomly selected 15-year-olds from hundreds of schools in Canadian provinces/territories participated in this international assessment.

When the results are compared internationally, PISA outcomes indicate that students who study mathematics formally (traditionally) consistently perform better.

It is worth noting that PISA assesses student mathematical skills based on real life situations and problems.

The gap in performance in mathematics between girls and boys in Canada has significantly decreased in the past 15 years.

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In 2015 findings showed that low performers in Canada could not compute the approximate price of an object in a different currency or compare the total distance across two alternative routes.

When comparing Canadian provinces and territories, Quebec has consistently had significantly higher PISA mathematics scores.

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Educators and education experts say that this could be for two reasons:

  • Teachers in the province study math during their training (which is 4 years), thus feeling more confident teaching it at school.
  • Province elementary and junior mathematics curriculum focuses on fewer strands, but covers them in depth to ensure students master the fundamental skills.

STEM skills continue to be some of the most in-demand skills in Canada and globally.

10 Canadian Careers That’ll Be in Demand in 2020 and After according to slice.ca are:

  1. Industrial Electrician
  2. Aerospace Engineer
  3. Software Engineer or Designer
  4. Occupational or Physiotherapy Assistant
  5. Licensed Practical Nurse
  6. Welder
  7. Business Management Consultant
  8. College or Vocational Instructor
  9. Truck Driver
  10. Registered Nurse
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In 2018, Council of Canadian Academies has released a report titled “Some Assembly Required: STEM Skills and Canada’s Economic Productivity” stating that

…it is clear that STEM skills are central to a variety of education and job opportunities. They provide individuals with options in uncertain labour markets. While maintaining Canada’s advanced STEM skills capacity is important, investments in STEM literacy are crucial for developing a skilled society that is prepared to respond to an uncertain future. Increasing the quality and level of fundamental skills for STEM among all learners at the preschool, primary, and secondary education levels represents a strategic, long-term approach towards this goal. Such investments may also help to improve Canada’s levels of innovation and productivity.

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