Good news for kids heading into Grade 12 this fall — Education Minister Nancy Allan is subtracting the provincial math test.
The test, usually worth 30 per cent of a student's final math mark, will be replaced next year by course work.
However, the provincial math exam will be back in the 2013-2014 school year.
That's just one effect of a plan to strengthen the curriculum across Manitoba to ensure students are getting enough basic math skills. To do that, Manitoba is delaying the introduction of a math curriculum, designed by Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta, that was to be implemented in the fall after years in the making.
"The new curriculum is proving to be problematic. That's raised concerns about its balance," Allan said Wednesday after addressing a day-long math summit of public school and post-secondary educators, students and business people.
"It's moved away from algorithms and into conceptualization."
Allan also promised high school math courses will give students the math skills they need for university, college, and the workplace. And the province will work with university faculties of education to give teacher candidates the training they need to be able to teach math.
The minister noted she's not looking for a return to the days of memorizing times tables as a simple answer, but wants a balance: "We don't want to go back to drill and kill — that alone is not good enough," she said.
"There's been a move to conceptual thinking about math," said Allan, who emphasized students need to be able to think creatively about math and to experience "the joy of math."
"Problem-solving is critical as well," she said.
Math professors have been critical of faculties of education for admitting future teachers who've taken only consumer math in high school. Allan declined to say Wednesday if the government will push for Grade 12 applied math and/or pre-calculus as an enrolment requirement for education.
The rest of the full-day math summit was closed to the media, but Allan said she expects to hear feedback that will help the province carry out its three goals.
Senior Department of Education bureaucrats said both the current curriculum and the new curriculum include algorithms; students still have to learn how to add, subtract, multiply, and divide on paper.
But the new curriculum lists those skills as one of several strategies for learning math, which they said have led to misinterpretations about the value and necessity of basic math skills.
Neither new nor old curriculum says specifically at what grade level students should be allowed to use a calculator.
Deputy education minister Gerald Farthing said Wednesday there is a role for rote learning — such as memorization of times tables — but some schools have abandoned it entirely.
"Some of the ways we taught them in the past worked and we need to be careful not to leave these things behind. In the past in some schools, maybe in many schools, it was used too much," Farthing said. "Some amount of memorization is important and we need to retain that, that need to practise."
In some schools, the pendulum has swung away from any memorization of tables, said Farthing
Senior education staff is studying highly achieving math systems, including a successful curriculum in Singapore.
Allan convened the math summit after Manitoba placed second-last in a national math test.
— with files from Catherine Mitchell
Updated on Thursday, May 17, 2012 at 11:37 AM CDT: The provincial math exam will be back in 2013-2014 school year.