Education Ministers Release Report on Teaching and Learning of Mathematics


Toronto, April 30, 2003 -- The mother’s level of education is a factor in determining if a student does well in mathematics. This was one of the findings of a report released today by Canada’s education ministers. The report, Mathematics Learning: The Canadian Context [PDF document, 1,135 kb], is being issued as part of the School Achievement Indicators Program (SAIP).

"We have been collecting information for a few years now on student achievement in mathematics, language, and science," said Paul Cappon, Director General of the Council of Ministers of Education, Canada (CMEC), which conducted the study. "Now we are also collecting information on what things in a student’s environment affect the level of achievement. Having contextual information like this can help governments make important policy decisions that will result in better student performance."

The study showed that a structured approach to teaching, rather than more informal instruction, results in higher achievement in mathematics. Other factors, such as planning a career in mathematics, the time spent on homework, and persistence in solving difficult mathematics problems, are also associated with better performance. However, relatively few school factors seemed to have strong correlations with performance.

The information was gathered through questionnaires completed by students, teachers, and principals during the 2001 SAIP mathematics assessment, a large-scale assessment involving 41,000 students, 13-year-olds and 16-year-olds, in all provinces and territories.

The questionnaires also yielded descriptive information about the teaching and learning of mathematics in Canada.

  • It is clear that teacher qualifications overall are high, with most teachers holding a B. Ed. or equivalent. However, the proportion of mathematics teachers holding a specialized degree in mathematics varies from one jurisdiction to another.
  • The use of manipulative materials, graphing calculators, and computers also varies across provinces and territories, with graphing calculators being used more by 16-year-olds than by 13-year-olds.
  • The vast majority of mathematics teachers assign homework on a regular basis (3-4 times per week), but the practice of counting homework toward student grades varies greatly.
  • The practice of streaming (grouping students according to ability or interest) varies widely across Canadian schools.


For further highlights of this analysis, see "Conclusions," pages 89 to 92, of the publication Mathematics Learning: The Canadian Context, SAIP Mathematics III 2001 (CMEC, 2003). The full document, in English and French, is also available on the CMEC Web site

CMEC is an intergovernmental body composed of the ministers responsible for elementary-secondary and advanced education from the provinces and territories. Through CMEC, ministers share information and undertake projects in areas of mutual interest and concern.

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