TeachOntario Talk Video Transcript: Pathways to College - Focus on Math

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My name is Carolyn Crosby and I am a high school math teacher at St. Luke Catholic High School in Smiths Falls.  Our project “Pathways to College – Focus on Math” focused on creating guidance resources to help teachers, guidance councillors, parents and students understand which math courses led to which post secondary programs.  For my project I worked closely with Carol MacKenzie and Chantale Lauzon-Harris.


My high school specializes in the locally developed / workplace math pathway.  We were not sure if this pathway could prepare students for apprenticeship and some college programs.  We began connecting with college professors and asking them: what math skills do students need to be successful in their college programs. We also asked which, if any, of these skills do students entering your program require the most support in.


After connecting to over 20 different college programs, sometimes in face-to-face dialogue and sometimes through surveys, we began to see a core group of math skills that were important for students to have achieved.  We’ve put together a website that houses all of our research. On the homepage, you’ll see three links to get your started. On the side there is a lot of different information. If you start, our first link is about the high school pathways. If you weren’t sure what the locally developed workplace pathway was about you could go in and see. At the bottom of that page, I’ve taken the view books form three different colleges: St. Lawrence, Algonquin, and Loyalist. What these files do is they group college programs and the prerequisites needed.  This first page here you see these college programs, students need to have a high school diploma. So their courses could be from the locally developed workplace pathway.  This one here, students need grade 12 college English, so they could have that grade 12 college workplace math and still get into this group of programs. Lastly, on the homepage you’ll see a survey of math skills.  What we did after our face-to-face discussions we had enough contacts and colleges, and they asked their colleges. If you see at the bottom the survey it’s brought together and analyzed. These are all the different programs we surveyed and these are your locally developed workplace expectations. You’ll see a lot of the expectations are in the locally developed and there are some programs that don’t require the specific college expectations. Also on that survey we had the last question that was open comments from college professors.


From practical nursing, in our program students are unable to use calculators. Some students experience a great deal of difficulty adapting to this. Students also experience challenges with adding, subtracting and multiplying.


Business accounting: A lot of business students lack the following math skills: multiplication table, calculator use, solving simple linear equations of the forms: 2x = 9 and order of operations. They should be able to perform better with the business content fit they had the above skills.

To this end, I have often said, that if you give me a student who understands the basics listed above, I can teach them anything else from there.


Whether a student is entering a trades, technician or technology program, the students with the basics are far more successful than those who struggle with those basics, regardless of their understanding of other aspects of mathematics.


Once we learned the potential of the locally developed / workplace pathway to prepare students for some college programs, we decided as our TLLP project to create resources for guidance councillors, parents, students and other staff. There was a pamphlet we created and a Power Point. Also for teachers who would like to build strong locally developed workplace pathway we created a CPLC guide to help those schools build those pathways. 


For my school, this learning was invaluable.  I could look students in the eye and tell them that they are in a good pathway and that it can prepare them for many college and apprenticeship programs.  Our school is a coop high school where students from grade 10 to 12 coop every other day to earn 4 of their 8 credits each year.  It is natural for many of our students to consider an apprenticeship program.  I would like to tell you about one of our recent graduates.


Christian Adamson has attended St. Luke from grade 9 to grade 12.  He benefited from our coop program.  His placement was in an autobody shop and they were very impressed with his employability skills and his knowledge of vehicles.  From grade 10 to 12 he coop at MIE Autobody for Scott Mathieson.  On his school days, he learned many skills from his trade and technology courses. Christian had excellent understanding of the math skills he needed to be successful in the trades.  He is currently in an apprenticeship program and will be doing his college courses for level 1 Autobody in the spring.


So in conclusion, I would really encourage high school teacher to ask the question: why is it important for a student to learn these math skills? Think beyond the curriculum. I believe there is a disconnect between the high school math curriculum and many college programs, especially in the trades. Teachers, especially those teaching in grade 11 and 12 college math, need to ensure their students have achieved their foundational math skills.  Those math skills that are most important for success in college programs. Get to know your local colleges and talk directly to the math college professors to ensure your students have mastered the right math skills. I hope that this will help many of our high school students. Thank you for taking the time to watch this video and take a look at the rest of the talk on TeachOntario.