Math remains a trouble spot for Ontario students according to standardized test results released Wednesday morning.
While students continue post promising gains in their reading and writing skills, math scores are slipping, based on data collected by the province's Education Quality and Accountability Office.
At the Grade 6 level, for example, 75 per cent of students met provincial standards for reading skills and 74 per cent met the standard in writing in the 2011-12 school year. In math, however, just 58 per cent of students met the standard, down from 63 per cent who met the standard in 2008-09.
"Once again, this year's results point to mathematics as an area that requires the further attention of Ontario's publicly funded school system," the EQAO's chief executive officer, Marguerite Jackson, wrote in report accompanying the data.
She suggested that techniques used to post gains in reading and writing could serve as a model for boosting math scores. Those techniques may not translate easily however, as numeracy is a much more political fraught subject area than literacy.
Over the past two decades more emphasis has been placed on concepts and real world applications in math, and critics say the result is that students aren't learning the basics such as arithmetic and multiplication tables.
Advocates for a more conceptual approach to math say too many drills and too much wrote memorization kills students' enthusiasm for math, and doesn't teach them about how math is relevant to their lives.
At the Grade 3 level there were also small gains in literacy, but scores dipped in math. Sixty-six per cent of Grade 3 students, up from 65 per cent in 2010-11, met the provincial standard in reading. Seventy-six per cent, up from 73 per cent, met the standard in writing. And 68 per cent met the standard in math, down from 69 per cent.
There were small gains in math at the Grade 9 level, where 44 per cent of students (up from 42 per cent in 2010-2011) met the provincial standard in applied math, and 84 per cent (up from 83) met the provincial standard in academic math.