February 2003
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Missing Digits
By Lindsey House, SNN Editor, Roncalli Central High, Port Saunders, NL

In the 2000 school year a new high school math program was introduced into the curriculum in Atlantic Canada. Unfortunately we happened to be in grade 10 and got to experience this program first hand. 2003's graduating classes will be the first students (besides those that piloted the program) to finish high school and go into university with this program. Don't you love it when they use us as guinea pigs?

During the fall 2001 semester, Memorial University tracked the progress of fifty-five first year calculus students, all of whom had taken the new mathematics curriculum (which is now being taught in almost every high school in the Atlantic Provinces). Nearly sixty percent of these students either failed or withdrew during the semester.

Now I'd hate to be the bearer of bad news but the aforementioned students and all other students enrolled in this disastrous math program are the future. We are the leaders of tomorrow. So why does the government feel the need to "tinker" with our education? Sure courses need to be updated and new ideas discussed in revised programs. But if there are no problems, why bring in new curriculums? It is currently a mystery to all parties involved why the government thought it was so ardent to devise this new math program, as the old one was quite sufficient and students were doing reasonably with it.

You can't blame them, as they are politicians and therefore have had all common sense severed from them upon their inauguration. If we are the future, why do they feel it necessary to make us all deficient in mathematics? How are we going to run this country (and consequently pay your pensions) if we lack the basic mathematical skills to pass entry university math exams?

Another question which should be asked, as parents watch their children, their children's classmates and teachers struggle with the obscurities of the new math is: why on earth don't the universities and course developers keep the lines of communication open? Oh, of course the government "consulted" the universities, but paid no heed to the criticisms and suggestions that were made. This was just a facade on the government's side so they could tell everyone with the ring of truth that "the various post secondary institutions were consulted".

Now all of this is a rather large thorn in the behind of Atlantic Canada's level III's. As graduating students we have the odd assortment of government officials telling us that we are perfectly equipped to get into and handle university math. While on the other hand we have several post secondary schools telling us that we will have to take all kinds of "make up" courses and "placement" tests. All of these mixed messages are leaving half a country's worth of confused and frustrated young men and women, to say the very least.

We will be graduating with several "advanced" mathematics courses under our belts. Yet we will still have to spend thousands of dollars and hours of our precious time taking basic university maths (which by the way we won't be receiving credit for) to learn concepts that should have been covered in high school.

But what can we do about it? We're only moody teenagers, who don't do their homework anyway. We're only the potential: work force, law makers, leaders and of course tax payers. It seems that government officials have under evaluated the importance that the youth have as the future of the world. Being stereotyped as "moody" and "good for nothing" has given education ministers some notion that we will neither notice nor care that our math skills are falling way behind. As concerned students we have seen the holes in our education and have asked why, but received no tangible answer. The "powers that be" think that if they ignore us the problem will go away. They seem to forget however, that we will be here long after they are gone. And will be quite deficient in our math skills. So what if we can't add fractions or percentages?

So what if you only get $80.00 a month for your Canadian Pension Plan when you were supposed to get $800.00. It's not our fault we don't know how to carry the decimal.


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