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‘Introduction of coding in Grade 1 key to Ontario’s new math curriculum’: Ontario Tech experts

Faculty of Education has been preparing teacher candidates with coding skills for years

Participants using a LittleBits snappable circuit kit to create a flashlight during a previous March Break Maker Camp at Ontario Tech University.
Participants using a LittleBits snappable circuit kit to create a flashlight during a previous March Break Maker Camp at Ontario Tech University.

Faculty of Education researchers at Ontario Tech University say the Province of Ontario’s new elementary math curriculum gets good early grades, particularly for introducing coding skills to students starting in Grade 1. As a science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM)-focused university, Ontario Tech has a unique perspective on the benefits of integrating computing sciences and math learning.

Ontario has been under pressure in recent years to revamp its approach to math due to a slow decline in provincial test scores. The curriculum announced June 23 includes a focus on fundamentals and fluency. But despite the catchy ‘back to basics’ phrase, key updates in financial literacy, data, and coding are anything but ‘basic’.

Ontario Tech’s Faculty of Education has a long tradition of embracing coding education, including hosting coding ‘camps’ for young students. These digital literacy activities have proven to be exceptionally popular.

“Coding gives students a new way to communicate, and this has far-reaching importance for their future careers and global citizenry,” says Dr. Janette Hughes, Ontario Tech’s Canada Research Chair in Technology and Pedagogy. “Coding in the new curriculum offers students opportunities to dynamically model, investigate and bring to life mathematical concepts and relationships.”

In Ontario Tech’s Bachelor of Education program, coding has been a focus for several years. Researchers and instructors appreciate coding as a way to amplify and enhance math learning, particularly at a young age. Coding requires the kinds of precision, trouble-shooting, and logical deduction inherent in mathematical thinking and problem-solving in general.

“We’re definitely pleased to see the addition of coding in the elementary curriculum,” says Dr. Ami Mamolo, Associate Professor, whose research focuses on mathematical reasoning and teacher knowledge. “Ontario Tech’s Faculty of Education is the only Ontario institution to offer coding to all Kindergarten-to-Grade-12 teacher candidates. There is a learning curve involved, and as with any curriculum, what will really make a difference for students is how teachers bring the content to life. Having access to adequate supports and resources will be essential.”

“There is solid research suggesting that coding can support mathematics learning and is an important skill in its own right,” says Dr. Diane Tepylo, Assistant Teaching Professor. “At Ontario Tech we prepare all teacher candidates to support mathematics learning with coding and our graduates are already applying these skills successfully in classrooms. We also offer a micro-credential to primary/junior teacher candidates that display expertise in using coding. We are also planning professional development support for in-service teachers this summer.” 

In addition, Dr. Hughes and her STEAM 3D Maker Lab team will continue their partnership with the Math Knowledge Network to provide support to teachers across the province as they implement the new math curriculum.

“Math learning for millennia has been based around the idea of curiosity and proof, but with coding now emphasized as part of the ‘basics’, youngsters will be able to explore and to learn even more math, and better than they ever have,” says Iain Brodie, Sessional Instructor. “Another basic is that students develop self-awareness and sense of identity which they cannot do without opportunities to see themselves as mathematicians and appreciate the beauty and importance of math.”

August online conference at Ontario Tech to support teachers

Ontario Tech will host an online conference Monday, August 10 to Friday, August 14 to support teachers as they prepare to take their pedagogy online or into a hybrid approach. This conference will have workshops on using coding to support mathematics for beginners and for teachers with some coding experience. Contact the Faculty of Education for more information

Media contact

Bryan Oliver
Communications and Marketing
Ontario Tech University
289.928.3653 (mobile)