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Why Bother - part II

Katya and Saša, 20 Apr, 2019

Why Bother - part II

Why Bother - part II

Part II - Our Observations; Our Solution

Allow Us to Introduce Ourselves

We are a small group of individuals concerned about the decline in mathematical comprehension among Ontario students. We are the OntaOnta Team. Through research, personal experience and observation we have become aware of this issue and strive to do our part in order to help fix it.

What We Have Noticed

Over the past three years we have been keeping a close eye on the general problem of math education in Ontario. We have also analyzed the math knowledge of a number of individual students from various regions of Ontario attending K-12. Overall, we have observed a number of trends which will be listed presently.

  1. Lack of basic knowledge and fundamentals such as
    • Simple operations and their order (BEDMAS);
    • Solving simple equations and operations with variables;
    • Confusion when dealing with different types of numbers in a single problem (fractions, decimals, integers);
  2. A short attention span when dealing with problems that take time to solve;
  3. Relying on a calculator to solve trivial expressions such as 7 x 3;
  4. Memorizing rather than understanding and being able to derive simple relations such as slope, or rearranging for variables;
  5. Difficulty for parents in following their child’s learning progress
    • Parents are often left in the dark regarding the student’s lack of math knowledge;
    • Erratic assignment of work due to educators pulling worksheets and lessons from a huge pool of internet pages with different sources, but where most of the content is copy/pasted from one another, thus making it nearly impossible to find unique and structured material;

In our opinion, all of the above demonstrates a catastrophic failure in handling math education on the Provincial level.

Our Solution

Simply put, we have created a mathematics program that utilizes tried and true old fashioned teaching techniques fused with modern-day digital wonders. We did not choose the past or the present; we chose a combination of the two.

Our digital learning platform is created with teachers, parents, and students in mind. We have considered the interests and complaints of each group, and put together a solution that makes life easier for all three types of users. The digital platform includes worksheets with detailed solutions; online lessons with videos; customizable online quizzes and tests that follows the curriculum closely, but also adds a unique twist. Our focus is on basics, reinforcing basics, and building on basics.

Key Objectives

Our team has narrowed down a number of main goals that reflect trending issues in mathematics that we have noticed. We have many ideas on how to improve mathematics education, but the following are our key objectives:

  1. A number is a number. We help students understand that a number behaves as a number no matter what shape it comes in. Integers, decimal numbers and fractions obey the same set of rules;
  2. Variables can pretend to be numbers. We help students see that numerical values can be replaced with variables, and explain how they behave. This understanding opens up a whole new mental dimension allowing for easier digestion of concepts within fields such as computer science and physics;
  3. Guiding the educators. We provide detailed solutions to all problems given in the worksheets, so that educators can develop a better understanding of the material they are teaching. We build upon this by ––
  4. Encouraging individuality. We intentionally solve similar problems using various methods to encourage both educators and students to compare them, and eventually develop their own styles and pathways to a solution;
  5. Shedding light. We would like to create a relation between teachers, parents, and students in order to combat the issue of parents being left in the dark regarding their children’s mathematical development. Our system allows parents to stay informed on their child’s progress by reviewing their scores, checking their homework against provided solutions, and working on problems with their kids to also get immersed in the experience;
  6. Building an unlikely partnership. We want students to have fun while doing necessary work. We did our best to create activities that immerse the student and offer unique scenarios and perspectives on math, so that they may think creatively and develop a deeper interest in the overall subject;
  7. Providing relief. We focused on doing the hard work so that parents and teachers could focus on support. Our material provides educators with everything to effectively deliver the concepts to the students, while simultaneously boosting their confidence in teaching even the most challenging topics in mathematics.

Our platform is not intended to alienate users from educators or peers. The goal is to deliver fully-prepared material for educators and learners to use however they are most comfortable, in order to improve mathematics education. We are putting tools in the hands of the people, as well as providing them choices regarding the use of those tools. Students who are most comfortable self-studying may do so. Teachers can use the ready-to-go lessons to teach their classes. Parents may use the material to supplement their child’s learning or homeschool their kids successfully. We do not intend for this technology to replace human interaction and teaching. We use technology as a delivery method of polished courses to those who can benefit from it. We encourage printing materials and worksheets in order to complete practice problems by hand.

A Deeper Look

Our revolutionary mathematics learning platform was created from scratch using open-source technologies. It provides many benefits to modern education which make learning more painless, more convenient, and more individualized. Our team is continuing to create original material for each course, guaranteeing a unique learning experience.

We encourage both in-school and out-of-school use of the material. Students are encouraged to use the provided videos, simulations, quizzes and other easily-accessible material via desktop and mobile devices in order to strengthen their understanding of what was taught. Similarly, worksheets should be printed and completed using pencil and paper in order to get a hands-on experience with problem solving as well.

We have designed the courses to provide engaging and challenging content to the student at every guided step of the learning process. We put a twist on traditionally boring concepts in order to show them in a new light and get students to think outside the box in the realm of mathematics.

We personalize learning as much as possible. The courses follow the standard curriculum but have unique additions that personalize the experience for every student. Theory and concepts are explained thoroughly in simple terms and supplemented with a variety of examples in order to ensure total comprehension. Problems have step-by-step solutions using a variety of possible methods. This encourages students to find what method they understand best and work with that method to arrive at correct conclusions. Students that want to test their skills, or that want enrichment in the content have the option of completing Challenge problems which test their understanding and creative thinking, sometimes pushing their skills above their current grade level.

We created this platform to be easily used by any of the tree main target users. It has a simple interface adapted for classroom management, which allows the teacher to efficiently use our material as the primary teaching resource for the course. We focus on creating complete courses with everything an educator needs, so that they may focus on knowledge delivery instead of material-gathering and planning. Parents may do the same with confidence using our ready-made lessons which give them the power to effectively teach their children. Students may use the material for self-study if they wish to enhance their learning or prepare for the next school year. The possibilities are endless!

We must reinforce the fact that our platform is not a social network. Users have their own profiles, and teachers and parents have access to their students’ information in order to assign material, check their progress, access course material, and post Announcements to the course pages. We encourage in-person peer-to-peer interaction in the classroom setting, and thus do not offer the opportunity to communicate through our platform, save for Announcements that parents and teachers may leave for all their students to collectively review.

We do not track our users. We do not serve advertisements. We firmly believe in user privacy, and educational focus. Advertisements would fall contrary to our firm values, including providing simple and excellent course material to heighten maths comprehension within the student body.

Ready-To-Use Courses

Having been inspired by the tumbling decline of mathematical success in schools across the province we have begun this platform with mathematics courses. Mathematics will indeed remain the main focus of the project, however we do plan to expand to other portions of the curriculum with time. Below is a list of courses that are complete and ready to use, as well as some currently in the works that will be available in the near future.

  1. Elite Math 5-8

    This enrichment-focused course is recommended for students in grades five to eight. This program covers the Ontario curriculum for the mentioned grades, prepares students for standardized tests (EQAO) and provides enrichment for students looking to participate in mathematics competitions. Through this course students develop a broad understanding of math which prepares them for advances high school math and science programs.

    This course features 600+ pages of material supplemented by practice problems, and 90+ online quizzes with a question bank of about 10,000 questions designed to help students achieve their desired understanding of the material.

    A grade three student who attempted this course could successfully complete most of the given problems.

  2. Math 6

    This mathematics course is for grade six math students. The focus here is to prepare them for EQAO testing by reinforcing math concepts learned in the past grades. Our goal is not to only drill EQAO questions to the students, but promote wholesome understanding of mathematical concepts to the point where the students are confident enough in their skills to tackle the EQAO with ease hopefully reflecting their understanding in the reversal of Ontario [currently plummeting] math scores.

  3. Math 8

    This mathematics course is targeted at eighth graders with the goal of helping them seamlessly transition to high school math. The course reviews skills from previous grades and builds on them by teaching the new concepts covered in the Ontario eighth grade math curriculum.

    This course features 400+ pages of material supplemented by practice questions, and 90+ online quizzes with a question bank of almost 10,000 questions designed to help students understand the material to the best of their ability through practice and repetition, so that they can be best prepared for secondary school mathematic challenges.

  4. Chemistry 11

    Our grade eleven chemistry course provides full lessons, quizzes, simulations, and videos to enrich students’ understanding of the material. Our carefully designed worksheets provide the necessary opportunity for pencil and paper practice in order to fully understand the required concepts. This is an excellent, complete course that covers grade eleven chemistry material in an intuitive and unique way, providing students with all they need to master the knowledge and skills required of them by the Ontario curriculum, and go beyond it if they are so inclined.

Our timeline includes adding Math 1,2,3 by the end of 2019. By the end of the next calendar year we will add Math 4, 5 and 7. In total, by the end of 2020 we will have Math 1-8 live and ready to use, as well as more projected Chemistry and Science courses.

Our History

In the previous pages we have objectively covered the problem that is sweeping the nation; our personal take on and inspiration for this project; what we offer users in terms of novelty and goals; and, what we offer users in terms of concrete material. In this section follows a short personal history of our team, and how this project came to be.

It all started with a couple of parents who wanted to help their own children get ahead in math by teaching them the material outside of school hours. A number of existing solutions were tried and tested – tutoring places, a number of books, some online sites, to name a few – but none were satisfactory. As a solution to the problem, this platform was created.

We presently have among our team a PhD in Astrophysics, a Computer Systems Architect, a Master in Chemistry, a Master in Physics, two educators, and a legal professional.

Creating this project was not an easy task; over three years were spent building the digital platform and developing the required courses.

At the time of writing this, about 400 students are taking courses on our platform. The number is growing steadily, and most importantly, the feedback we get from users has been excellent.

An example: our grade eight math program began to be used in December 2018. The teacher reported that students’ math skills have greatly improved in just a few months. The students became more engaged with and confident in math, and were asking for more math to work on after they had completed what had already been assigned. The word spread to other classes and more students started asking to be taught math by the teacher using our platform.

How You Can Help

If you are intrigued with our mission and find yourself aligned with our passion to help the students of Ontario get back on their feet regarding math education, there are things you can do to help us and our project.

  1. Partnerships with educators. We are actively looking for partnerships with teachers, schools, school boards, and other publicly operated institutions. We want to spread the word of our tested and proven to be successful solution to more educators and students. We know the struggle people go through regarding math, and we can make a difference!
  2. Funding. We are seeking funding for our efforts, to increase rollout of course material, to be able to grant greater focus to this effort, and to expand our talented, hard-working team in order to bring the best possible product to the users.
  3. Awareness. Spread the word! The more people are aware of the issues at hand, the consequences at stake, and the available solution, the quicker we may be able to turn this mathematical disaster around and help thousands of students succeed as they want and deserve to.

Thank You

The OntaOnta Team is grateful for your time and interest in our project. If you are interested in contacting us, please feel free to contact our team. We will do our best to answer any questions you may have, and we welcome any and all support we receive from those aligned with our cause.

OntaOnta team

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