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Observing Mathematics Teachers

Observing teachers: Mathematics pedagogy in regions of Canada

Large scale international and national assessments have revealed that there is a considerable range of student achievement in mathematics across Canada. When compared to international results, some Canadian provinces rank among the top countries, while other provinces are significantly below the Canadian average. A number of factors have been claimed to contribute to these differences including curriculum, students’ genders, attitudes, beliefs, aspirations, and time spent working outside school, parents’ education, involvement and socio-economic status, other aspects of the home environment, and school resources. Teaching, which might be expected to have the most direct effect on student achievement, is considered less often. When it has been considered it has been in the context of international comparisons, where differences in language, curriculum, and culture are profound and make it difficult to focus on teaching. No comparison of teaching and pedagogy between regions of Canada has been made, in spite of the noticeable differences in student achievement between regions. This research program is intended to address this lack.

The objective of this research program is to describe regional differences in mathematics teaching and underlying pedagogies in Canada, and to relate these to differences in student achievement in mathematics. The guiding questions for this research are:

  • How do pedagogies in middle school mathematics in regions of Canada differ?
  • How are these differences related to differences in average achievement and the range of achievement in regions of Canada?

This objective will be achieved by bringing together focus groups of teachers teaching in both francophone and Anglophone schools in 6 provinces (one of them Quebec) that have different achievement results in large scale assessments. 4 Francophone and 4 Anglophone teachers from each of the 6 regions will participate in this research. The focus groups aim to discuss video recordings made of 3 different lessons made in each of the participants’ classes: a lesson that the participant considers as “typical”; one that the participant considers exemplary; and one on teaching fractions.

More information from Acadia University

More information from McGill University


This research project is funded by Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council


Research team:

Annie Savard (McGill University)

David A. Reid (Universität Bremen, Germany)

Elaine Simmt (University of Alberta)

Chris Suurtamm (University of Ottawa)

Richard Barwell (University of Ottawa)

Christine Knipping (Universität Bremen, Germany)


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