doug ford
Premier Doug Ford says a preamble on racism and colonialism in Ontario's new Grade 9 math curriculum was subtracted because it didn't add up.

"In math, let's stick with math," Ford told reporters Thursday at the construction site of a new long-term-care home in Etobicoke.

"Other social issues, let's talk about it, there's no doubt, but let's not talk about it in math. Talk about it in other courses that the schools offer," he said, adding racial inequities should "be talked about in history (and) social studies."

The premier's comments come after his government deleted the part of the course introduction saying math "has been used to normalize racism and marginalization of non-Eurocentric mathematical knowledges."

Even though the updated syllabus remains largely intact, the language was quietly edited earlier this week.

"I said during the (2018) election ... we had half our kids in Grade 6 failing the math curriculum," said Ford.

"We need to focus on financial literacy. Let's get back to the core competency of having kids understand ... what is seven times seven (so) they don't have to pull up the calculator," the premier said.

"Let's get back to the basics, let's look at coding. Let's look at the things (so) when they get into the working world ... they're going to be able to understand it," he said.

"We need to pick up the scores in math and I have confidence with the teachers, they're going to focus on math and not anything else."

The updated math curriculum was introduced June 9 as the first step of ending the streaming of students so early in high school.

That practice of dividing children into academic and applied streams that has been tied to poor outcomes for Black and Indigenous youth.

Last Saturday, the Toronto Sun reported Ford's government approved of a curriculum preamble that maintained "a decolonial, anti-racist approach to mathematics education makes visible its historical roots and social constructions."

"Mathematics is often positioned as an objective and pure discipline," said the introduction to the curriculum.

"The Ontario Grade 9 mathematics curriculum emphasizes the need to recognize and challenge systems of power and privilege, both inside and outside the classroom, in order to eliminate systemic barriers and to serve students belonging to groups that have been historically disadvantaged and underserved in mathematics education."

However, earlier this week, an entire 124-word paragraph entitled "An equitable mathematics curriculum recognizes that mathematics can be subjective" was deleted after the Sun article provoked outrage among some on social media.

Progressive Conservative sources told the Star that "while the section referenced is not in the core curriculum taught to students, we revised it to ensure there is no confusion when it comes to making sure our students are being taught fundamental math concepts."

"The curriculum did not change," an official stressed, speaking confidentially in order to discuss internal deliberations.

"It continues to educate on cultural understandings of math, of the history of these concepts, and attempts to advance that lens throughout the curriculum. What changed was language in the preamble only," the source said.

Another insider confided Thursday that the premier was unhappy that Education Minister Stephen Lecce didn't flag the potentially problematic language.

The second source said the controversy "undermined" the government's effort to make the curriculum more equitable for marginalized communities and give students useful life skills.

"This is not what we want to be talking about when we're trying to help kids," he said.

The president of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation, which supports destreaming, has said Lecce "needs to take responsibility" for the episode.

Robert Benzie is the Star's Queen's Park bureau chief and a reporter covering Ontario politics. Follow him on Twitter: @robertbenzie