Mathematics Matter: Traditional Teaching at Tempo School


Tempo School is an independent school in Edmonton that was founded in 1963 on traditional educational values. Dr. George Cormack, an educator and medical professional, saw a need in Edmonton for an alternative choice of schooling founded on traditional educational values. He was concerned that in the quickly changing educational world, many of the core values, time-tested practices, and educational goals were being replaced by dubious innovations and novelties. Tempo School concentrates its energy exclusively on academic subjects. For example, Tempo places great emphasis on the mastery of mathematics, seen as a foundation for subsequent learning.  

In recent years, the public education system has moved away from traditional methodology to what is today called the discovery method. Gone are the days when children learn formulas, fractions, and how to add and subtract using stacking. Instead, children are encouraged to discover a mathematical problem with very little guidance. Because children are not learning the building blocks of mathematics, they often lack the confidence required to deepen their understanding of the subject matter. With this shift, parents have become increasingly worried that their children are not being taught basic mathematical principles that enable them to become successful.

Since 2003, Canadian students have experienced a decline in their results and achievements on the Programme for International Student Assessment ranking (PISA ranking). The PISA reviews students’ understanding of mathematics, reading, and science in 72 countries. Canada has shown a steady decrease in its ranking in recent years. Many experts believe this is a direct result of moving away from time-tested, traditional educational practices.

At Tempo School, teachers work with an absolutely clear and precise curriculum. Fundamentals are taught early on. Students in the early grades learn the basics in mathematics, and this provides them with the foundation to proceed in their education. Students first learn mental calculations, algorithms, vertical additions, automatic recalls, and times tables. Once students understand these principles, they are better able to calculate and solve complex problems. Tempo students must first master the fundamentals so that they have the confidence and skills that allow them to be successful in their academic work as they move forward.

As a result of Tempo School’s long-standing traditional approach to education (54 years), the school ranks among the top schools in the country.  Over the years Tempo students have consistently excelled in mathematical competitions. They have won both national and provincial mathematics championship titles on many occasions.  In 2007 and 2016, for example, Tempo School Grade 6 students achieved first place in the Canadian National Mathematics League competitions. In addition, Tempo School ranked first in the provincial diploma exams (2015-2016) in the subject of Mathematics 30-1. Tempo School also ranked fifth in Alberta for overall academic performance.

The faculty, students, and parents take pride in the history of Tempo School and the fundamental values on which the school was built.  Through proven teaching methods, Tempo School offers students a very challenging intellectual experience.


Commitment and Dedication: The Teachers at Tempo School

The teachers at Tempo School understand that their work matters, and this shows in their determination to see students succeed. At Tempo School, teachers are committed to excellence and are dedicated to investing in those they teach.

Committed to excellence

As you walk into the staff room at Tempo School, you will find each teacher sitting quietly at a workstation, concentrating on lesson preparation for the week.  Traditional, teacher-directed learning is the model used at the school. Consequently, teachers take personal responsibility for ensuring top-­‐level education. As Mr. Hiedebrecht, a history teacher stated, “Here my colleagues are invested in their careers; they want to make this school a great school. They care about their students and they care about one another.”

The teachers are also experts in their fields of study. From B. Eds to PhDs, most of the teachers are specialized in the subject matter they teach. This specialization allows for an enhanced curriculum and for an extensive emphasis on a child’s academic advancement. 

Dedicated to Students 

At Tempo, the student/teacher relationship is unique and unlike that in any other school. Here, students derive the benefits from attending a school from kindergarten to grade 12. In addition to this, staff members are very deeply committed to the philosophy and practices of the school.  Because of this long-term familiarity, strong lasting relationships are built.

Mr. Gannon, who has taught biology and international politics for 16 years, finds the family culture of the school and the relationships developed at the school to be incredibly rewarding. “You get to see the students from the time they are in kindergarten until the time they graduate. You get to be involved in all their educational years.” The relationships go beyond graduation: students stay in touch and return to the school to visit their former teachers, most of whom have inspired them throughout their grade-school years. 

At Tempo, the focus is to equip students for university and for their endeavours thereafter. Every year, the Head of Upper School prepares and guides high school students through the university application process. For senior students, it’s not a matter of if they are going to university: it’s a matter of where they are going to university. And, more often than not, students have multiple options from which to choose. 

Commitment to both excellence and dedication guide the teachers at Tempo School to do what they do best: to educate and to equip their students for success.

Click to learn more about Tempo School, where teachers see more than a classroom: they see a calling.