Adding up the math issue

Alberta Education officials say the problem with math in the province is not how it is being taught or how students are performing, but how those things are being communicated.

Alberta Education officials say the problem with math in the province is not how it is being taught or how students are performing, but how those things are being communicated.

Yes, they say, the performance of Alberta students did decline in international tests, but the jurisdiction still ranks as one of the top in the world.

And besides, the students who took the 2012 Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) exam were schooled in the old curriculum in elementary school, not the much chattered about new one, in place since 2008.

Since the PISA results were released in December, the subject of math has been anything but boring in Alberta.

One mom’s petition calling for more instruction of “the basics” is early grades has garnered over 16,000 online signatures and critics have latched onto the term “discovery math,” calling it a failure that confuses kids and leaves them without a firm grasp of fundamental skills.

Education Minister Jeff Johnson has sought to reassure concerned parties by saying that basic facts will be “more front and centre” in what students learn and that students are required to recall multiplication tables from memory.

And he has pointed to the fact that Alberta’s 15-year-olds are still well above-average in math — ranking third among Canadian provinces — and score higher than Alberta adults.

But, as school board trustees at an education symposium in Red Deer on Wednesday made clear, the education department needs to be clear as well in communicating what teachers are teaching and learners are learning.

Parents and the media, they said, are fixated on “discovery math” but do not fully understand the approach that the department is taking.

Speaking to the trustees, Kris Reid told them the ministry is endeavouring to clarify its language.

To that end, the department has produced Q&A bulletins for parents and teachers, available on its website, and will be communicating the information therein to schools, said Reid, team leader of mathematics, Grades 10-12 with Alberta Education.

The info sheets state that students are required to know basic facts and will study traditional ways of doing math problems without having to use more open-ended “discovery” methods.

Elementary students may be taught two or three methods on how to solve a problem, said Reid, and then each individual student can choose the method that works for them going forward for that topic.

“Once they have that strategy that works for them that’s efficient and effective, they’re not expected the next year to use anything different (for that particular topic).”

One trustee spoke up Wednesday to say that her own child told her he would be in trouble if he did not solve an equation a particular way, which Reid said is exactly what the ministry wants to avoid.

Just Posted

Eager-beaver cannabis entrepreneurs already waiting outside Red Deer City Hall

Appications will be accepted on a first-come basis starting on Tuesday

Like father like son: Red Deer area Dreeshen family dedicates life to public service

There are three jobs that could be considered the Dreeshen family business:… Continue reading

Restaurant owner concerned about Gasoline Alley road changes

Nearly 20 trucks were lined up on the service road in front… Continue reading

Preliminary hearings set for two men charged in weapons and drugs bust

A Red Deer man and Sylvan Lake man are facing 80 charges

Eight dogs found in Innisfail hotel room were kept in cages

Eight dogs, kept in cages in a small hotel room in Innisfail… Continue reading

WATCH: Hypnotizing show at Westerner Days

Hynotist and mentalist Joshua Seth performs three times a day at Westerner Days

PHOTOS: River Town Saints rock Red Deer

River Town Saints play Westerner Days Friday in Red Deer

PHOTOS: Dogs, horses and more animals at Westerner Days

Westerner Park’s pavilions were filled with animals during Westerner Days

Red Deer residents can’t get enough mini-doughnuts

Mini-doughnuts were the biggest draw to Westerner Days according to a Red… Continue reading

Four-car crash, including RCMP vehicle, on Highway 2

Two sheriff vehicles were also involved in the collision

Divers hunt for 4 after Missouri duck boat sinks, killing 13

BRANSON, Mo. — Divers are searching Friday for four people still missing… Continue reading

WATCH: Red Deer’s noxious weeds are a goat’s dietary delight

Piper Creek Community Garden gets chemical-free weed control

‘Amazing Race Canada’ competitors face B.C. challenge

They drove Corvettes, mastered falconry basics, and ate blueberry pie in the Cowichan Valley

From hot to not? The Baloney Meter weighs in on Scheer’s economy claims

OTTAWA — “Justin Trudeau inherited a booming economy, but he’s squandering it.… Continue reading

Most Read

Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $185 for 260 issues (must live in delivery area to qualify) Unlimited Digital Access 99 cents for the first four weeks and then only $15 per month Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $15 a month