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.

mfish@bprda.wpengine.com

Just Posted

Man accused of manslaughter in fatal collision testifies he was cut off

A Delburne man accused of causing a fatal collision said he was… Continue reading

Class size targets hard to reach in Red Deer

Red Deer Public Schools recently updated its average class size

Lotteries look to younger customers to increase sales

Promoting online and interactive games

Red Deer man helps light up the holidays for others

Jim Elliott’s in his 15th year of mapping the city’s most magical, lit-up homes

WATCH: CP Holiday Train rolls into Lacombe

Kelly Prescott performed for hundreds of Central Albertans

Barry Cooper: Separation has become a real possibility, thanks to Ottawa’s abuses

In the past couple of weeks, a retired senior oil executive, Gwyn… Continue reading

Sex assault trial for former gymnastics coach resumes in Sarnia

SARNIA, Ont. — The trial of a former high-ranking gymnastics coach accused… Continue reading

Victims of former ski coach Charest say they were ‘sacrificed’ by Alpine Canada

MONTREAL — A lawsuit filed Wednesday against Alpine Canada by three victims… Continue reading

Emily Blunt on the ‘daunting’ task of playing Mary Poppins

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. — Emily Blunt loves a challenge, and in the… Continue reading

Tommy Chong says Canada’s weed legalization has kept ‘underground market alive’

TORONTO — Tommy Chong has a pass, man. While some Canadians who… Continue reading

Apple deepens Austin ties, expands operations east and west

AUSTIN, Texas — Apple will build a $1 billion campus in Austin,… Continue reading

Trump comments upend U.S. approach to Huawei, trade talks

WASHINGTON — The United States and China have taken pains this week… Continue reading

Most Read