Red Deer Public Schools joining math debate

The Red Deer Public School District board is going to wade into the great Alberta math debate. At its board meeting last week, trustees were presented a report that detailed the changes that have been made in teaching math to pupils in recent years. The changes de-emphasize rote solving of problems in favour of more flexible methods.

The Red Deer Public School District board is going to wade into the great Alberta math debate.

At its board meeting last week, trustees were presented a report that detailed the changes that have been made in teaching math to pupils in recent years. The changes de-emphasize rote solving of problems in favour of more flexible methods.

Deeper understanding of concepts is facilitated through so-called “discovery” math, with students encouraged to make connections between the work they are doing and real-world problem solving applications, according to the administrative report.

The report goes on to say that students no longer spend time repeating computations, but are still taught basic, foundational skills such as straight addition or long division.

But armed with international test results that show Alberta high schoolers’ math performance is slipping, a movement has emerged in the province calling for the abandonment of the “discovery” techniques in favour of more traditional methods.

A petition has garnered over 14,000 signatures and the education minister called for the provincial department to ensure basic facts are “more front and centre” and that students can recall multiplication tables from memory.

The local public board says it “fully supports the current directions in mathematics” and is working on a plan to share its opinion with parents and stakeholders.

“We’re going to be a little more proactive in communicating with people about math and what’s going on in our district that’s good with math, and how the new curriculum and what the government’s proposing as far as changes are going to be good for kids. We look forward to that discussion in the community,” said board chairperson Bev Manning.

Manning said the board’s goal will be to further the discussion around curricular changes and to give some concrete examples of the new methods. She said the modern approaches will help youth today better apply what they learn in school when they become adults.

The division is involved in the provincial curriculum redesign process, which will see new learning standards and approaches for all subjects as early as 2016.

Manning said the board has not finalized its plans but hopes to have something developed by the end of the school year.

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