Students lagging in math basics: instructor

In everything from sport to art and architecture, the most creative and revolutionary first had to have some grasp of the fundamentals of their craft before they could flourish.

In everything from sport to art and architecture, the most creative and revolutionary first had to have some grasp of the fundamentals of their craft before they could flourish.

Basketball virtuoso Michael Jordan, as Red Deer College math instructor Manny Estabrooks likes to say, was able to dazzle on the court because his mastery of the basics allowed him to put his thoughts to conceiving greater things.

“He doesn’t stop to think ‘How do I do this?’ It’s instinctive, it’s just there. In math education, if we don’t have people that know the basic skills, they’re not going to get anywhere,” says Estabrooks.

The problem, he says, is that more and more students are entering his classes without those basic skills — some pupils have to count out simple equations using their fingers because they cannot do basic addition or subtraction.

Teaching them to be creative with math and to devise their own techniques for solving problems is a good thing, he says, but if they are not being taught the fundamentals first, they will only get so far.

Since 2008, the provincial math grade school curriculum has put an emphasis on so-called “discovery” math techniques, which de-emphasize traditional learning methods for basic math functions and encourage the use of varied, open-ended methods of solving equations.

The province and “new math” proponents say the approach allows children to develop problem-solving skills more useful in everyday life and engenders more enjoyment and inspiration than simple rote solving of math problems.

But in recent months, opposition to the approach has galvanized behind an online petition started by a Calmar mom calling for a return to more traditional methods.

Over 12,000 signatures have been gathered for the petition, and with international metrics showing Alberta student performance falling in the subject, some see the province’s system in a crisis.

In a reversal of the 2008 curriculum directives, Education Minister Jeff Johnson called on Alberta Education to ensure that basic math facts are “more front and centre” and that students can recall multiplication tables from memory.

A department spokesperson said Johnson gave the instruction in November in response to parental concerns, but before the petition started up.

The change will be made for the 2014/15 school year.

Johnson and others, though, say that the directive will not change much.

While “discovery” math has been emphasized in recent years, teaching the fundamentals has not been abandoned, says Notre Dame High School teacher and education innovator David Martin.

“We’ve given students, and actually more importantly we’ve given teachers choice on strategies on how to teach math to kids,” he says.

Whereas many adults are not shy to say they hate or are not good at math, Martin says new methods allow students “to literally play” with math, allowing them to enjoy and become passionate about the material.

Just Posted

Olds chicken barn burns to the ground, no livestock harmed

More than 100,000 chickens were saved as fire crews prevent the blaze from spreading

Bear video meant to promote conservation: zoo owner

Discovery Wildlife Park says it will look at other ways to promote its conservation message

Red Deer’s Soundhouse closing its doors on Record Store Day

The owners of The Soundhouse want to shut down their store on… Continue reading

Cryptocurrency here to stay says one Red Deerian

Bitcoin is more than just a commodity with an ever changing value,… Continue reading

Lacombe County residential development and golf course proposed

Lincoln Ranch would include 100 homes and nine-hole golf course

NorAm Western Canadian Cross Country Ski Championships begin in Red Deer

The biggest cross-country skiing competition in Red Deer’s history is underway. Nearly… Continue reading

In photos: Get ready for Western Canadian Championships

Haywood NorAm Western Canadian Championships and Peavey Mart Alberta Cup 5/6 start… Continue reading

WATCH: Red Deer city council debates cost-savings versus quality of life

Majority of councillors decide certain services are worth preserving

Got milk? Highway reopened near Millet

A southbound truck hauling milk and cartons collided with a bridge

Stettler’s newest residents overcame fear, bloodshed to come here

Daniel Kwizera, Diane Mukasine and kids now permanent residents

Giddy up: Red Deer to host Canadian Finals Rodeo in 2018

The CFR is expected to bring $20-30 million annually to Red Deer and region

Ice dancers Virtue and Moir to carry flag at Pyeongchang Olympics

Not since Kurt Browning at the 1994 Lillehammer Games has a figure… Continue reading

Beer Canada calls on feds to axe increasing beer tax as consumption trends down

OTTAWA — A trade association for Canada’s beer industry wants the federal… 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