Discovery math not enough without pre-requisite skills!

For information on Dr. Nhung Tran-Davies, read this Edmonton Journal article by David Staples entitled “Dr. Nhung Tran-Davies leading the fight in Canada for better math education.”  (H/T bonefishcove).

Like all teachers and teacher educators, retired or practising, I am aware of traditional “discovery” methods but, from what I am reading, “Discovery Math” today is being done without mastering the pre-requisite computational skills children should have at grade levels such as Grades 3, 4 and 5.

So, the very notion that teachers now expect primary and junior aged children to estimate and/or guess answers while discovering the answers, is appalling. It’s like giving a child a car and saying: “Here are the keys. Now go drive it. You can guess the rules and laws as you go along.”

Right. On the way to the first accident which is, in my opinion, an excellent metaphor for what Dr. Tran-Davies’ daughter experienced when she decided she hated math. Yet, significantly, all it took was her mother showing her how to do some basic computational calculations and she was fine.

To put it bluntly, have education bureaucrats and teacher educators in Canada’s Faculty’s of Education and provincial and territorial governments completely forgotten about:

  1. Neo-Piagetian cognitive-developmental theory regarding readiness? (Link)
  2. Learning accommodation & automaticity — when learning sticks? (Link)
  3. Learning styles and Multiple Intelligences differences? (Link)
  4. Mastery learning & pre-requisite knowledge and skills — building one skill upon another? (Link)
  5. The Fundamental basic math computational skills — which are needed before children are faced with problems they can’t solve?

As I wrote in my post the other day, to improve standardized math scores, those in positions of authority should not tell teachers to throw out what they are doing now. Rather, they need to be allowed to blend the teaching of the basic skills BEFORE they give children problems to solve that expect automaticity in those skills.

The crux of the matter is that just as we need a balanced or blended approach when teaching reading and writing (e.g., a combination of reading basics with reading discovery experiences), we need the same when teaching math.

Note that even though Dr.Tran-Davies petition is related to Alberta education, I have already signed on behalf of Ontario parents. I have also linked it to all my Friends on Facebook, asking them to sign. Readers can do the same by visiting this Internet link.