Dr. Tran-Davies update re Alberta educators not teaching math fundamentals

A few days ago, I wrote a post about Dr. Nhung Tran-Davies’ campaign to bring back math fundamentals to Alberta’s public schools. I even recommended people in other parts of Canada sign her Change.org petition because the new “discovery math” is causing similar problems wherever it is being used to teach primary and junior level math.

Well, today I got an email update, which explained, in part, that a group of concerned professionals and parents met recently (Thursday, February 13th, 2014) with Thomas Bradley, Alberta Education Minister Jeff Johnson’s Chief of Staff. That meeting was apparently a follow-up to an earlier meeting Dr. Tran-Davies had on January 28th, 2014 with Alberta Deputy Education Minister Greg Bass.

Basically, today, given my interpretation of the email I received, the Alberta grassroots committee (which I will call the AB Math Fundamentals Group — or MFG for short) gave a well prepared and researched defence in favour of why there should be more math fundamental skills taught before Alberta’s children encounter the mental voodoo of “discovery math.”

One of the members of the group, a retired educator, is reported to have said in today’s meeting: “Piaget must be turning over in his grave.” I agree. I mean, have we learned nothing? It is common sense that you teach math skills from easiest to hardest, from known to unknown. Also common sense is that stages of development and pre-requisite knowledge and skills matter.

Anyway, the gist of today’s meeting is that Bradley will pass on the committee’s concerns to Minister Johnson in preparation for an eventual meeting between Dr. Tran-Davies’ group and the Minister.

I am concerned that the MFG members are simply encountering dismissive stalling tactics. I mean, given Dr. Tran-Davies’ summary in the email I received today, the Deputy Minister thinks teachers already have the flexibility to accommodate parent and student concerns while the Minister’s Chief of Staff doesn’t think any change to the 2014/15 math curriculum is necessary.

While it is true that the MFG has retired educators and math professionals involved, I would also recommend that they find a way to include one or more professors from an Alberta Faculty of Education as well. Why? Because, having taught in two such settings, I can confirm that the theoretical and research justification for the “discovery math” is coming from those very university departments, as is the how-to of curriculum design and development.

Plus, it is those same professionals who are preparing tomorrow’s teachers — some of whom may need to learn the fundamentals themselves before they can teach them!  I mean, the Ontario government has just earmarked $4 million dollars to do just that!

Good luck! And, remember, that if none of your advocacy encourages the Alberta Education Minister to mandate the changes needed to the Math curriculum, make it a ballot question in the next Alberta election.

Updated Tuesday, February 18th, 2014 at 9am EST.

9 thoughts on “Dr. Tran-Davies update re Alberta educators not teaching math fundamentals

  1. Bonefishcove — I agree opposition to constructivist math widespread, although Tran-Davies’ petition was just for Alberta. I suspect we’ll have to get a protest going here as well. “Discovery math” doesn’t add up is true — literally true.

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  2. What I am finding interesting and disgusting at this point is what kind of stonewalling the Alberta government is doing, not only with the parents, but the many professionals on the Tran-Davies group. That too, unfortunately is widespread.

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  3. Yes, thanks Bonefishcove. I saw that Glove and Mail for my first post on this topic. I should explain that the first piece and this follow up all related to Dr. Tran-Davies’ petition. I would have to write something new for Ontario I guess. But, so far, I haven’t noticed a parent campaign going on in Ontario. If you notice something, let me know here and I will certainly support them by writing about it.

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  4. Bone — Sure nice to see Moira back in the saddle. I only read the first few comments but one mentioned a petition to Minister Sandals. If you see anything more on that, let me know. It really makes you wonder what it takes for education officials and the system to respond to the obvious. As a retired educator, it makes me feel very embarrassed that response is so slow. Mind you, it has been the same regarding whole language. I mean, I ran a private practice for a decade because parents had nowhere else to go besides the commercial tutoring companies.

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  5. Pingback: Teresa Murray’s Petition that Ontario schools include math fundamentals | Crux of the Matter

  6. Pingback: Sandy: AB Education Minister Johnson defends the indefensible re math curriculum | Jack's Newswatch

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