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.