January 26, 2014

Make Math Memorable (A response)

I've had the opportunity to engage in further conversation about math education with Dr. Robert Craigen, Assoc. Math Professor and co-founder of WISE Math. My response to Dr. Craigen's most recent comment wouldn't fit in comments so I've included it, along with the initial response, here.

January 21, 2014

Monkeys or Mathematicians (Math is More Than Memorization)

Pedagogy trumps curriculum every time.
The recent parent-driven push for a “return to basics” shift in math curriculum in Alberta is not unexpected. Our post-industrial society remains regrettably focused on relaying and assessing content over process. The deeply embedded desire to quantify student thinking for the sake of a neat, uni-dimensional continuum that claims to represent student potential results in the inevitable association of learning with factual and procedural recall. Quite simply, we've designed schools to train and measure our children. We group them by age, divide their days into standardized units and test them at regular intervals in order to compare them to their peers. Memorization is easy to measure in math so we convince ourselves we’re holding kids accountable by measuring their recall. This also allows us to rank and sort students effectively without actually engaging them in conversation, something PISA has effectively mastered. However, making a judgement about the quality of an entire math curriculum based on data snapshots from a moment in time is not only irresponsible it's ridiculous. Advocating that because memorization scores have dropped, an entire curriculum should re-focus on memory work is incredibly shortsighted. We've already been there. It wasn't awesome.