I don’t always agree with John Manley, CEO of the Canadian Council of Chief Executives, but when he referred to Canada’s plummeting math scores as being a “national emergency” (H/T Globe), it was music to my ears.
Have any of you tried to follow what currents passes for primary school math? It bedevils me, and Joe Hocevar once thought I had a gift for the subject when he taught me the subject at Swansea Public School.
According to the OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment, Canadian students have fallen from 6th to 13th place since 2006. The Globe reports that “critics” believe the poor results are due to a Canadian emphasis on teaching math via “real world concepts”, rather than whatever traditional manner served society for the 100+ years of organized schooling that preceded this failing experiment. I’m all for practical education, once a proper foundation has been laid. I just have no confidence that kids are building the foundation they need to have the mental dexterity required to be in a position to numerically succeed later in life.
If you search the internet right now, you won’t find a single academic study that demonstrates, scientifically, that the “new, new” math is a better approach to education in the long run. Imagine if the Specialists at Sunnybrook Hospital woke up one day and decided to change their approach to cancer treatments without the benefit of any evidence-based trials. The Provincial Government would never allow it, and yet it seems as though the change in the primary education curriculum was undertaken on this basis. In the absence of an evidence-based trial that proved there would be better math outcomes as a result of this wholesale curriculum change.
If Canada’s doesn’t arrest the falling math scores, we’re not going to have enough doctors to perform any type of cancer trials in 25 years, given the heavy math component in pre-med courses such as Organic Chemistry, for example. I’m trying to imagine what Albert Einstein would advise us; I’m hard pressed to believe he found his generation’s approach to teaching math to be lacking. Our kids can’t all be social media strategists; someone is going to have to code the software, and I’d rather it not all be done offshore.
Canadians need to stop whining to their children’s teachers about their inability to comprehend what is being sent home each night; I suspect our teachers are suffering right along with us. Instead, let’s focus our energy on the politicians, Principals and provincial bureaucrats who set the curriculum and are paid to be accountable for these poor grades. Being the season and all, imagine if the Head Coach of Canada’s junior hockey team put his developing players on an all-Kale diet 10 years ago. If Canada’s world ranking in hockey fell to 13th, behind Estonia, we’d all point to the diet as the culprit. Would there be any doubt about that?
It would be hard for the Prime Minister, being a student of the game of hockey himself, not to weigh in with the observation that perhaps the all-Kale diet was to blame for Canada’s hockey woes. It has become crystal clear that Canada’s Great Math Experiment has failed. Let’s take this at least as seriously as Junior Hockey, and if it takes the PM himself to rally parents, so be it.
This definitely counts as a national emergency.