Sounds much like the Common Core controversy here in the US
A scathing report from Canada’s C.D. Howe Institute calls into serious question some of the very same math instruction techniques that Common Core State Standards have brought to schools around the US, including Kentucky.
Canada’s National Post reports that the new report says a math instruction approach known as “Discovery Learning” has set Canadian students back in international testing.
Anna Stokke from the University of Winnipeg’s department of mathematics and statistics wrote the report. She says:
“You know what’s the worst kind of instruction? The kind of instruction that makes kids feel stupid. And that’s what a lot of that discovery stuff does.”
Discovery Learning approaches, as the report describes them, sound exactly like things being pushed as a result of Common Core. Researcher Stokke’s report says the Discovery Learning approach includes:
• minimal guidance from the teacher and few explicit teacher explanations;
• open-ended problems with multiple solutions (Example: The answer to my question is 37. What might my question be?);
• frequent use of hands-on materials such as blocks, fraction strips and algebra tiles or drawing pictures to solve problems;
• use of multiple, preferably student-invented, strategies;
• minimal worksheet practice or written symbolic work;
• memorization of math facts is deprioritized;
• standard methods such as column addition or long division are downplayed;
• a top-down approach in which students work on complex problems, even though foundational skills might not be present.
Herein lies trouble. The National Post says that with Discovery Learning approaches:
“…students’ working memories get overwhelmed if they don’t know their times tables and can’t quickly put a standard algorithm to work to solve a more complex problem, both features of what’s known as ‘direct instruction.’ Key operations, such as addition and subtraction of fractions, are overly delayed until the middle school years, just as students need that facility to tackle algebra.”
That’s clearly bad, but here is a real eye-catcher direct from the report:
“A particularly disturbing finding, from a number of studies, is that low-aptitude students perform worse on post-test measures after receiving discovery based instruction than they do on pre-test measures. In other words, discovery-based instruction might result in learning losses and widen the gap between low- and high-performing students.”
Did you catch that? Researcher Stokke says that using techniques being pushed by Common Core supporters could INCREASE achievement gaps. Folks in Lexington, take note.
So, these Common Core like approaches have been in use in Canada for a decade and that nation’s test performance is falling. And, research shows the approaches are not optimal. That’s not a great confidence builder for Common Core’s similar math approaches here in the USA.