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Learning math should be a `basic right'

By: Letter to the Editor

 | Feb 03, 2014 - 2:06 PM |
Re: Article “Curriculum not adding up,” which appeared in the Jan. 23 edition of Northern Life.

My experience is a little bit similar to Nancy Deni’s, only in reverse. We started our son in public school and now have both our kids in private school at Sudbury Christian Academy.

There are two reasons: First, our son was clinically assessed as being highly gifted, and the public system has utterly abandoned any pretense of gifted education in favour of “differentiation within the classroom” which, as far as we can tell, is a smoke-and-mirrors show.

Second, my husband and I (both engineers) interviewed principals at various public schools and were absolutely horrified at the way that math was being taught.

Universally, the principals expounded the benefits of group work and letting the groups of children independently come up with “creative ways to solve problems.” They completely dismissed any form of “rote learning” as though it were beneath them.

Another principal told us that the parents should be teaching simple rote learning math concepts at home – and that school wasn’t a substitute for good parenting.

Really? That’s fine for many families, but it seems to me that you’re giving some challenged families yet another disadvantage. I thought that the education system was supposed to be a social equalizer?

Unfortunately, they’re repeating the “whole language” fiasco, only this time with math. Just as good readers need whole language plus phonics, a good grasp of math requires problem solving plus basics.

I know one teacher who participated in a workshop where they were being taught to teach math. One of the groups of children came up with a solution that included five quarters per dollar, but that wasn’t to be corrected because apparently, in problem solving, there are no wrong answers.

Even kids who don’t become mathematicians or engineers need math, whether it’s dosages of medications, backyard construction projects, personal finances, making change or even counting calories.

Knowing the multiplication tables or how many quarters are in a dollar should be a basic right, not a luxury available only to kids whose parents get involved.

I love SCA, but there’s no reason why the public school system can’t also do a good job of math education, even if they insist upon differentiation within the classroom.

A healthy mix of problem solving, basics and respect for correct answers will do the trick.

Christina Visser
Greaeter Sudbury

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