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Math class doesn't add up for parents at Earl of March high school
Published:January 12, 2014
Updated:January 12, 2014 9:03 PM EDT
New math can make you cry. New math can make you laugh.
Let’s start with the crying. Here is Shabana Baig, a bio-medical engineer and the mother of Abdullah Baig, a former Earl Of March High School student in Kanata.
“It was the final exam that did it, that made a lot of us snap,” remembers Shabana. “It was one question. That’s all the exam was, one picture of a bridge, and you were supposed to use the math you had learned that term to analyze the bridge.
“The students were left writing. Page after page of writing, hoping they were talking about the things that mattered. There were no equations. There were no formulas.
“This was supposed to be a math test, right? A MATH TEST!”
So frustrated were some parents after seeing that grade-11 math test they set up a committee to examine how math was being taught at Earl of March.
They also held a public meeting for parents and students. (Here is the crying part.)
“I remember loving math class,” says Sabana. “But at this meeting, person after person stood up and said they hated math class. Just hated it.
“At that meeting students cried. Parents cried. It was just incredibly sad, the frustration that was in that room.”
Just how frustrated? Well, the final report by the Earl of March School Council Math Committee ended up being more than 300 pages.
Some of the findings will probably surprise you. Let’s start with Three-Before-Me. (This is the make-you-laugh part.)
Three-Before-Me is a teaching method where a teacher will not answer a question from a student unless the student has first posed the question to three of their classmates.
It is called “inquiry-based learning” and at Earl of March it was rigidly enforced in the math department, to the point of farce on many days.
“I cannot tell you how many times we’d approach a math teacher for help and they’d just say ‘three-before-me’,” says Abdullah Baig, who graduated from Earl of March last year and is now a first-year bio-chemistry student at the University of Ottawa.
“But how does three-before-me help you when NO ONE knows the answer?” continues Baig. “Sometimes you need to be taught how to do something.”
And that’s it. The entire new math debate in that one quote.
In a reaction against teaching by rote — or “killed by the drill” as math tables and basic arithmetic operations were once called — the Ontario government some years ago moved toward inquiry based learning, or “discovery learning” as it is sometimes called.
Inquiry learning means students are encouraged to figure out correct answers on their own, or collaboratively with their peers. It is supposed to encourage “critical thinking.” Under this educational model teachers do not teach so much as they “facilitate” or “guide.”
It is a great, warm-fuzzy theory.
And ever since we’ve been using it math scores in Ontario have been plummeting. Dropping like three stones in an ignorant sea.
“There are some things you just need to know,” argues Shabana. “You shouldn’t have to figure out everything in this world. Surely there is a place for knowledge. And surely one of those places is a math class.”
For what it’s worth, the War-and-Peace math critique by the parents at Earl of March was accepted by the school, and some changes were made this year.
The school board is also aware of the math debate raging in Kanata and other parts of the city.
“Math instruction is our area of greatest concern,” says Pino Buffone, superintendent of curriculum for the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board. “But the answer is not a return to the old days of rote instruction.
“What is needed is the right balance between problem solving skills and operational skills. That is our goal. We are hearing the message from parents and others, and that has always been our goal.”
Operational skills, by the way, are times tables and long division, the carrying and borrowing of numbers. Your old-school math instruction.
Buffone won’t say whether the proper balance is there right now. But the whole affair might remind you of a famous new-math joke (a limited comedic genre, granted, but still fun on occasion.)
The problem with inquiry learning is that students have figured out four plus five is the same thing as five plus four. What they haven’t learned yet is that four plus five equals nine.
Good luck out there.
Computer Science: low 90s
Computer Engineering: low to mid-90s
Electrical Engineering: low to mid-90s
Software Engineering: mid-90s
真心劝家长们别去EOM凑这个热闹。 老师对学的不咋的压分，对学得好也压分。两个牛蛙，一个都能进卡大数学竞争班，可能在校作业有点马虎吧，就是给刷分到80以下，给个教训； 另一计算机牛蛙，也如此，给刷到80以下，逼得人家天天自己找父母补数学。
只是进卡大Math Competitive II 的不能算math牛娃，我儿子同学里就有5 - 6个。那个计算机牛娃给说说怎么牛法?