The CTV news piece by Michelle McQuigge of the Canadian Press, that a C.D. Howe Report (H/T Jack’s Newswatch # 2) blames “discovery” learning for the decline in math skills, is not only WRONG but irresponsible. It is irresponsible because “discovery” is simply the earliest introduction to the scientific method.
Put another way, “discovery” is about learning “how” to find answers, while the other is about memorizing knowledge about facts and skills — how to make an apple pie versus learning the parts of an apple.
The reality is that “discovery” or “inquiry” or “inspired” learning, whether it is part of a math program, language arts, or any other subject, is NOT a NEW instructional approach. In fact, it was part of Ontario’s Hall Dennis Report, which was big news back in 1968.
I would suggest that if the C.D. Howe Institute and parents and educators want to raise the PISA and OECD math test scores, by all means they need to advocate for classroom teachers to timetable at least 15 to 20 minutes a day (20% of the time rather than 80% of the time as Stokke recommends) on math skills and the memorization of facts (without the use of calculators).
However, they should NOT blame, forget or minimize the importance of using the various types of “discovery” and “inquiry” approaches to teach children “how to think.”
I mean, good grief, this is 2015, not 1955!!
If the public is angry with teachers, that is understandable given the mess that was made of “whole language” or “experiential language” back in the 1970s. True, it may have been experiential but it definitely wasn’t whole at all, having left out the discrete teaching of phonics and word structures at the primary level.
But, let’s face it, the problem was not with the “whole language” method per se. The problem was with what was left out by far too many teachers — who were told by their administration not to teach those skills. I know because I was teaching then and had to incorporate formal subjects like grammar and spelling into the language experiences.
Anyway, let’s not make the same mistake in 2015 with math by ignoring the real problem, that schools today are not teaching discrete compulsory basic skills — like old fashioned times tables and adding and subtracting in your head.
The crux of the matter and the reason I say the Howe report is irresponsible is because it blames the wrong reason math skills and test scores are down.
First posted May 20th at 4:04pm.
Updated and revised Saturday, May 30th at 10am.