What to Do about Canadas Declining Math Scores May 27, 2015
Studie van prof. Anna Stokke e.a.
Canadian educators should abandon curricula and instruction
premised upon the assumptions of discovery-based learning, according to a new
C.D. Howe Institute report, which examines mounting evidence that this approach
seriously hampers math learning by students. In What to Do about Canadas
Declining Math Scores, author Anna Stokke urges provinces to act quickly to
improve the way mathematics is taught. For the report go to: http://www.cdhowe.org/pdf/commentary_427.pdf
The declining performance of
Canadian students on international math assessments should worry Canadians and
their provincial governments. Strong mathematics knowledge is required for
success in the workforce, and early achievement in math is one of the best
predictors of later academic success and future career options.
Between 2003 and 2012, all but
two Canadian provinces showed statistically significant declines in math scores
on international exams administered by the Organization for Economic
Cooperation and Development. In several provinces, the percentage of students
performing at the lowest levels in math significantly increased while the
percentage of students performing at the highest levels significantly decreased,
suggesting that more students are struggling and fewer students are excelling
in math. It should be a policy priority to halt these trends and to improve
math achievement for Canadian children.
In this Commentary, I examine domestic and
international evidence regarding three areas of provincial education programs
that could play an important role in halting the downward trend in math scores.
Imake three main recommendations regarding best teaching practices in math, the
math curriculum, and the math knowledge of future teachers.
Best teaching practices in math
have been at the forefront of discussions regarding declining math scores in
Canada. Discovery-based instruction also called problem-based, inquiry,
experiential, and constructivist learning has become popular in North America
in recent years, pushing aside direct instruction techniques, like times table
memorization, explicit teacher instruction, pencil-and-paper practice, and
mastery of standard mathematical procedures.
Based on international and
domestic evidence, this Commentary finds that studies consistently show direct
instruction is much more effective than discovery-based instruction, which
leads to straightforward recommendations on how to tilt the balance toward best
Student fluency with particular
math concepts, such as fraction arithmetic, in early and middle years has been
shown to predict future math success. This Commentary recommends that
provincial math curricula be rewritten to remove ineffective pedagogical
directives and to stress specific topics, at appropriate grade levels, that are
known to lead to later success in math.
Evidence shows that teachers who
are most comfortable and knowledgeable with the content they are required to
teach tend to transmit that knowledge best to students.
C.D. Howe Institute Commentary©
is a periodic analysis of, and commentary on, current public policy issues.
Barry Norris and