More Math instruction for Ontario

April 10, 2016


(Media, April, 2016)

It is utterly beyond me why good people will obstinately stick to bad teaching.  “Discovery” and “Constructivism” models have been discredited thoroughly for decades (try Googling Sweller and  Clark, which is perhaps the best of many “discovery” debunks).  To say as some do that it’s a people problem is a copout and escape mechanism.

“Get out a calculator” is simply horrible advice.  It ignores the important problem (what is the question you are trying to solve?) and concentrates on the relatively trivial problem of solving it (use a calculator).  The wise advice from a textbook on computer system design applies fully here when it says on p. 1, paragraph 1, “Step 1: Turn off the computer.”

Two tidbits from my experience:

1.  A student of mine showed me his answer to a physics problem in which he had not known the difference between a comma (a separator) and a dot (a decimal point), and had gotten the wrong result.  He had no “number sense”, which comes with practicing arithmetic problems and estimating results.

2.  A 10-year-old girl I was trying to help with her homework on which she had wasted an hour without results burst into tears when she couldn’t remember the “next step” in the stupid finger-multiplying method she had been taught. SHE WAS BEING DELIBERATELY TAUGHT TO HATE MATH!

Frank Gue, Burlington ON


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