Minding the Math: A rebuttal to criticism about 21st Century learning

Today’s students seem to outperform adults who had a more traditional math education, says a Werklund School of Education professor and Distinguished Research Chair in Mathematics Education.

Responding to a recent Globe and Mail column (Canada’s Math Woes are Adding Up – March 4), that notes students’ failure rates doubled on the last round of the OECD’s PISA testing, Brent Davis counters with another stat – revealing adult Canadians’ numeracy came in below the OECD average (and Alberta near average) in every age category. In contrast, Alberta students were consistently above average.

Additionally, PISA questions are changing, with an increasing emphasis on such higher-order processes as conceptualizing, generalizing, and investigating.

The column, which referred to 21st Century Learning as a ‘faddish, fuzzy notion’ questioned whether a move from traditional ways of learning and doing math were helping today’s students.

“We are skeptical that returning to prior strategies will help address a gap partially created by more demanding questions,” says Davis.

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