Curriculum: This is simply WHAT a teacher needs to teach. For example, a Grade 3 student needs to be able to recall and understand up to 5 x 5.
Pedagogy: Is HOW the teacher teaches. For example, using direct instruction, peer coaching, PBL, etc.
Contrary to social media, presentations, and other means of critiquing the curriculum, the curriculum does not say:
- How teachers need to teach the outcomes.
- Discovery learning is a must. In fact the word discovery does not appear once in the entire document.
- "21st Century skills development", and "experiential learning". Neither of these phrases appear once in the entire document.
- Students should not be memorizing their basic facts.
Keep in mind that the curriculum is the WHAT not the HOW nor even the WITH WHAT.
Recently, an event, around public education, was held in Calgary at a private, gated school. The event was designed to inform parents of "the best practices in math". While the event was designed to encourage change at the government level, make no mistake this was a blatant attack on math teachers in Alberta, and other teachers in provinces following the same curriculum.
Next we have "Some things to watch out for"
For their third point, I have not met one person who suggests that students should not memorize their math facts. The difference is, however, students should memorize these facts out of application and use, not out of necessity.
This means, show students math in a context and for a purpose, and the memorization will occur. Have students roll dice, play cards, board games, car games, etc, as most (if not all) games have some link to reasoning, logical thinking, and mental mathematics.
"Understanding is not more important than skill"- This is again in reference to the actual art of teaching in the classroom. I have yet to meet one teacher who denies that skill is useful, but let's remember if we only focus on skill then learning can be disguised with simple memorization.
So why is there such an attack on the curriculum?
I believe because some are confusing the terms curriculum and pedagogy. Also, because we have a generation (parents) who learned math through memorizing algorithms and are confused around why their own children are not coming home with the same algorithms. Recently, some parents are now seeing the benefit of the change.
Also there has been use of the drop in PISA scores, however there has been no actual evidence that this drop has been caused by curricular changes.
The confusion, for a child, might start when a child is learning one way at school, and then coming home to hear that the strategy is not right. We must also realize that teachers are trained professionals around education. These professionals implement effective instruction based on the individual needs of the students. It is unfortunate that some want to see the art of teaching go to a procedural task of "tell students what to do, ask students to imitate the learning, repeat".
If you have a question around the math your child is learning, phone the teacher. Social media, news, and other hands not in K-12 education, have a way of distorting the truth. Keep in mind that teachers are trained to teach your child math in a way that is meaningful, and creating a passion towards numbers.
I remember back when I was in school and how there was an immense number of people whom hated math. It seemed as if math was the number one hated subject in school. (No research simply guessing here). Isn't it time this changes? Isn't it time we cultivate passion and number sense?
Math class needed a change, and this change is healthy. There is now balance. Before there was a focus to teach it one way and all students were required to learn that one way. Finally, alternative efficient strategies are not only accepted but encouraged! We are allowing students to not only learn math, but actually like it!