**There is strength in numbers!**

If you are a parent, teacher, educator, employer, or citizen who is frustrated with math education in schools and **if you support this initiative, please leave your name, city/town, and email address in the comment form below.** (Your email address will not be displayed publicly.)

**To sign, scroll to the end of the comments.**

If you wish to leave a comment that is supportive of this initiative, in addition to your name in the comment form, you are welcome to do so. However, if you wish to discuss other issues which negatively affect math education in Canada, that are not listed as one of our “key objectives”, please visit the Other important issues page.

Please forward the link wisemath.org to your colleagues, friends, and other parents and encourage them to sign.

Note that by joining, you will not be required to do any work for WISE Math. However, you will be kept updated on important developments. Remember that the greater the number of names listed, the greater the likelihood that we will be successful in strengthening math education in western Canada and, more generally, in all of Canada.

**Before posting a comment please read the following:** WISE Math wishes to promote open discussion and debate on the issues we address — but this blog is not the place for that; our object here is to present an alternative to the controlling perspectives on these matters within the education community. If you wish to engage in debate with us then we encourage you to do so publicly, in open live forums, letters to the editors of newspapers and so on. Comments clearly intended to be part of such a debate may, and most likely will, not be approved.

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Cochrane, AB

keep up the good fight folks, don’t give up until this issue is resolved. Couldn’t agree more with the comment about kids being confused with the math as presented. Lets help our children and grandchildren so they have confidence going into the real world.

Karen Fehr – Port Elgin, Ontario. I absolutely support this initiative and hope something can be done very soon to help improve the math education system.

Vimalnathan Viswanathan, Toronto, Ontario

Sue Tedrick, Victoria, B.C.. I have two kids, one is in grade 4 and one in grade 5. Half way through this school year I’ve had to pull my grade 5 child out of school, and begin homeschooling. He has not memorized his multiplication tables, and doesn’t have comprehension of basic math (or spelling for that matter). I figure that in 2 hours per day of homeschooling, I can teach math (and other subjects) much more effectively than they can at school. The school is failing to teach basic math concepts, yet they have time to watch multiple movies at school! My younger boy is a math whiz, but now is losing interest in math.

Parent of elementary school aged kids. I’m appalled by the declining state of public education, particularly the foundational – skills, math, reading and writing. As a result, we pay $900 a month for tutoring to bring one of my children up to where she should be at her grade level.

Education in BC is becoming a 2-tier system. Shame!

Shelly Welsh – Elementary teacher Calgary, Alberta

I am very excited to see this initiative. There is a real need for change in Math education. Recently I was at a professional learning evening with some colleagues from my school. During the introductions one of the leaders mentioned that it was socially acceptable to be bad at math, whereas not being able to read was socially unacceptable. This comment struck me as sad but true and I want to do what I can to change that.

Irina Kuperis of Calgary, Alberta – a parent of 2 very different children in an Alberta Public School (Calgary Board of Education).

I support the WISE Math initiative.

–here are some things I had witnessed in my children’s schools:

1) math does not get enough time in the classroom. Example 1: Times in a week for a student to stew on a math problem are not frequent enough, or even non-existent. Example 2: There appear to be no periods in elementary schools – thus there is no dedicated time for any subject, not just math. In my opinion Language and Math in G1 to G6 must have dedicated time and strict program. There is a concept of ‘integrated curriculum’, but erroneously schools think that it is a replacement for dedicated subjects, when it should be a supplement.

2) focus is on discovery, but one can not get a good opportunity to discover anything when he/she has no basic understanding. – again, in my view, discovery methods are a supplement and should be downstream from the traditional teaching – as in the teacher explaining the concepts and showing examples, and doing it in different ways as to reach an audience as complete as possible. Only after the teaching is done and done again (3 to 5 times they say is what an avg person needs), – only then we should let the student free with their discovery.

3) methods are focused on too much (as opposed to understanding the concepts) – e.g. understanding what ‘addition’ is, vs. ‘methods to add’ certain types of numbers. If a kid understands the concept of what addition is, there is no need to force them to understand or memorize different methods to getting to a correct answer in elementary school. That is why it is elementary school – they need to get introduced to and understand many concepts – which together as a complete set will serve as a foundation for various methods in the later years. Up to G6 – you don’t need to explain or be able to employ multiple strategy – just one that works for that student is enough. I think this is why so many parents and students are frustrated – these numerous methods. The Teacher can and should explain the multiple methods – but only so that a kid can pick which works for him.

4) people are obsessed with early start, when they should be focused on outcomes by let’s say 8 or 10 years. old. Just because a kid at age 4 or 5 can sing numbers – does not mean that they understand what a number is or they understand the relative values of numbers.. If you start teaching a kid his numbers and addition at age 7 instead of 4 – your outcome will be about the same. But if you kid is really bright , and you start at 4 – he’ll be bored by age 7 and the system will lose him anyway..

5) math is complex. This is not history – where last year your learned ancient Greece, and this year the modern years of Europe, and you can pass and do well this year, even though you failed last year. In order to be able to solve complex math problems, understanding (and memory of ) many concepts, and mastery of many methods is needed. Otherwise a complex problem will look like a total black hole and the student will not even know how to break it up and how to look at it. That is why catching up is so difficult – if a student carries gaps from early years of math, they will struggle with math to the last year in high school.

(in reference to the comment of Madalina Popescu): Yes, and yes.

1 )drawing pictures of what is overly simple is a confusion to some kids and an artistic challenge too.

2) Get some books going, and revise them – perfect them, etc.. over the years… Right now it is free for all – there is no standard or common denominator (pun intended) in how or what teachers / schools teach.

Glenn Warriner Welland Ontario. Math is math. Why can’t they teach basic math. I have to teach my 11 year old his time tables. All this other crap they are teaching him makes it confusing.

I just started my math tutoring service in Saskatoon hoping great demand in math contest training. Then it turned out that most students I taught just need to memorize the times table to catch up their class. That’s so sad!

Absolutely a huge problem that we have in Canadian schools.I am constantly trying to find web sites,worksheets to give my daughter extra practice.

At long last good things are happening!! Congratulations to the people who initiated WISE Math.

Freeman and Chritene Reynolds, retired teachers

I support initiatives such as the WISE initiative.

Whitby, Ontario

J. Roland Tosney, P.Eng., M.Sc. in Engineering. Saskatoon SK.

I support the initiative for improving the math curriculum in Canadian schools.

Sanda Munjic, Toronto, ON

Nati, Toronto, Ontario

Shawna, Manitouwadge, On

Aaron Lees, Vancouver, BC, father to three children, Software Developer

Thank you so much for this initiative. My 5 year old in private Montessori preschool learned more math than my 7 year old in the public system. The current curriculum in math is truly a shameful disservice to our kids and I don’t understand why more professionals within the education system aren’t standing up against it. Anya Brox, Family Physician, Vernon, B.C.

Dr. Celeste Just, MD, family physician an mother of a bright 3 yr old daughter, Victoria, BC

Strong math skills are essential to success in future learning and career options!

Marc Valdivia

Barrington, IL

I strongly support this initiative. Why is kumon becoming a necessity instead of just a supplement for a few?? We know why.

As a Ph.D. engineer working at a research facility, I can attest to the importance of math in our lives and in our careers and earning potential. As a father of two, I can attest to the fact that the current curriculum is woefully inadequate in teaching math to our kids. My children were both struggling in math. We started them in the Kumon program here in Saskatoon, and in the last few months their math skills have improved 100-fold. The basic techniques and drilling were done for a reason!

My real concern is that I don’t see our educational system doing anything about this. This problem has been known for quite a while now, and parents, teachers, professors, and professionals who use math in our jobs have been sounding the alarm bells long and loudly for several years. Yet there is no move to switch back, only a few efforts to try to help parents understand the curriculum What is wrong with our educational administrators?? We do not have the time to help our kids with math for 20 minutes a night! Fortunately we can afford Kumon, but what about those who can’t? I detest the thought of a double standard for Canadian school kids, but at the same time I’m not going to sit back and see my kids be math innumerate, especially when they are very bright kids mathwise.

We need to stop this before it goes any further. If they switch back to the “old” math curriculum by this coming September it won’t be soon enough for me. This is critical in maintaining Canada’s position as a technological and economic leader, let alone advancing us in these areas.

“This problem has been known for quite a while now.” I think it’e more accurate to say the problem has been carefully crafted and introduced throughout k-12 for quite a while. The Education Establishment is tickled pink that so many parents submit without a fight.

Bruce Deitrick Price

Virginia Beach, Va.,

wisewords@earthlink.net

Same nonsense in USA. Common Core is drivel. “Math you need is not the math you get” is my most recent piece on American Thinker

(http://www.americanthinker.com/articles/2017/11/k12_the_math_you_need_is_emnotem_the_math_you_get.html)

Rebecca Burns, Calgary, AB

Last year my son was sent for therapy in school without my knowledge or consent. Since then, I have been following what they are doing closely. At some PTA meetings the Principal suggests books. The three books suggested were Grit-Angela Ducksworth, Mindset – Carol Dweck, and Mathematical Mindset – Jo Boaler. I followed the Yellow Brick Road, pulled back the curtain, and I’m telling ya, the wizard is terrifying.

I started reading in the opposite order. I began with Jo Boaler. I have never been more “triggered” in my life. I could go on for hours about the issues I have with this book, but I will keep it simple. Boaler states crazy ideas like children should be given higher grades for mistakes than for correct solutions as mistakes show that children are still learning. Page 44 has an example of an angle that 1/2 of grade 2 children did not see as a right angle. This concerned her, however I am more concerned by the kids who saw it as a right angle as it is 100 degrees, oopsie. also the square tilted on its side is not a square, the sides are 1 mm off, She praises Black Cabs in London, but slams rote learning, not sure how she thinks Black Cab drivers learn their routes, but I’m pretty sure its not by reflecting on how directions in London make them feel.

Next, I moved onto Mindset. The book seems to have a feel of cute names, but no research. Dweck’s take on Lee Iococca seems to be torn form the headlines of Wikipedia. It has such an anti capitalist feel to it.

Then I moved to Grit. After 4 chapters, I stopped. I started wondering about the measuring of Grit. I came across a document titled “Grit, Tenacity and Perseverance” from the US Dept of Ed. Ducksworth and Dweck were contributors to this document. My concern is the Datamining of our children. While in Alberta they swear up and down they aren’t implementing Common Core standards, they are it’s just given different cute names. All the same players have found their way into our schools.

I’ve now watched hours of testimony from James Milgram and others testifying before school boards trying to bring reason to all of this. None of the standards are about making are kids better at math, English or anything else. They could care less. I think it’s shameful for these school boards to care more about getting information on our kids than actually educating them. Currently we use Saxon at home to make sure our son does not fall behind because of bureaucrats.

Mark Twain once said “In the first place, God made idiots. That was for practise. Then he made school boards.” These days I would have to agree.

Thanks for telling your story Becky! It’s remarkable that the response to a mother’s concern was to assign you reading evidently designed to indoctrinate you. Apparently they felt your child’s problem was that you weren’t a “believer” — a bit cult-like at first glance. As you found, an intelligent reading of these writers reveals the vacuity in some of the modern theories of education. Saxon is a good choice. WISE Math (RC)I am a former high school math teacher, and my mom is a mathematician and retired high school math teacher. We have both spent the last eight years teaching my son math to compensate for deficiencies in the math program at school. Not only that, we have spent countless hours consoling my son to counteract the negative effects of constantly ‘failing’ math.

My son has a learning disability (LD) which makes learning and doing math very challenging for him (he has very weak visual-spatial processing abilities and working memory). We have found what works best for my son is the ‘back-to-basics’ approach your initiative is advocating. Students with LD are a very vulnerable group, at high risk of math anxiety, something we have experienced with my son. This is an important group to consider in our approach to math education.

Laurie Ricciuto, PhD, Math Mom

Toronto, ON

As an instructor teaching in the post-secondary sector, I teach many students from around the world in mathematics and other quantitative subjects. These students all come here for the quality of training they can get at that level. The question I would ask those who have made changes to the mathematics curriculum is this: if these changes are good changes(beneficial to our kids) why is it that the top performers in my class are always International students?

Over the last five years, those of us who teach mathematics and other quantitative subjects to students are seeing a steady decline in algebra and arithmetic skills of student entering college and university. Many International students are puzzled to be in the same class with students who can’t do basic arithmetic or algebra and as a result cannot pass pre-calculus. The difference between these sets of students is like night and day.

Hi Isaac. Your story is very common in the postsecondary sector across Canada. As we teach at that level too we know exactly what you’re talking about. This is partly what has motivated us to start WISE Math! Thanks for adding your voice to ours! — RC (WISE Math)Keep up the good work. This is much needed for our childrens’ futures.

Moira Stoll, Melville, SK, Canada

Finally I have stumbled upon a site that is about changing this new curriculum. I have watched parents struggle and worse of all the children struggle. I teach my daughter math outside the class as she can’t seem to learn the way they are teaching now. Since taking that time to teach her myself she has improved immensely. Sad that the teachers are forced to teach this new way and watch as their students suffer.

From Enderby, British Columbia

I am 100% in support of this initiative. Math curriculum has to change, it’s about time!

In total support. As a parent, how am I supposed to assist my child in their learning if I do not understand the new math process? I guess that means us parents will have to go back to school as well…and we all have the time for that, eh.

Colleen, Calgary, AB

I am 100% in support of this initiative. Thank you to the founders for raising awareness, taking a firm stance, and being passionate about a huge issue which requires so much remediation. I’ve been tutoring high school math since 2000. The students are great but the system is so disheartening. I want to do whatever I can to be a part of changing the system.

Dear Robert Craigen, Anna Stokke and Fernando Szechtman,

I would like to congratulate you all for this initiative. I have been teaching engineering to technologists and technicians at Saskatchewan Polytechnic for three years now and my experience has been similar to yours regarding the problems with math. Here at the college I frequently see students that come from high school with high grades getting frustrated because of the required math skills for the successful completion of an engineering technology course at a post-secondary educational institution. You have my full support and admiration for this noble initiative.

Gilberto Alexandre

Ph.D., P.Eng., Instructor

Saskatchewan Polytechnic

Moose Jaw Campus

Great job taking this on! I’m in full support as I saw the same self esteem decline in my own children with the muddled confusion they deliver and call math.

Definitely happy to support your initiative.

Very relevant discussion!

While we like the new initiatives to address many different learning styles my husband and I feel that sometimes education has to involve rote memorization. We need the basics taught and secured first right from the start. It seems that the system waits too long to introduce the basics (adding/subtracting etc). I strongly feel that many children are bored and distracted because they are not challenged and engaged enough. I feel that this has contributed to the difficulty teachers have in controlling the classroom as much as poor diet and excessive screen time. There are also far too many methods to do one type of problem. Consequently, children were confused and failed simple tests. Please review the mathematics education curriculum so that all children have a balance between adjusted learning styles and memorization of basic facts.

Mikiala, North Saanich, BC

My name is Jennifer Langer. My family lives in North Saanich, BC, and my 2 boys attend schools in SD63. I am a pharmacist, and my husband is a mechanical engineer.

Both my husband and I have been very frustrated and concerned with the “new” math that my son has been learning. He has always been strong in math, but now I see him frustrated when he’s doing his homework. For example, in division: the way he’s tried to show how they are supposed to group seems much harder & a longer process than long division. Why confuse the students?? Why change something that has been proven to work? It is a step backwards!!

Please help our children and scrap the new ways. I’m sure some students benefit from this new ciriculum…but with so many complaints about it…it’s time to go back to the old way.

Thank you.

I am a mom of 3, a scientist and am married to an engineer. There is no way myself, my husband and all of our peers in the scientific community can be wrong about the state of math in Ontario. Every co-worker we have with children re-teach math at home or hire tutors. I work full time and now have to home school math to 3 kids who don’t understand why they have to do extra work since they get good grades. We work hard at multiplication tables, but discovered last night that my oldest son, in grade 5, and the rest of his class, are encouraged to use a times table grid (basically a cheat sheet) when they do their work. I feel like I get zero support from the teachers or the curriculum. I’m at my wits end and am terrified that my kids will fall behind in higher grades despite my best efforts. My husband and I both did well in math, but I’m not sure nature is enough.

Please replace the useless approach in assessing students basic arithmetic based on their ability to provide answers in pictures, numbers and words, with more practice to speed up those basic Math skills. We started our oldest in a Math after school class in grade 8, our second born in grade 3, and our 3rd born in grade 1 because of the big bad joke Math has been in Ontario public elementary schools. Listening to Ontario Colleges staff in media and finding that 1st year community college students struggle with grade 5 Math, it validated my views as a parent that public schools in Ontario are inadequate when it comes to teaching Math. However instead of meaningful changes such as textbooks made or reviewed by educators with University Degrees in Math, curriculum based on feedback from real Math professors, our Ministry of Education pumps millions to change quantity (ie hours spent in Math in classroom) than quality. What a waste of our tax dollars!!!

I want my children to receive at least as rigorous a math education as I did when I was growing up. Children in Ontario’s classrooms today no longer have to memorize the multiplication table, and the curriculum has been watered down to the point that one cannot be confident that one’s children have the requisite math skills required for basic numeracy. This significantly impedes any citizen’s financial intelligence. I don’t want to feel guilty for sending my kids to public school. I want my children to receive a solid foundation in arithmetic, multiplication, long division, percentages, fractions. I teach many older Ontario teens who lack these skills. Their ignorance of basic numeracy is appalling. These teens are a result of some voguish decision, made at least a decade ago, that these skills were no longer necessary. This is a travesty. I’ve compared Ontario’s math curriculum with other US states, and I’ve concluded that Ontario’s curriculum is not half as rigorous as the curriculum expectations in states like Georgia, California, and many others.

This cannot continue. Until Ontario’s curriculum standards improve, I will have to pay for private tutoring in order to fill the gaps in their Ontario education.

Micheal McNeill, Ottawa, Onatrio

Rachelle Lemay- Collingwood Ontario

Thank goodness for Kumon math assisting my child with the basics needed.

Wish to see a stronger math program

I teach at a small community college and see many otherwise bright and capable students who not only have difficulty with basic math, many are afraid of math. The math curriculum taught in school has let them down. I strongly support this initiative.

Trevor Schindeler, North Bay

Liz Schmidt, Waldheim, SK

I have a daughter in grade 8 going through this right now. This is a horrible way to teach something that is so simple.

Alison Tamara Pugh, Rose Valley, Sask.

Let’s stop this “new math.” Our kids are paying for it!! There are so many teachers that don’t like it and don’t understand how to teach it. This is insane to keep this method going. Let’s all help each other!

Fawn Perry, Martensville, SK

Our children are lost in trying to figure out what concept to use to complete a question that can be answered with standard math that we were taught by the time they figure out what to do. Kids are finding math frustrating because the curriculum is confusing. Children should learn basics of adding, subtraction, division and multiplication and master these prior to moving to more difficult “concepts”.

I support this Initiative. Kimberley Creaser, Manotick, Ontario

I listened to the CBC program on this topic and agree that the way math is taught today isn’t working. Like many other parents, I’ve spent countless hours at home, after school, helping my younger children get through math homework. Two years of volunteering in classrooms revealed that many students in grades 5 and up couldn’t do single digit addition. They were counting on their fingers! Not surprisingly, these kids struggled with multiplication and division because they hadn’t mastered adding and subtracting. We need to go back to the basics.

The “discovery method” of learning only works for those who already have a strong grounding in mathematical principles. My oldest child was fortunate – he “got” math from an early age and started discovering it on his own in kindergarten. In junior high, he studied it through distance learning rather than in the classroom. By grade 10, he’d finished high school math and enrolled in university level math courses. He’s now a Ph.D. student studying .. what else .. theoretical math!

But most students aren’t so fortunate. My other three children and many other students I’ve seen don’t “get” math so easily. They can’t discover anything meaningful unless and until they have a solid foundation in the basics.

My 7 yr old came home from school and told me she was stupid because she struggles with math. I sat down with he and within 10 minutes had her understanding basic vertical addition and subtraction. She asked why her teacher makes it so hard. The next day she came home and told me that what I taught her was wrong. For one day at least she understood math. We are so frustrated – the math curriculum doesn’t work. We need change.

Maxine

Winnipeg, MB

I just heard the CBC interview, this Manitoba Professor Robert Craigan was so right. My 4th grade daughter has gone through multiplications, divisions and fractions in less than one semester! She literally went through quizzes with multiplications for two weeks without doing one memorization drill in class. Writing the fact family down does not give you the result. If you have the 3 numerals yes, but if one space is blank and you don’t have that memorized it wont just appear in your memory. Her math teacher is wonderful, doing extra math on her own time to support students, but the way it is taught has just confused my daughter more. Figuring out the times tables isn’t going to happen, memorize it and then you can build on that. Last year she was taught 3 different “methods” to add….so she spent her time trying to fit the right method in….it just confused her. I hope Ontario goes back to the basics and heeds all the declining scores and research so our kids don’t pay the price for people in a board room coming up with these “new” teaching techniques.

as a parent of 2 boys, 12 and 9, I am very frustrated with our math curriculum in Ontario. my wife and I pay extra math classes for both boys at a cost of 250$/month. Both instructors oh PhD in mathematics and we are very pleased with the success in math that our boys achieve with this program. I cannot overstate how frustrated we are with the math curriculum in Ontario and we can only hope that this initiative sparks change not only for Manitoba but for Ontario as well

I have been teaching high school math in Ontario for 28 years. In the past 10-12 years, the math skills of the students who come into grade-9 have greatly declined. Some of them come into academic math without being able to multiply in their heads! Most of them have no idea how to do long division. Integers without a calculator – ha! And don’t get me started on fractions. I try to teach these basic skills, but I also have to teach the curriculum – not enough time. I tell all of my friends who have children to make sure that they, the parents, are teaching their kids how to perform basic math skills. We need to go back to the basics first, then try the discovery method for learning math.

Andrea Atherley, Toronto, ON

I am a teacher and a parent and I heard Robert Craigen on CBC radio this morning and 100% agree with everything he is saying. Thank you for speaking out about this!

Bruce Deitrick Price, Virginia Beach, Va.

My own research suggests that the people behind New Math, Reform Math and now Common Core Math are extremely clever at devising new ways to confuse and befuddle young students. These people are not typically mathematicians or math professors. They are education professors; and their goals are ideological in nature.

Jesse Martin

Raymond, Alberta

PhD specializing in Learning and Education

Fleur Bennett, mother of 3 kids in elementary school in Calgary, AB. The math curriculum is a disaster. Equally frightening is that no one in administration seems to recognize this. It is a frustrating quandary with which to be faced.

I support this initiative, and want all our children to feel empowered and confident in their math! Sara dela Torre, Calgary, Alberta

I echo everything stated by the others before me. It’s broken and our girls, 16 and 17 are now becoming self aware of the outcomes here in Nova Scotia and they are very concerned.

While we don’t allow multiple comments on this thread from a single user I am allowing this second comment from this IP because it’s being used by both Tony and Mary Ann M — the objective is to maintain a headcount of those who support our initiative — WISE Math (RC)Tessa Carmosino, Toronto, Ontario

I’m another frustrated parent of 4 that spends hours after school trying to re-teach my children math. I feel that I have to home-school my boys after school as they don’t always seem to be getting enough instruction on a lesson at school before the teachers decide it’s test time and time to move on to the next lesson. And the amount of information that they have to sift through and some of the topics that they spend time on is unreal at this age. As for math, i want to teach them/help them, but i can’t. Not because i can’t figure out the answer, but because i am teaching them the “wrong” way. “That’s the old way mom. We’ll get in trouble if we do it that way.” Unfortunately I don’t always understand the “new” way. But when the kid working at the corner store can’t count back change or has trouble counting the change given to him, you have to wonder if this “new” way is working. The new concepts are confusing, they have no basic skills or understanding. After 3 – 42 minute periods of class time (teaching and practicing) the concepts of division – estimating the quotient, long division, short division – the teacher tests the students. My son comes home with a failing mark and then asks “why? Am I stupid?” “No son, you are not!” After only a total of 126 minutes, or 2 hrs and 6 minutes, and that includes teaching the concepts and then trying to fit in practice time, can anyone in grade 5, for the first time being introduced to the concept of division get it and pass.

I’m at my wits end. I’m frustrated with the teacher, the school and the education system

Tessa Carmosino, Toronto Ontario

Mother of 4 boys ages 13, 11, 10 and 7.

James Ellison, Pre-Service Teacher, Calgary, AB.

I noticed when my daughter was in Gr 2 that she was having difficulty with basic addition ie: she could not add 2+4 in her head, she had to use her hands or draw circles / lines. But she was bringing home “exceptional” grades in math. It did not make sense. Long story short, for the past 2 years I have paid for her to go to a private math tutor to learn what she should be learning in school and for free. So instead of being able to play outside or join an additional extracirricular activity, she is inside doing math 30 minutes every day. After only 2 years she is now technically 2 grades ahead of where her peers are, she finishes her math tests and checks all the answers for a 2nd time before the second child in the class finishes. Many students in her Gr. 5 class still do not know their times tables. This is ridiculous and it needs to stop!

Sandra Craig-Browne

Rockland, ON (near Ottawa)

Frustrated parent of 3 boys – gr 6,4 and 1. My kids are all getting straight A’s in math in school, but that’s not the problem – the problem is that the new curriculum has become so bogged down with this ridiculous ‘discovery’ ideology that the kids are not learning ANYTHING useful. I briefly homeschooled my older two boys and I’m pretty sure in the past 2-3 years since they’ve been back in the public school system they have learnt nothing new.

My boys are all capable of doing fine in this new curriculum, but they still are not receiving the skills they NEED for their futures. So that leaves it up to us, his parents, to teach them actual math skills and knowledge. Luckily me and my husband are both proficient at math, my husband more than myself, but why should we have to take on this burden?!? More importantly it is spectacularly unfair to the kids, who have to spend 6+ hours at school buried in this ‘discovery’ math, and write tests that look more like english essays than numeracy. THEN they have to come home and have me teach them math skills – it’s twice the work, which is tiring and a completely pointless waste of their time. My gr 6 boy can do all the Math Makes Sense techniques just fine – he just rolls his eyes and finds them clumsy, inefficient, and pointless. He’s also frustrated at feeling like he’s bored to death at school when his peers are struggling with BASIC multiplication that he learnt at the age of 8-9. My middle boy in gr 4 has done more colouring and art than working with numbers in math class this year. I’m so angry.

We need change and some common sense and reality back into our schools. My kids get great math grades but it’s all meaningless tripe when they aren’t learning any skills that they will need for post secondary and real world careers!! My eldest wants to be an engineer, and now I’m stuck trying desperately to each him through Khan Academy, workbooks, my own rusty knowledge, and then finding university outreach math courses that of course aren’t free. WHY should I have to do this?!? But what other choice do I have? We’re talking about a 12 year old kid that understands new high school algebraic concepts from seeing them ONCE, that read Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time and understood it completely, and he’s stuck in a math class that’s struggling to compute 13/39 = 1/3. It makes me want to cry at the waste of potential of SO many kids. :(

Patti Summers

Winnipeg, MB

I am a graduate student at the University of Victoria reading for a PhD in Educational Studies. i am an international student and i have teaching experience teaching math and physics and related engineering subjects for about 32 years. here at the university i mark assignments for the math department for the course math for elementary teachers and was quite horrified to see the text book for that course; where you teach the teachers’ to be to think like children. they might call it discovery math but its an algorithmic (computerized) math curriculum. i think math teachers should be taught a problem solving course like the one initiated by Professor George Polya at the University of Stanford a long time back. as it is the case now, this curriculum not only dumb the students it dumb the elementary teachers as well who are instructed in this curriculum

since you have mentioned a website;i have a website where i prepared online quizzes for my students back in Sri Lanka to practice multiplication tables and sign arithmetic, anybody wants to use it, you are welcome!

i totally support your cause

As a parent I fully support this initiative. What parent isn’t frustrated with the modern math curriculum and “Math Makes Sense” textbooks!

I agree

Darryl Sande, Prince Albert, SK. My 14 year old son in grade 9 does not understand multiplication or division and our 8 year old daughter in grade 3 thinks she is an idiot because she does not understand the way her math is being taught. We are taking a more active role in teaching her the basics in an effort to strengthen her math skills before she gets to high school.

There is no need for children to struggle this much in mathematics. Furthermore, the negative impact it’s having on self esteem where math is concerned has the potential to set them up for life long failure in this subject.

Change needs to happen!

Heather Mrak, Surrey, British Columbia — concerned parent !! The math curriculum needs to change!

Winnipeg, Manitoba and Edmonton, Alberta

I completely echo all of the comments so far, keep the pressure on!

Tiffany Lee; Calgary Alberta

Greg Chan, Burnaby, BC

Math Makes Sense is the reason why so many children are enrolled in Kumon for math.

Lia Morley, Calgary, Alberta

Mother of two school aged boys who have suffered as a result of the new math curriculum. My boys are the guinea pigs used to test a new system that has failed them.

Tiffany Stenhouse

Swift Current, SK

Math makes sense is the WORST thing that’s every happened to our schools! Kids are graduating and not able to do university math now because they don’t even know the basics! And how are parents supposed to help their children? Even after taking a university math class with a 97% average, it still took me 3 hours to figure out grade 6 math, it’s completely ridiculous! This is all based on a few people who think about numbers in a different way (which is totally fine-BUT MOST people don’t see numbers that way, they are the exception!). So why are we basing our school math program on a few individuals?! This is completely unacceptable, too many kids are now FAILING math due to this horrible “Math Makes Sense”! Spread the word, these are OUR kids, if we REFUSE to accept this method, it’ll have to be changed!

Swift Current, SK

Brent Mac Farlane , Winnipeg MB

I found this site while searching “Manitoba Math crisis”., because although I do not have a mathematics background, I was concerned about the stories I was hearing from a student about their classes and the frustration they felt .There seemed to be a disconnect between the course outlines and what was actually happening in the classroom, such as a pre calculus class where the teacher put notes on the blackboard, the students copy them and that’s the lesson. There seems to be an entrenched bureaucracy. It’s discouraging, but I was glad to see that there are others who

feel the system is broken.

Treena Boyde, Logy Bay, Newfoundland

I hope this initiative reaches the East Coast of Canada!

John Walsh, Vancouver, BC

I’ve been looking thru some of the resources on this website: the paper by Herbert Wilf (who I happen to know is a first-class mathematician) which demolishes some inexcusably bad research papers in education, B. Quirk’s dissection of the truly unfortunate paper by Kamii and Dominick on the mortal danger of algorithms, Professor Craigen’s account of the near-impossibility of a university mathematics department influencing the grade school mathematics curriculum, and Tara Houle’s piece in the Vancouver Sun warning of the deplorable teaching fads embodied in the BC grade school curriculum. These are only a few examples, but they are all too typical, so I have been searching for something positive to say. I believe I have found something.

This situation is good, for it will provide lots of supplementary income for

mathematics students (who need it) in tutoring the many grade and high school students who cannot understand the new teaching methods. In fact, our math departments should give a one-semester course on “Tutoring and Teaching K-12 Mathematics” to their own students. This would prepare them to tutor arithmetic and algebra. It would also have the sneaky side-effect of teaching them enough about arithmetic and algebra to take our usual first calculus course. For, after a few years of this curriculum, they’ll need it.

Jean-Paul Ginestier, Toronto, ON.

Retired secondary (specialist in IB, grades 12 & 13) math teacher, was appalled when I discovered in my 40s that young students were taught all kinds of weird, inefficient, nonsensical ways to do simple math. Now as a grandfather of an almost 3-year-old, I dearly hope that the curriculum will start making sense again soon…

The basic multiplication and division that I was taught in the 80’s has been the FOUNDATION for me to be able to run a successful business. I am distraught about the current math being taught to my children. This is such an urgent issue, we already have a lost decade of children. WHERE ARE ALL THE TEACHERS IN THIS? They certainly have a loud enough voice with their unions for pay raises and their prep time….THEY WOULD HAVE MORE SUPPORT IF THEY STOOD UP FOR REAL MATTERS THAT AFFECT OUR CHILDREN.

K. Lemieux, North Saanich, BC.

Question the reasons behind curriculum reform.

I welcome and encouraged the expansion of this initiative.

Peter Hanson, Oakville, ON.

David Grant, Vancouver, BC (parent of 6 and 3 year olds). Math lover.

Lynda Hamer, Surrey, BC, lyndajoan7@gmail.com

It seems that many teachers are uncomfortable with Math, and prefer the language-based and discussion-based approaches to the topic. This completely negates the concise, precise, and logically coherent structure of numeric mathematics. Many children have strength in these areas of logic and numerology, and their personal strengths are not in language, spelling, and discussion. Those children who previously would have found a place to excel in maths as a source of personal pride, are now relegated to feel inadequate in all subjects.

If a child favours this oral/linguistic approach to science, then that’s great for them, but there should be a traditional stream of education for those who can appreciate the 2000 years of scientific development that have lead to modern mathematics.

Ken Tough

Port Moody, BC

I heard about WiseMath the other day on the CBC. I have had similar concerns as a teacher and a parent. Especially regarding students not learning traditional algorithms and being very confused by too many strategies to subtract or multiply. I am also interested in sharing and further developing some multiplication songs I developed while teaching ‘remedial’ math in Jamaica. These songs I feel, and many colleagues and students have told me, are an easy and excellent way to memorize multiplication facts because they use songs that most kids are familiar with (Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star, Mary Had a Little Lamb). My son (budding musical engineer), daughter and I put together a CD which I have shared with some teachers and students, but it has been a dream of mine to have them remixed, sung by a group of children ideally, and put on youtube and/or the WiseMath website to share with all kids. If any one in your group is interested and has the expertise for this type of project I would happily collaborate on this project. And of course I can send a sample of one of the songs for you to preview.

Looking forward to helping kids build strong math muscles…Marianne

NOTE: We don’t facilitate conversations in this thread as it is for “signon” to our initiative in which we allow “joiners” to tell their story. To keep a proper headcount we can only allow one comment per user. However if anyone wants to help Marianne with her project, give us a shout at contactwisemath.gmail.com and we’ll put you in touch — WISE Math (RC)I am a grandmother. I keep hearing about this new mathematics and am horrified to think that my grandchildren (all of our children) are not learning the simple foundations of mathematics in an easy, understandable, logical way. I loved math and algebra when I was in school in the 40’s and 50’s. I loved the logic of it and the way it required me to think. It enhanced the music programs I was lucky enough to enjoy as well. We must protest these alterations in the basic skills of math and English just for the sake of “coming up with something different!” Let’s make it happen! Thank you for this opportunity. Carollyne Leighland, Gibsons, BC

As an assistant in elementary classrooms it has been very frustrating to see the students struggle in math. I have always said and I agree with ideas mentioned previously that the rote method/memorizing the facts should come first. When the student sees the pattern then they discover what makes math “tick”. If a student is obviously struggling with the memorization then they can be guided to one of the strategies that work for them. Too many bright kids are struggling with math…it doesn’t make sense to them.

[reply to other comment]

Yes, I wouldn’t be surprised if statistics would say that the graduates of grade 12 show a lot fewer numbers that have really “mastered” math.

Brent Waite, Ottawa, ON

How much did it cost to come up with and implement the policy for Discovery Math?

I would think that the long historical, settled, effective approach to math the Japanese follow, that makes learning math natural and applicable.

Do we need to continuously dream up costly alternative ways to teach when there are already tried and true methods? Also, why distance the help to children from their parents, and making further struggle in the classroom to learn such a fundamental subject?

Sure glad my kids were allowed to attend Japanese school on Saturday mornings, it has provided them with an ability that makes their public school math experience stress free.

rozalia pak – we supplement math at home because the work at from school is a joke

Rachelle MacNeill, Calgary, Alberta

Graduate of UBC (Chemical Engineering with honours, 1990s), mother of 2 (age 8&13). From the moment I saw the curriculum when my oldest was in grade 3, it seemed beyond obvious that the ‘Discovery Math’ was confusing and detrimental to developing a strong foundation in the basics. It has proven to be an obstacle to mastery and has left me extremely frustrated with the lack of acknowledgement of this at the administrative levels. They seem more interested in saving face and protecting their position than in what is truly best for the students. Stop the insanity….the Emperor has No Clothes, and this New Math methodology is not working!

My children are struggling with Math Makes Sense. We have had to hire a tutor 2x/week to re-teach our children the ‘new concept’ of math.

Eliana Yepez

Ottawa,Ontario

I see how the infatuation with “discovery” education have decimated long standing achievements in K-12 education. I agree that we can always improve and find better ways of being inclusive, innovative, and evolve with the changes of time. But change for the sake of change, or because a word like discovery is so seductive, is reckless. The current advocates of discovery education had truly “throw the baby with the bathwater”, a crude analogy that unfortunately fits this situation perfectly. Moreover, we see whole education departments in Canadian Universities being almost exclusively populated by “researchers” who made their careers finding reasons to embrace the discovery approach. It will take a long time to flush out the misconceptions these faculty stand by; lets hope that most of them have enough respect for the scientific method as to admit the failures and start working in repairing the damage.

This discussion is not all black and white. Discovery and critical thinking are fundamental for steps for a healthy learning process. However, to reach the “play and discovery” stage a learner first needs to learn the fundamentals (usually) by direct instruction.

Would you send a future athlete to the field before they learn the fundamentals of their sport? Imagine that you have a class of kids that have never seen a basketball game brought to a basketball court and given the ball. Assume that none of these students know how to even use a ball in this game. You do not show them how to bounce the balls, or what are the hoops for, or what all the lines in the court mean. Go! Discover a game! You tell them. How many good basketball players do you think would turn out from this approach?

Do something similar in music class. Bring a new class of students and show them a bunch of musical instruments. Ask them to play and discover how the instruments work and also create a system to write the music down! How many musicians would come out of this approach? (I must credit my wife, a great high-school teacher, for suggesting these analogies)

So, why do educators think that doing this teaching approach with mathematics would work? Thousands of year of mathematical knowledge will not be discovered over and over in K-12 classrooms! First, TEACH the basics, the fundamentals, help students succeed and know that they can do math. Once the basics are mastered, students can venture into discovery because they would already “speak” a basic mathematical language.

Lets all work together to bring common sense back to K-12 education. Common sense dictates that one must first master the basics of a discipline before venturing into the discovery path. We must first speak the language before we can write any poetry.

Absolutely agree with you as well as others that have posted. But this goes further than just math – students are not taught the basics in English reading writing RESPECT (although respect should be taught at home as well) – the work that comes home is appalling however students still pass to the next grade. I am so upset raising a granddaughter under these circumstances – who would have thought at 69 I am relearning math???? It is small wonder that there are behavior problems in school which then flow through into society – school bus driver incident in Edmonton this week. A child who was excited about school has lost her initiative to learning. Education should be the first concern of governments yet they hold back in funding come up with a ridiculous curriculum and we are at there mercy. I have been told that if a teacher does not follow the curriculum they are fired.

My daughter, currently in grade 6, struggled in math. Grade 5 they used the Math makes sense and she was so frustrated, her marks went down. We battled through the whole year, and by battle it was tears and yelling to try to interrupt it so she wouldn’t have to do it. Grade 6, her current teacher uses basic math skills. The textbook is from quite a few years back. Simplified Math but she HATES it now. She puts her wall up as soon as you mention math, and memories of crying and screaming because she couldn’t get it enter her thoughts immediately.

I cry for her sometimes as she will have to fight through this subject for the rest of her school years! Why they have introduced this baffles me!

Karen McHady Nanaimo, BC

Please add my signature to this. Radu Craiu, Toronto, Ontario

Tracy Phillips, Nanaimo, BC Worried parent of a grade 2 girl.

Thanks for starting this petition. I’m a retired engineer and a parent of two grade eight children. Thankfully, they’re currently being taught by some pretty good “old school” teachers, but we’ve had some pretty bad experiences in the recent past that we’ve had to correct with Kumon.

I am in compete agreement that the current math system is not working. Thank you for starting this.

I do agree that we are in the wrong place with math instruction in BC. We need to come back to a balanced approach. I do not believe that Jump is the answer – there are some key bits missing there as well. Thank you for (re)starting this conversation!

this is a shame and needs to be reformed. I am paying for tutors

Hao Chen, Coquitlam, BC, parent to two girls (9 and 13 years old), Chemist

Mike Lyne, Edmonton Alberta parent to 3, professional engineer.

I have taught Math for years and I believe in learning the basic facts. I have written a Math reference for Students in Grade 7-10 explaining the basics that are essential. Quesnel, BC

Absolutely agree -my granddaughter now hates math and this is now flowing through other subjects as well. She is in FI! Can you imagine the hours of translating this into English in order to help her. The first 3 months of Grade 5 were based on estimating and after the first month of grade 5 was told that the children need to memorize multiplication tables. Agree with Jennifer Balon – math is an exact subject. The complete curriculum needs to be changed – kids cannot spell. Grammar is non existent neatness does not count children do not know proper formation of printing let alone writing. I am so upset this year as this has demoralized a very intelligent student. You have my 100% support for this petition.

I’m already planning on sending my children (kindergarten and toddler ages) for remedial math lessons after school. I would rather they learn these skills in class!

The state of math instruction in Ontario is appalling. I have three kids – 11, 9 and 6 and do not understand why instruction is the way it is. I applaud this movement – and hope things will spread to Ontario.

Leila Rai, Math teacher grades 8-10…I support this initiative. I find that entering grade 8, kids DO NOT have the basic foundational numeracy skills needed to grasp the higher concepts. Overall, their basic skills and recall of math facts are weak. I end up doing traditional repetitive type exercises in order for students to be proficient enough to move onto the more abstract and sophisticated math. I dislike the “discovery method” and in all honesty, it messes with my brain too. I see where developers are trying to go with this approach, yet I am not convinced it’s a better method or effective. What ends up happening is that by grade 10, the class is composed of kids ranging from a grade 3 – grade 12 level of skill. Some can do basic math, like multiplying and division, and many others can’t (without a calculator). Frustrating to say the least!

Lana Nation, Regina, SK. Mother of two children – ages 7 and 8.

I’m a parent and an electronic engineer. I cannot imagine a Canada where we purposely and systematically downgrade our children’s education and their ability to function in today’s world. Basic math skills are critical in many aspects of life – by omitting the basics we are not only causing undue and unfair stress on our own kids but we are also failing to prepare them for life’s opportunities and challenges. Our children’s futures are in our hands and this is a defining moment for us as parents and educators. I will be supporting this effort in every way I can. Thanks to all those making this movement happen.

I am a parent and an electrical engineer in Victoria BC. Canada is generally recognized as a first world country and relatively well off (GDP per capita in top 20). I believe a large part of our country’s future is in science and technology. Our children should have access to a world class math education. We can afford it … and cannot afford to ignore it!

This ridiculous math curriculum finally and unfortunately made its way to Nova Scotia in 2013. I may have to move out West when they replace the math curriculum there, because we are so far behind Western and Central Canada that it will probably take at least ten years for Nova Scotia to follow suit. I don’t think I can teach a curriculum that is so contrary to common sense for that many years.

Brett. Maple Ridge B.C.

Can’t believe that lack of education in elementary schools especially the math curriculum. Father of 2 9 and 12

This needs to be Implemented as soon as possible. Parent of two (12-15)

Kennedy Ferrier, Crescent Valley, BC

I support this initiative.

Montreal QC

Where can I sign the petition? I already feel the big difference from what my older son was learnig in my home country and what is being taught to my other son here! They go too slow and not much practice. In lebanon in the second grad they start memorizing multiplication tables and in third grade they use it. ow they just started learning it here in third grade, so because he wasn’t practicing it until now, he forgot half of it! And the teacher keeps on telling him you don’t have to practice it in writing at home like I ask him to do! Which was the fastest way for my older son to memorize it.

Hi Rima. You just signed it. That’s why we have a one-comment-per-visitor rule: your comment is your signature. Thanks for telling your story and adding your voice! — WISE Math (RC)THANK YOU for this initiative.

This 3 1/2 year old article ( http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/new-math-equals-trouble-education-expert-says-1.1058161 ) contains a quote from Simone Gareau who was with the Saskatchewan Ministry of Education at the time and her statement is exactly backwards and incorrect, “What we’re aiming for is that deep understanding. Once they have that in place, they can move to the traditional algorithm if that’s a strategy that works for them.” This comment section is too short to explain all of the reasons why her statement is exactly backwards!

I was taught traditional math and in high school I won a Certificate of Distinction from the University of Waterloo, Faculty of Mathematics, for ranking in the top 10% of contestants across Canada, so I have great confidence in my opinion that new math is horribly crippling our children and putting the future or our country at risk. Period.

“New” math….pardon me? Math has not changed – numbers have not changed. Adding the label “new” to math is in itself an oxymoron and whoever coined that term as about as wise as the above mentioned government appointee.

I have started tutoring my nine year old. Her Grade Three teacher teaches addition and multiplication tables as much as she can, and until my daughter entered this class I had no idea how poor her math skills were until I was able to gauge them against these tables. This teacher believes in the old system but is stifled by the “new” math curriculum. My daughter has received good marks in math, but cannot add 3 digit numbers (carrying over and starting from the right were foreign concepts to her), doesn’t know the single digit addition tables nor the multiplication tables beyond 2 without help. We are working hard simply doing drills and memorization and she is RAPIDLY improving…her brain WANTS to know these universal facts. She doesn’t need to figure it out on her own, she doesn’t have the spatial or conceptual brain power to do that yet – she is in Grade Three!

Very well said, Gina. We’re finding that parents, and many teachers, across Canada really get this. Many parents are finding the same when they start to tutor their child with conventional approaches: the lights go on! And it turns out the child was not deficient in the subject at all, they just needed systematic instruction and skills development. The craziness is largely infused into the system by some in the educational establishment who have attached themselves to tantalizing-sounding theories that just don’t mesh well with common sense and have gained undue influence. But it is nothing particularly new in education, as anyone familiar with oder swings such as the 60’s New Math or the Whole Language controversies will attest. You’re exactly right about the priority being backwards with the fine-sounding “understanding-first” approach. I’ve begun to call it “understanding without knowing”. It does not work in practice, and anyone with common sense can see why: There is a reason basics are called “basics” — they provide a foundation for later things, higher-level skills and so on. You don’t build a house from the roof down. Thx for adding your voice! WISE Math (Rob C)Claire Kraatz – Calgary, AB

Parent to two boys (age 7 and 2), Teacher

Agreed. Alberta is doing a great job with this. How about the Cogito program for Ontario?

Christabelle Phillips Milton, Ontario

Long overdue, good luck.

Tara Jijian

Regina, Saskatchewan

I have taught and tutored HIGH SCHOOL students who do not know their times tables…so they can’t factor…so they can’t do algebra…so they can’t do *insert any other higher order of math skill*…so they can’t move on to the dreams that they might have for the rest of their life… (Replace times tables with any other foundational math skill e.g. fractions…and you get the same result). Drilling does not have to mean killing. In the right environment, with supportive teaching, drilling can be tons of fun and can open doors to the future! Bring back mad math minutes :) It’s for our kids future–it’s for our country’s future.

-Marieke Berga, Maple Ridge, BC

I am a retired Math teacher with a BSc in Math. The biggest problem I run across when tutoring students is their lack of basic computational skills, as has been stated previously by others. When talking to parents about their child I stress that math is a discipline and as such needs to have practice to improve their skills. At the elementary and intermediate grades, practice is not done leaving the students frustrated and confused. It is like playing a guitar; I know what it can do but unless I practice all I will ever make is noise.

Scott McMullan Brandon, Mb I just had this conversation with my sons teacher. At home he can answer any question we give him at his level, but his report card says 2 out of 4 ( another peeve of mine). just because he is not showing the work the way she wants it. My daughter is in the same situation in grade 5. 2 out of 4. Not because she got too many wrong, but did not meet thier timelines

Ronnie Sadorra, Calgary Alberta parent of two children. I support the initiative.

Nicola Sadorra, Calgary, AB

I gather that Manitoba has changed the math curriculum in response to some of these initiatives. I wish the Alberta government would as well! My kids aren’t learning times tables and add/subtracting in rows. They are learning to rely on technology instead of their brains/own cognitive skills. Thank goodness we are drilling them. But what about kids whose parents don’t?

I definitely agree with this initiative.

Yesterday a friend told me about this site.

I want to say it feels good to know there is another group, in addition to John Mighton’s (OC)

Jump Math (great resources there as well) believing in children’s potential to learn math and ENJOY it. It is time to create programs that do not create confusion (? fear/overwhelm). A well grounded math program can build confidence and contribute to healthy self esteem.

Many thanks to those leaders of this initiative.

Its embarassing that math education has been over-complicated for elementary students when for generations the old ways worked. I can attest to this because I taught my 3 year old addition & subtraction and she can easily do up to 3-digits no problem. My concern lies in sending her to school to learn mathematics the “new” way.

This need to “update and modernise” education should be consistently fought against.

I am in complete support for this initiative.

Nicole Luney, London, Ontario. A Teacher and Tutor who fully supports this initiative! Thanks for using common sense and promoting straightforward learning over fluffy new age philosophies that completely miss the point.

My son attended a private school until 7th grade. The private school used the Saxon Math curriculum, which was intelligent and built his skills very well over the years. He loved math and learned the concepts easily.

During the first parent/teacher meeting conducted at the public school in Grade 7, the teacher enthused about the “new” textbooks they’d just received and “bragged” that they were written by someone in Ontario. I didn’t care how new or local it was, but that the curriculum was GOOD.

It wasn’t. My son never again did well in math and his interest in math and science waned from that point on. He’s in his third year of university now, and has an excellent overall average, but he struggles with his mandatory statistics course material.

I’ve been so angry about the education curriculum in Canada for so many years, I’ve pretty much given up. I’m glad to see that there are people out there who haven’t.

Burlington, Ontario

I’m now retired from my 9-5 job, but have been tutoring math on a volunteer basis with Pathways to Education for the past 5 years. I fully support the WISE Math initiative, and have often wondered if it’s time for a complete re-write of the K-12 math curriculum in my province (Ontario), along with mandatory annual testing of all math teachers. Good luck, and thanks.

PS: Happy “Pi Day” to all! (3/14/15)

I find the math being taught through the Ontario school system is disgraceful. Our children have no math skills – A young friend of mine is an elementary teacher who opposed the new math while defending the old system in her school board. It just about cost her her job because she wasn’t following the program. – She has to teach times tables underground and hope she doesn’t get found out. I babysit her daughter and we play math games complete with flash cards I used with my children. I will do all I can to teach her to be literate and comfortable with math.

I am retired classroom teacher and learning disabilities resource teacher. I still tutor students from Gr. 3 to Gr. 10. I always check their computation and math fact skills first to see where the student’s problem start. It always starts with students not knowing their basic facts, in particular, multiplication and division facts, which are so important for Gr. 4 to Gr. 12. Too many kids are allowed to use grids and/or calculators. This makes math increasingly hard when learning new concepts in middle school and beyond. Consequently, many kids drop out of math by Gr. 9 or 10 which is tragic!

Mastering the math facts take time and daily practice. I use a combination of manipulatives, including Power of 10, memorization with daily practice. The students usually know their 2x tables from adding doubles [6 + 6 etc.][Practice makes Permanent Brain Paths!] and we progress slowly from there, mastering each set of tables to TEN. Why go to x12 when they can do it themselves? Better to master to x10 [they always know x11] than partially know facts to x12.

I have found about 50% of kids learn facts quite easily. The other 50% learn them at different rates, some taking maybe several years! However, what is most important is daily practice at home and at school. When that happens, the memory/recall develops and kids start to see success and the importance of practice. It feeds on itself. When kids only practice every 2nd or 3rd day of the week, they usually forget the facts they learned a few days before or have a difficulty remembering them and eventually feel they cannot learn their facts. Parents and teachers may then agree with the students and allow them to use grids. I have never met a student who cannot master their addition, multiplication and division math facts if they work at it at least 5 days a week.

The results of mastery are astounding. All the students I have tutored usually start about 2 – 3 grades delayed in math. After mastery, learning basic computation happens faster. They all have progressed well into middle school [where these students tell me that about 50 – 60% of students have to use grids or calculators for facts to some degree!]. They usually find fractions and algebra much easier than learning long multiplication and division. As long as they do their homework regularly, they do very well in math. One girl, started advanced math in Gr. 10! Yet in Gr. 3, her computation skills were at mid-high Gr. 1!

Over my many years of teaching, I realize that fractions are the key to algebra, as algebra is basically fractional equations including letters!. And of course, multiplication and division facts are key to fractions and algebra. After math fact and computation mastery, kids almost naturally find problem-solving much easier as well. So, all this emphasis on problem solving is solved by ensuring kids are fluent in their math facts!

Unfortunately, most university education professors and teachers and professors who write math curriculum and textbooks, were in the 50% of students who absorbed their math facts. They do not seem to understand the importance of mastery, nor do they seem to understand that all students can master facts but at varying times. And that 95% or more of kids have potential to do well in math up to at least Gr.10 – 11.

See Feb. 2/15 Vancouver Sun article:

Basic math not adding up for some parents

Petition to B.C’s Education Ministry calls for changes to curriculum, including multiplication and long division (BY TRACY SHERLOCK, VANCOUVER SUN FEBRUARY 1, 2015)

…North Saanich mother Tara Houle, who has a petition urging more teaching of basic math, questions the wisdom of the Education Ministry’s plan.

“ … What evidence exists that this new plan will actually work? When 550,000 schoolchildren are being used as guinea pigs in an untested experiment, who will hold our policy-makers accountable?” Houle asks.

Houle says she watched her two children, who are now in middle school, struggle with math until she put them in a math learning centre.

“I am shocked, dismayed and frustrated at the various math concepts that are employed in our classrooms today. As opposed to encouraging and teaching children to solve problems, these various methods simply confuse and overwhelm young minds,” Houle says in the petition, which has 445 signatures and calls on the government to return to common sense mathematics in the classroom…

The rest is here

A really good article!

All so good. Math should NOT be a difficult subject. The Math Makes Sense textbook and all the “new” [aka “recycled from the discovery methods of the early 70s”] make math complicated for students and parents, and especially students with reading difficulties. Sadly, these students used to find math a subject they could do fairly well in but with the amount of reading required, and the complicated processes, the reading delayed students have an even more difficult time!

All the best with this process.

Dave Clyne

Later comments (June 2015)Excellent observations, Cristian [June6/15]. It is ironic that the Faculties of Education Math professors seem to be the ones who are most influential in changing the teaching to discover math [or whole language, for that matter]. Yet the high school math teachers and university math departments are overall concerned about the recent state of math standards.

I have long argued that most professional people in sports and the arts have developed strong skills over many years and continue to practice the skills as professionals. Why do we expect less of students to develop strong math, reading and writing skills? A revision of “practice makes perfect” is:

“Practice makes permanent”

A group of math/reading delayed students I taught years ago changed this expression further to:

“Practice makes permanent brain paths!”

Wow! Darren’s observations are so accurate. Although there are new ways of teaching kids the basics of math, especially through manipulatives do SOME degree, and other methods, the emphasis on discovery math is so time-consuming, confusing and probably affects more students negatively than it helps positively. The basics are the basics and do not change, certainly to Gr. 9 and 10. However, Gr. 10 – 12 math has certainly increased in difficulty in 40 years as more concepts from university are now being taught in these upper grades because of graphing calculators etc. that make using log tables etc that we used obsolete. These are the kind of useful changes that have happened in math.

We live in Montreal, Quebec.

A concerned mother of a grade 3 student (8 years old).My child and I spend so much time and energy analyzing the obvious. A lot of literature is involved in maths these days, making a not so strong in language child suffer in mathematics which has become very subjective when it is supposed to be an objective subject. I teach my son the basics at home the old fashioned way which helps him a lot at school, he also does Kumon. Sad to see that we need to add a lot of extracurricular time for a simple subject that is supposed to be fully covered in school.

Current math curriculum is not great but implementation is even worse. Had to teach my kid additional math at home to make sure he at least follows the provincial program. Ended up sending to private school, which seems to be doing a better job. Do we really have to send our kids to private schools just to make sure they know the basic necessities?

Tom Hassan, Vancouver, B.C.

Our family is using the Kumon Academy which is the largest after school math and reading program in the world. We started this since the current changes to the curriculum we strongly disagree in. My grade 2 and grade 3 boys were losing confidence in their school work with all the problem solving math. Either all these “different methods” are taught poorly or kids are just not grasping the concepts at early ages. The math work at school just frustrates them and deflates their self esteem. Whatever happened to memorizing basic addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. These are life skills that even their old dad uses everyday!

I strongly support this initiative. Thank you!

Parent of children aged 11 & 9

Vancouver BC

Josh Hollett, Winnipeg, parent (son 9 months), (theoretical) chemistry professor

I’m the worried parent of my 2 boys 8 & 9 years old. Math needs lots of practice which our kids are not doing at school and hardly any math homework is given. And if given is of not of good quality and is not challenging. When the kid goes to grade 9, he should suppose to know trigonometry, fractions, algebra and many more complex equations.

Kids need to do traditional arithmetic method along with new math.

In Brampton and Mississauga, there are two different Khalsa School. Both these schools lay emphasis on traditional math and also do the little modern problematic math. These 2 schools were at TOP rating in Ontario EQAO in grade 3 and grade 6. In these two Khalsa School kids take math searously.

I recently moved to Canada and my 6 year old son in grade 1 has been very idle in math class as he is not getting any challenge. Just one very elementary word problem each week as homework. He even says he is applauded as one of the best in his class but I know he should be doing so much more by now. M Oje, Edmonton, Alberta

In Alberta, the ”discovery learning/constructivist” types are still in charge, although, effective September 2014, Alberta Education made some small, but significant, modifications to the curriculum in the early grades. It is now `okay’ to `recall’ such antiquated facts as the 5-by-5 addition table in Grade 1. Thanks to the Wise Math crowd, it appears that you’ve made some progress in MB as well, but I’m not sure of the exact changes.

Later addition:Alberta Education has done something about it! In an 11 page report, dated 2014, with the title “Summary of Clarification to: Alberta Mathematics Kindergarten to Grade 9 Program of Studies”, many changes have been made to the 2007 curriculum. The “clarifications” introduced were to go into effect by September 2014.

The document makes clear the differences between the 2007 requirements and the 2014 “clarifications” by repeating the relevant 2007 material in a panel followed by a 2014 panel of modifications. The “improvements” may be small, but, from a traditionalist’s point of view, they may improve what is happening in the classroom.

For example, here is a short quote (page 5):

“Understand an apply strategies for addition and related subtractions facts to 18. Recall addition and related subtraction facts to 5″. [New in 2014, Grade 1]

So suddenly, the 5-by-5 addition table is back in style. The following quote, page 4, found in the 2007 curriculum, has been deleted from the 2014 version

“By decreasing emphasis on rote calculation, drill and practice, and the size of numbers used in paper and pencil calculations, more time is available for concept development.”

[2007 report, Grade 1]

and has been replaced by (page 4)

“Learning mathematics includes a balance between understanding, recalling and applying mathematical concepts”. [New in 2014, Grade 1]

Later when dealing with material at the level of Grade 3, we find (page 8)

“Understand and recall multiplication facts to 5×5.” [New in 2014, Grade 3]

On page 9, one finds the same statement but with respect to division. So, no longer are addition and multiplication tables regarded as evil in Alberta! However, if one reads the document carefully, it continues on with the usual educationeeze gobbledegook that virtually no one understands.

I doubt that the small changes in this document will cause a revolution as to how mathematics is taught in Alberta, for, let us be clear, the Discovery Learning / Constructivist / Problem Based Learning types remain clearly in charge of school education in Alberta.

Thanks for the update, Don. Yes indeed, this is weak tea — a subset of what was added to the MB curriculum a year earlier, which was also insufficient. Still, thank goodness, I guess, for small blessings. Albertans deserve better! Thanks to Nhung Tran-Davies and her team, who are largely responsible for holding the ministry’s feet to the fire until they acceded to this. They were lucky to get anything, given that the AB ministry appears to be a hornets’ nest of social constructivist ideologues who care more that their unsupported fantasies be implemented across schools in the province than for the welfare of the children in that system who have no choice. In our view, children are not guinea pigs and should not be experimented on in such a cavalier fashion. Albertans deserve better! — WISE Math (RC)July Perez, Toronto. Parent of Two (Age 12 and 13).

My child who is now 12 has learned in Grade 1 how to add, subtract, read etc…. My other child is now in Grade 3 and doesn’t even know what minus or subtract means. When I tell her she say’ ”oh, you mean take away”

Now, half way in grade three I must spend a lot of time teaching her. I do include the new terminology used in class but I teach the old ways too. And guess what my child was recently told she might have learning disability because she wasn’t successful in math when in fact she was just expected to understand things on her own. She has no learning disabilities what so ever! 3/4 OF HER CLASS IS PART OF A MATH GROUP BECAUSE THEY ARE NOT DOING WELL IN MATH.

I personally think that there should be a balance between the old way and the new way. Both ways can be good if not used to extremes.

Parent, Ontario two kids 9&12

Julie Fine, concerned parent of two girls (5 and 9), teacher and math advocate!

I am a university student who loves and excels at math and wants to make a life out of it. I find it very stressful to be surrounded by students who treat math as something you just have to put up with until it goes away, like a mosquito bite or an obnoxious person on the bus. Not everybody will be super passionate about math, but nobody should be completely averse to it. I don’t blame them, though. Someone or something has failed them. I’m currently too inexperienced to know exactly where the problems lie, but if this initiative intends to fix the problem then you have my support.

Hello,

My name is Brenda Marshall and my son is a Grade 4 student at a public school in Surrey, British Columbia. The math the schools are teaching to our children is extremely frustrating for both children and their parents and simply does not make sense. For example, children are being taught that they need to provide an estimation in order to validate their correct answers. If they don’t, they otherwise lose points or get the answer marked incorrect altogether! I can see using estimation if you don’t have exact numbers but when you have numbers to add together or subtract in order to get a correct answer, why would you estimate? I note in reviewing my son’s math that In some cases the estimation is hundreds out from the correct calculation.

Both my husband and I are very concerned about our son’s education and our inability to assist him with his homework as we simply don’t understand it to be honest.

Is there any light at the end of the tunnel?

[Later comment added …] My husband and I are also opposed to the new math and are having to teach our 9 year old son the basic algorithms ourselves at home even though we are both very busy with work and maintaining the household on the weekends. My son gets extremely frustrated as he would like some time outside of school to have some fun but he is doing very poorly in this area so, unless we want him to fail, it is necessary to spend time doing math at home. With this new math I don’t know how most kids can function at school without using calculators…our son is now using one but that won’t help him when he doesn’t have one to use or if the batteries die while he is in class. It’s a real shame someone decided kids don’t need to memorize the times table as part of the school curriculum.

Math education should not be this difficult. Math is fun when it is understood. Where are the basics taught?

I loved math in school! today my son is in grade 3 and i have a hard time explaining the methods the school is teaching..it is way too complicated!…just carry the one!..we need to go back to the old school method…it worked for me!

Tania Specogna Surrey British Columbia

Michelle Valente. BC.

Sylvanna Luong, Winnipeg.

Im currently an education student with math as my major. I was a struggling victim of the early/middle years math curriculum. Math was always “hard for me” and for the longest time, I thought I just sucked at it. It was not until high school where I started to excel at math, and it was only because my dad (who received his math education in Asia) took matters into his own hands and tutored me. He didn’t use manipulatives, pictorial representations, or technology to successfully teach me. He shouldn’t use those anyway since an effective way of doing math problems do not require any of those. So why is it in our curriculum? We are teaching our students longer, and most of the time, more complicated ways to do simple math problems. It is so frustrating to deal with this curriculum when I teach/tutor my students. Algebra tiles for example, why take the time to draw them and then add the shapes up when you can easily just add the like-terms right away when simplifying polynomials? Would first year university students do this in their calculus class? Is it practical? Didn’t think so. It also saddens me that every time a student needs to do simple, basic calculations, they need to pull out their calculator. Seriously, where is the math?

Hi Sylvia, thanks for your thoughts. You’ve pegged a big part of the problem quite well; you apparently understand clearly what’s going on, and we’re glad to have you on board! WISE Math (RC)I just spent the last 5 nights, 2 hours per night, with my 10 year old son, trying to study for a math test. The teacher was wonderful enough to send home a 3 page review which essentially was the test. We studied till my son was in tears of frustration every night. I copied the review and had him do it 3 times ( thinking maybe he would be able to recognize the question enough to get the right answer. I was wrong.) He continuously got the same answers wrong over and over and no amount of explaining could clarify the answer for him. Last year when his class really got into learning multiplication, he was lost. He couldn’t figure out what they were teaching him. I finally TOLD the teacher I would teach him multiplication at home and for her not to question how he gets the right answer, as long as it was right. In 6 weeks, he had the entire multiplication table memorized up to x12. He went from bottom of the class to becoming a student who was asked to help other students in his class. His confidence came back, and he was happy. Now I’m back at square one with a low confident child who is lost in “tables and variables and expressions”. The problem I’m cornered with is this “new math” is so screwed up, that I can’t even clarify it for him. I have never been so mad, frustrated, and disappointed in a subject in all my life. I was a math lover. This new curriculum has made me into a “new math” hater. The sad part was, when they introduced this new curriculum a few years back, we were told to come to a parent info night to see what it was all about. I went and was absolutely disappointed in what I was introduced to. I voiced back then that this curriculum change was a huge mistake and to mark my words when I say they were going to lose a ton of kids through the cracks with this crap. Guess what!? They did. Out of my sons class of 22 students, 8 of them (my son included) is lost in the wind to math. Now the school has hired EA’s to help these kids catch up, but to no avail. This curriculum needs to be dropped like a bad habit and the text books burned.

Thanks for the very moving story, Kelly. You’re experiencing what so many other parents are going through. You’re not alone, and your voice is added to a growing number of frustrated parents and educators. I’m just adding here that you’re from Saskatchewan. — WISE Math (RC)Sally Connon, Prince George, BC – BSc with triple major in Math, Physics and Chemistry.

We need to stop using children as educational experiments. Surely we can look back to the curriculum that produced some of the most brilliant scientists, mathematicians and engineers in the world. Have a close look at who was actually responsible for putting the first man on the moon. Yes, it was Canadians. It’s OK to admit that we once did something well and be forward-thinking enough to simply look back. Today, our education system has deteriorated to producing university graduates who can’t make change. It’s time to stop pouring endless resources into recreating the wheel.

Cherylynn Lumasag, parent of a Grade 3 & Grade 1 student — frustrated with the math lessons at school!

Cory Drummond, Surrey. We have to teach our kids math at home now.

Vancouver, BC. My son just started Grade 4, and this is my first exposure to “Math Makes Sense”. His teacher mentioned it wasn’t “ideal” at the curriculum night, but then also said the kids still get a lot out of it, and they need to because the series of textbooks takes them all the way through high school. Three weeks in, I’ve finally had a look at his textbook and worksheets, and I’m dumbfounded that this is what’s being used to teach our children. I’m an educated adult and the exercises made my head spin (in confusion, frustration and anxiety!) Imagine what a poor child would feel! It’s outrageous that this would be allowed in our classrooms. It’s time for a change.

Courtney Vargas, Calgary, AB

Courtney Vargas, Calgary, Alberta

We support the WISE Math initiative!

Todd Hunter, Winnipeg, secondary teacher. Thank-you to WISE for trying to combat the damage done in 2006 to MB Math curricula.

Lucy, Toronto, ON

I was a product of the TDSB in the 70s. I completed gr13 and went off to post-secondary. Now, I have 2 children, and I spend a lot of time helping them with math because they just don’t understand their teachers. Both are now honour students, getting A’s, but compared to what I was taught at their age they are so behind in the math curriculum.

You would think since they removed gr13, the curriculum would have changed to push the lessons down to the other grades. Instead my children are learning less now then when gr13 was still in place. For example, I learned multiplication (12 times table) in gr3, now my children are only required to know the 7-times table. In Europe and other parts of Asia, gr1 students have been learning multiplication up to the 15-times table, for decades. Don’t parents in North America find it insulting when the school boards imply our children cannot handle it or it’s too soon for them to learn??

If my children are getting A’s and knows less, what is the value of their marks/grade/knowledge? What will happen when they go to post-secondary?? What about the other students who are not getting A’s???

My eldest had a super teacher in grade 5 and she use different methods of teaching (auditory, visual, and kinesthetic), gave homework to reinforce the lesson, was available for tutoring (before school, at lunch, after-school), and helped parents help their children. The following year, she stopped everything and was just like the rest of the useless teachers. Apparently, the union rep at our school complained to the union because she was making the rest of the teachers look bad and parents expected the other teachers to follow this teacher’s examples. As a result, she had no choice but to conform. The union and mediocre teachers are why our children’s education is suffering. Parent with children in the education system must read the Education Act and know their rights, and demand it.

Why are we wasting our hard-earned tax dollars on mindless baby-siting called ‘public education’, when other countries are teaching their young citizens to be world leaders? We should at least give them a chance to learn and think. Do you want knowledgeable, educated, and empowered individuals taking care of you in your old-age, or the alternative?

Regina, SK. When they go to university, they struggle with Calculus and anything else math-related. My eldest son was a straight-A student until he went to university, where he earned low grades for Math 103, etc. What was the value of earning 91% in Grade 12 algebra only to discover he didn’t learn enough to continue at university?

My own math phobias started in the 60’s with creative new math methods that confused me and left me thinking I couldn’t do math. When I later homeschooled our daughter, I bent over backwards to find curricula that actually helped her learn and succeed and even like math. Now she is a nursing major and I’m a paraprofessional working as a special needs ed. assistant, and I hope to pass on good methods and attitudes about math learning to my students and their families. In the process of taking continuing education, I am faced with working with some of this fuzzy, “creative” alternative methodology and it is so confusing. Hoping the powers that be get their collective act together soon and give real math back to the teachers and their students.

My youngest son, now in grade 10, is not challenged at all in math. He never has homework because he finishes it all in class. I think he could do so much more if they just let him. The three “streams” of math are ridiculous.

My daughter in Grade 3 is able to do 2 digit subtraction and addition calculations mentally (mostly due to the fact that we have her practice this skill), she fully understands the concepts of addition and subtraction, but at her $30,000.00 a year private school in Ontario, it is more important that they follow some convoluted strategies for doing those calculations for better “conceptual” understanding. For example, finding “friendly numbers” on a number line first, resulting in a long process of drawing a multitude of lines and arrows going in all directions and a child who is in a puddle on the floor screaming that she can’t recall which “friendly numbers” she must first find and the follow-up steps. As a result of all this she has come to hate math-I don’t see how this is helping our children? And why are we giving numbers names such as “friendly” and “unfriendly”?

Vince Ruggirello, Kingsville, ON

Scores declining in Ontario so we jump on Dr. Small’s bandwagon…????

David Dziadyk

Calgary AB

Students need to know the basics of Add Subtract Multiply and Divide. And a high percentage Don’t

Our home is Coaldale, AB. We have two children, ages 15 and 19, and have seen the effects of the current curriculum when students reach high school. It’s not working. We’ve had to teach a lot of the basics at home over the years. And we’re thankful to those teachers who go above and beyond to try to pick up the pieces and give students a stronger foundation of math skills, but they shouldn’t have to. So we’re wholeheartedly behind the WISE Math initiative.

J Facca,Saskatoon,

Toronto, ON. Too many educators do not understand, Keep It Simple Stupid! Bruce Clark

Saskatchewan. I am the mother of an 11yr old who has struggled with math makes sense since first grade . He understands basic math concepts but can’t grasp having to know 4 ways to do the same thing. As a result he has failed math over and over. We spend hours on home work to no avail His self esteem has hit an all time low . This math is destroying his love of school and interfering with his future ability to enter a scientific profession. I can’t wait for educators to get a brain and change the math program it will be too late for him. I want to opt out of math class and teach him myself. Just math. They can teach him everything else. I do not want tohome school everything just math. Do you think I can demand this from the school board?

Kari Harrington , Red Deer , Alberta- parent of twin boys- grade 4

Robin Boleski, high school math teacher in the Edmonton area.

Stephan Wehner, Vancouver, BC

Christopher J. Sarsons and Judy A. Sarsons, both of Lloydminster, Alberta – Parents of three children. We support the WISE Math initiative!

I have been wanting the New Math to be demolished for years here in Nova Scotia. My daughter was on an IPP for Math from grades four to six. Then we moved and the teachers at her other elementary and junior high schools did not lelieve in IPPS and took the time to try and help her learn the new math but it was too late. The damage had been done. She is now in Essentials Math and got a 75 in Grade Ten Math, the highest math mark ever. Just sorry that I listened to the suggestion of IPP and tutors. More and more students are unable to do the new math, more parents are frustrated and young people working as cashiers cannot do basic math operations in their heads/manually they have to use a calculator.

Bring the old math back, it has been around for at least a century and has done wonders.

Laura Hoimyr Gladmar Saskatchewan

Michael Lee, Toronto, Ontario

Medicine Hat. It amazes me how little my straight A children know about math. They wouldn’t be straight A students back in my day. I fear for their future due to their lack of basic math knowledge. We have resorted to teaching them proper math at home; although it gets them in trouble at school when they use “old-school” techniques. The children tell us that they understand mom & dad’s way of doing math more than the school’s way. They unanimously say it is far easier too.

As a parent of a 16yr old son who has struggled in math since grade 7. He had the same math teacher for grade 7 & 8, which was a huge mistake as his Math teaching skills were poor and as a result my son has struggled in math. Over the years we have spent endless dollars on private tutors (all have been math teachers) with little success . Finally, this past semester he has had a great math teacher and it was thankfully reflected in his marks! As a parent is very sad to see your child’s self esteem deminish every year because he feels inadequate in math.

It’s time to rebuild the math program in our country so our children will be able to apply to university programs that require math (university math) but are unable because of the lack of math!

Janine Bryant, Mission, BC What a disaster.

Richard Kaufman, Teacher in BC. One son 11 years old.

It is time to go back to the old way of math.

Vanessa Giacometti, Mississauga, ON

I am just learning about this as my oldest is now in grade 4. All of the students in his class are struggling with the way math is being taught. I’m frustrated and confused as to why our minister of education and/or our government is doing this to our children. I help and support my children with their homework as much as possible but I’m not a trained educator and am having trouble. Is our children’s generation expected to use Siri to solve every problem in the future? We need to do something here in Ontario (and the rest of Canada from what I’m reading) to ensure that our children will obtain a proper education in order to be able to compete (i.e. get a job) in the global market.

British Columbia. Very frustrated with “New” math. Makes no sense to me whats-so-ever. I have taken over teaching my kids math. I am so glad I discovered this crazy way of teaching early on, and interevened with their education early . Spread the word!

Wendy in Richmond BC

My sons grade 11 Pre Calc teacher can not explain the answer or show him how to do the homework assigned. I am paying a tutor $40 per hour

Lana Gray, Regina, SK

Due to the move to Math Makes Sense in Regina, I can no longer help my kids with homework. Now in Grades 8 and 9, the lack of immediate recall in the basics of math signficantly slows them down as more complicated math concepts are taught…the only way they can keep up is visiting my Dad regularly who tutors them as a retired principal and math major. What is even more saddening is the fact that many teachers don’t understand the approaches and curriculum, nor do they necessarily support it. How do you teach something you have not even embraced yourself?

Calgary, AB. I have been reading the abuse Craig and Anne have taken in some of the comments sections elsewhere (and twitter) and it is unbelievable! Have those people ever read what is on your site (or that of Tran-Davies and Staples) or the evidence you link to? I can only assume that I must have missed the “destroying the child’s sense of wonder is the most important first step” argument you all must have made. All I can say is that you guys are doing an unbelievable job and I am thankful that you have taken up the cause.and am thankful that you haven’t just said “who needs this @#$%#” and dropped the whole thing (although I wouldn’t blame any of you).

My kid is in early elementary and I have seen the test results at our school drop though the floor just on the anticipation of Alberta’s “Inspiring Education” implementation. When I was told that it didn’t matter if the children couldn’t solve math problems without calculators because they were being taught to “problem solve” I was at a loss for words. Assuming I was missing something I started looking into some of research (I started looking at some of the “evidence” for the Inquiry based math method before I discovered your site). Two of the best books I read were Daniel Willingham”s “When Can You Trust the Experts” and also his “Why don’t Children Like School”. An article of his that deals with math itself is here http://www.aft.org/pdfs/americaneducator/winter2009/willingham.pdf which (correct me if I am wrong) seems to completely support your initiative. I wish we could convince our Minister of Education to sit down and read some of these things because he certainly does not seem to be “discovering” it on his own. I would say that he “requires support” in “collaborating” with the REAL stakeholders like Tran-Davies and her 14,000 supporters (I am starting to understand the lingo).

It amazes me that “student surveys” on educational products (paid for by the vendors themselves) are seen to have more weight than 40+ years of scientific research and experimentation. If they were to do human trials of Drugs based on the type of “evidence” I have seen used to support the current method, people would be in jail.

I think that one of the best things you (and Trans-Davies and Staples) have done is to show parents like myself that we are not alone (or crazy in not understanding why solving math problems doesn’t help kids to learn problem solving) and that it is okay for someone who is “just a parent” to look behind the curtain to see what the “Wizards” of education are up to and how it has more to do with the selling of products (and making of careers) than on reliable, scientific based research of best practices.

Thanks again for all your help and sorry about the rant

PS, I strongly support your WISE math curriculum initiative.

We live in Golden, BC, have 4 kids. Our oldest daughter is in Grade 4 and we’re really worried about her lack of math skills.

Christine here from Huntington, Long Island NY, 22 year veteran elementary school teacher in NYC public schools! Trust me, in the USA this continues to remain a huge problem. 22 years teaching and I’ve only seen one curriculum, Saxon Math, that I’d endorse! Unfortunately Saxon Math did not stay long (about 2 years) and the constructivists have taken over and brought out math curriculums that STINK! We now use Go Math in our schools. This program is touted as aligned with the Common Core yet it has so much jargon, so many convoluted questions that even teachers and parents cannot figure things out. I applaud and support your efforts in Canada and hope you lead the way back HOME to solid math programs.

That is SO funny! They named it “Math Makes Sense” to blindside the schools, teachers and administrators who are too stupid to look into the curriculum and know better! Fight on!

(In reference to Lana Gray’s comment above — WISE Math (RC))I actually supplement with Sue Dickson’s Musical Math program, it’s fun. Keep up the good work!

Great initiative! I am a high school mathematics teacher. I am frustrated by the lack of background, fundamental mathematics skills of students coming into grade 9. I am working hard to give my students a strong mathematical grounding and good habits in mathematical structure to help them going forward.

Qianruo Shen (Sharon), Burnaby, B.C.

I am the chairperson of the Educational Quest Society of Canada. It was Ms.Tara Houle who contacted us, and told us about WISE Math, although I saw your website before. We admire and support your initiative and effort completely, and would like to have connection with you.

Mae Chow, Drayton Valley, Alberta, parent to 10 year old, BSc and LLB, husband is a BMath from Waterloo and Statistician. I applaud the effort in Manitoba and the help in Alberta. Back to Basics!

As a parent of a 12 yr old in Grade 7, I’ve just discovered the atrocities that people speak of. Our child has been doing Kumon in YYC for almost a year, has a fantastic teacher who is amazing at teaching and ensuring the child understands math, and the concepts of step by step instruction to arrive at one correct answer.

Our child is homeschooled, and as such we are using the ADLC correspondence books. We’ve been doing fine, until this year.

Opening the Math textbook, we set forth to complete a lesson in basic algebra. Easy task? Should’ve been. He’d already mastered this with Kumon.

What we got though, is a bunch of convoluted ideas on how else to do algebra using ’tiles’. I called the teacher to as inquire what all this fluffy stuff was about. The sub teacher is a Grade 8 math teacher. We showed her what we were confused about, and she told us to ‘call back tomorrow, and ask the Grade 7 teacher.”

By the sound of the voice, I’d say the sub was a more mature lady. Likely someone who isn’t a byproduct of someone’s fairytale on what math should be all about, but rather, a more practical person who is grounded by lessons of the past – which actually worked.

If a teacher is unable to decipher this new math, then how the heck are we as parents and 12 year old kids supposed to be able to understand it?

We spent HOURS agonizing over something that is a complete waste of time. Even our son’s Kumon teacher says he can not see the relevance in these ideas in math.

I am not at all comforted in a revamp of the curriculum.

We, as parents and taxpayers, have no idea what this ‘new curriculum’ will look like.

Even if it truly is going to be better, it doesn’t help my child, or thousands of others out there right now who can’t afford to wait two years. Two years from now, my child will be in grade 9 and if he doesn’t have the equipment to help him now, he sure as hell is not going to get the help he needs then with all the extra demands piling up.

Can anyone suggest an alternative to learning Math? I’ve heard of Saxon math….ideas?

Hi Nell, this is from Cornelia Bica, one of our mathematician associates in Alberta: “Singapore math is widely used in the homeschooling community in Alberta. I don’t know how Singapore math grade 7 looks like, but up to grade 6 the resources are exemplary.” — WISE Math (RC)Jump Math is awesome. Pages of math rather than words

Cheryl Joseph, St. Albert, AB – My 15-year-old son was fortunate to have received traditional math instruction through the Cogito school program in the elementary grades, where they were taught solid basic, traditional math skills, including memorizing the times tables, and were drilled weekly on same. They learned through direct instruction, and developed mastery through repetition and homework. Now, in junior high school and back in mainstream schooling, I was dismayed at the inclusion of the “new math” in the curriculum. I chose to home school my son in math using correspondence school materials, and am continually forced to wrap my head around the ridiculously cumbersome and convoluted new math concepts because they are a required part of the curriculum. I always fall back on teaching my son the traditional methods, which he grasps quickly. The new math is unnecessarily complicated, making it an extraordinary waste of precious time, and also making it next to impossible for many parents to help their children with homework. I think my son will be okay because he’s learned the basics, but I am saddened and alarmed to think that success in math may be in serious jeopardy for much of the upcoming generation of students unless the main focus on the traditional approach of mastering math basics through direct instruction is restored. It appears that some in the Alberta government are comfortable with the “new math” status quo, but I believe that we, the parents and concerned educators and others in society who have a stake in our children’s education, must raise our voices loudly enough that it becomes MORE uncomfortable to NOT return to the tried and true direct instruction, and mastery, of traditional math in our schools. I encourage Albertans to join the online petition of Dr. Nhung Tran-Davies, who is an Alberta physician and concerned mother of a daughter in grade 3 who learns easily the traditional math taught to her by her mother, but struggles immensely with the “new math” that is a required part of the school curriculum. I am grateful for the concern Dr. Tran-Davies has shown for all students, by spearheading her quest for math reform, and I am also encouraged by the demonstrations of support from thousands of people, including teachers and other professionals, and impassioned parents. If you have not yet had the misfortune of working with the “new math,” I encourage you to take a look at it, and hopefully you will join your voice with ours to turn this rather large ship around and get back on course. Also, please do your part to spread the word – only our collective voices will be loud enough.

P.S. re: Kendra Hill’s earlier comment: I agree that the Saxon Math textbook is excellent – glad you mentioned it.

Bob Lutz, BMath, Banff AB.

I grew up in Edmonton and was good enough at math to do well provincially and nationally on various math contests. I was lucky to be forced to memorize my times tables for 1 to 12 and squares up to twenty. When I went to Waterloo for university I met some of the kids who had beaten me and I found out they knew their times tables up to 15 and 20.

The basic math operations are like dribbling a soccer ball or keeping the puck on your stick while moving up the field or ice. As a coach or as fans we want our players thinking strategically with their heads up looking for a pass or a shot, but it means a lot of (admittedly tedious) dribbling exercises so that they don’t need to look at their feet to figure out where the ball/puck is. Knowing how to add, subtract, multiply, and divide are like dribbling, you can’t think about the strategy to solve a problem if you’re looking down at your feet wondering what 5 times 6 is.

I think we have to be skeptical about the “discovery” crowd’s claims about adding collaboration too. Collaboration sounds great, everyone likes collaboration, but it is also an excuse to not know things because your smart classmate does. After high school when you’re at home scaling a recipe up or down, making a budget, or planning a renovation, lets face it you’re on your own and you need to be self sufficient.

We have children in grade 3 and 5. I thought the intention was to teach all strategies and let the student pick which strategy they are most comfortable with. Instead, the students are tested on all strategies and even though they may answer the basic math questions correctly (our children are most comfortable with the method) they struggle with the other 3 or 4 strategies they are tested on trying to keep track of which one they are now supposed to show. Does it mean they don’t understand? I don’t think so. They just got tired or bored or confused drawing out base ten blocks, drawing pictures or doing multiple steps to show something they know the answer to.

Paul Wohlgemuth, P. Eng. Fort McMurray, Alberta, parent to a busy 2 year old boy.

I am pleased to add my name to this list. The more I read about math education, the more concerned I am for my 2 year old son’s education. I want my son to have every opportunity and choice that I have enjoyed. For that, he will need math skills.

Our “21 century learning math class” seems to have forgotten about math skill.

Along with being a Professional Engineer, I also teach Karate. I tell my students that nothing builds character and self esteem like developing skill with doing something difficult. I call this self esteem through substance.

I want my son to be skilled at math, to understand the fundamentals and get to the answer quickly and effectively. Thanks to many mathematicians over many centuries, we have elegant effective solutions to many tough equations. There is no need to rediscover these. Just to make my point clear, it took more than a thousand attempts to build a working light bulb, that is the efficiency of discovery learning. We need critical thinking on how to apply math to fundamental problems, and on understanding the implications of the answer, not on basic math procedures like multiplication, division, addition, and subtraction. Develop skill with math, so we can get to the answer and spend our time pondering that!

Concerned grandparent

The fundamentals are essential.

ted engstrom my grand kids math ed is a disgrace, times table is what???? airdrie ab

Mathematics is the alpha and the omega. A firm grasp of mathematics is essential in having proficiency in everything form engineering to quantum physics, from statistics to balancing your budget. I know it’s dificult, it often makes my brain hurt, but nothing worthwhile ever is. It is up to our generation to create a straightforward unencumbered path for the following students.

Mark Long, Oshawa, Ontario.

Kathy Penner, Calgary Alberta, teacher and parent of 3 school-aged children

Blaine Mah, St.Albert, Alberta

I support building a strong mathematical foundation for our children. I hope this initiative will gain the attention it deserves.

Keara L. – Brampton (as of August 2013. Originally from Edmonton. :) )

Hoping things will be on a better track by the time my sons reach school age, but my husband and I are preparing to teach them properly at home just in case. We should not need to do this.

Kendra Hill, Cobble Hill, BC. I strongly support this initiative. My three children were educated at home with a very traditional math curriculum (Saxon math), supplemented with resources from Singapore and elsewhere. All three found themselves way ahead of their peers when they got to university.

Shelley Berry

Vegreville, AB

I’m a Mom of a 9 year old girl in Grade 3. She use to love Math, but told me this year she doesn’t like it anymore. She does well at Math, but finds that having to show 5 ways to get to the answer frustrating, confusing and a waste of time. She actually asked me “don’t they get it the first time; why do I have to do it over and over?” When I showed her some “traditional math”; she said “can you show my teacher; that’s so much faster than the way we have to do it!” Personally I believe the “advanced and bright students” are being discriminated against. They are bright enough to know the teachers are taking them down these convoluted pathways; it’s simply not fair to our kids that don’t get to practice and master the best strategy to get the “correct” answer. This “Discovery Math” has no scientific studies and it has been proven to fail. The Government has been “taken in” by bureaucrats & consultants! My daughter will be in Grade 4 next year and she will definitely have all times tables memorized by then! Many parents are having to take their children to Tutors and Learning Centres just for their children to succeed at Math. “Discovery Math” in my opinion is very detrimental to our children’s futures! Our Education Minister in Alberta is now rewriting K-12 Curriculum and Discovery Learning will be added to all subjects; I honestly think this will be a disaster for our children! Elementary children need direction and guidance; discovery comes naturally as they get older. Something must be done before it’s too late! Thank you for trying to help our children by informing the public with your expertise. I see your comments a lot on Dr. Tran Davies petition in Alberta “Back To Basics”! Us parents are so thankful for professionals like you; as unfortunately Parents aren’t listened to often even though we are suppose to have a voice in our children’s education! I am shocked that every parent in Canada isn’t “furious & concerned” about an Education system comprised of “Discovery Learning”! I’m not totally against Discovery, but the main focus must be the Basics and Fundamentals! Balance is the key, but in my opinion, Alberta Education have become obsessed with “Discovery/Inquiry Learning”!

I am a mom of a daughter graduating from high school this spring and a son in grade 9. I have never seen math made more confusing in my life! Wow! It’s very frustrating, at least to me anyways. My daughter has no desire to continue with math in post secondary. Furthermore, we are not doing our kids any favors by teaching math (and other key subject areas) for half the time during each grade level. If they do math during the first semester of grade nine, for instance, it’s quite possible they may not do any math at all until the second semester of grade 10! That’s a complete year with no math! Ridiculous!

Lesli Walters, Leduc, Alberta

As a 30 year old woman, currently completing Math 30-1 through upgrading, to change my current career path towards Environmental Sciences; I am saddened by the current math curriculum taught in schools. There is no way I would be able to understand the complex theories and topics covered in any of the high school level math courses, ( I had to start at math 10c, since the curriculum has changed twice since I graduated gr. 12), if I was taught to do math the way children are being taught now. Without the basic math fundamentals; such as addition, subtraction, multiplication and division; I would be lost and definitely would have given up on trying to go into the sciences field. I see my niece and nephew struggle time and time again, and it could all be fixed by teaching math the way it’s meant to be taught ( I help them as much as I can). I have excelled at math because I practice, practice, practice! And I know and understand the basic math principles. Our society is at a detrimental loss with the current math curriculum, and so many children are going to be left behind when it comes to future post secondary choices as almost all programs require strong math skills to be able to do the required job. I truly hope things change quickly, so no child has to struggle with math and in turn learn to hate it.

I have been a full time tutor for the past twenty years and I am deeply concerned about the way that Math is being taught in schools, especially in the elementary grades. I tutor high school students who do not know how to do basic fractions or algebra. I have had two daughters go through school and have always taught them myself at home as I was not happy with the lack of basic math skills being taught at school. I believe that a return to the old methods of teaching fundamental concepts like multiplication/division, fractions and word problems is urgent so that our children are better prepared for high school math. It is unfair to students that there is not an emphasis on these skills in elementary school, but then in high school they are unable to grasp the concepts. In the past years I have seen an alarmingly fast-growing number of students moving into Apprenticeship and Workplace Math, which unfortunately hinders their chances of getting into post-secondary programs. Many students are giving up their dreams of higher education because they are intimidated by the prospect of Pre-Calculus or Foundations of Math in the higher grades.

The language of math is based on numbers, not verbiage and explanations of the three convoluted ways to get an answer. Math requires practice of basic skills not inventing are reinventing and re imagining math…Not practical or relevant. ” Math Makes Sense” has been banned in some outlier schools. Because it does not make sense These schools are so far behind they are ahead.. Math through the discovery method. What a joke. It never hurt anyone to learn the times table. For some it takes more practice than others, but it is a worthwhile endeavor…

I find your comment very insightful. Math is a language – a precise and concise one – and has to be learned as such. I presume you must have not just a thorough background in math but also an intuitive sense of it. The new trend in mathematics education may have been initiated – with good intentions – by people who appreciate the fact that problem solving, and encouraging student creativity and initiative are useful teaching tools. However these approaches can only be used after the student acquires and solidifies basic skills. Once these basic skills – time tables, “mindless”algebraic manipulation, geometric formulae – become automatisms, the student can (and should) be given the freedom to explore, inquire and apply. I am afraid that the good intentions that generated the “new math” may have fallen into the hands of educators with a limited background in math, and who believe to have found the “Royal Road”.

Alex Pintilie, math teacher, Toronto

Feel that the “fuzzy math” will be a detriment to my child’s future….

The problem is that the professors of mathematics (PhD in mathematics) and the professors of mathematics education (most of whom hold only a major in mathematics) have differing opinions on standards in mathematics. The former are concerned about the preparation of the next generation for career areas requiring mathematics while the later are concerned about getting the masses through the K to 12 educational system. Add to this mix that the largest progenitor of mathematics reform comes from a country ranked outside the top ten (in the world), the USA; all of whom fall into the later group.

Rhyan Arthur, Oyen AB, computer scientist & mother of two young boys about to enter the education system.

I strongly support this initiative. My daughter just completed her BC foundational skill assessment tests in February. She is “meeting expectations” in numeracy, but I believe the only reason she has gotten this far is because of the hundreds of dollars my husband and I have spent in extra tutoring outside of the classroom the past 8 months. She was learning nothing in Grade 2 and 3 to prepare her for Grade 4 except for a number of “strategies” that made no sense. tears and frustration.

I am entirely frustrated by today’s math. I find myself having to re-teach the entire math lesson in the evenings to my elementary school-aged children. Once they master the new math methods, I then teach “the old way we used to do math”… however, this has not come without disapproval on occasion. As an engineer, I wonder if I was a student of today’s math, would I have chosen that career? I attribute my interest in math to great teachers who taught great basics. I appreciate that learning different strategies for math is useful, one needs the basics before one can appreciate how and when to use a strategy. Often today’s student is left feeling very confused. I fear that if math continues to be taught in the present manner, we may have fewer students pursuing careers in math and applied science. Is anyone aware of a WISE chapter or initiative in New Brunswick?

Natasha Lane, Parkland County, Alberta

Kathy Smith, Calgary, Alberta, Grandmother to four children who should receive a good education, unencumbered by the latest experimental notions.

Children do not learn to run on the day they are born! Strong foundation is required to be confident and successful in life! Back to basics!

Priya Chellasamy

Edmonton, Alberta

Parent of 2 kids (7 and 4)

Engineer

Kids need to know the basic math to enter university, college, tech schools and even to be a cashier at Walmart. Its the same with the new grading system, they require a per-cent grade to enter post secondary education, not as they are graded today, completed or well done etc. Who thought up these new systems, a Minister of Education trying to justify a raise for them selves?

Regina, SK

I am not a parent or an educator but I am an engineer with four very bright nieces. I love my nieces dearly and am so proud of them. Over the Spring Break, when my oldest niece who started reading chapter books and doing basic arithmetic by the age of 4.5 (and was reading Tolkien at the age of 7) expressed frustration at learning grade 7 math, I became concerned.

I caught a brief picture of the way math is being taught in our public schools when I helped my friends’ 11 year old son with an assignment over a year ago. I have always been a whiz at math but I struggled to understand how long division was being done in his textbook.

Hearing rumors about the Saskatchewan government evaluating this “Math Makes Sense” curriculum, I started researching. I must say it was a great relief to come across this petition. I wrote a brief paper on what I saw in my niece’s grade seven textbook and the points noted by the WISE Math organization mirrored my concerns. I am a little late at jumping on board but wanted to put in my two cents on this issue. I am very worried about the future of scientists and engineers in our society given this cumbersome curriculum.

The intricacies are lost in a non traditional teaching method.The process of basic computation is integral to understanding Math as a whole.

I support this initiative and forgot to leave my city. I am Sherrie Gutfreund from Medicine Hat Alberta.

As a youth dart coach I am impauled by the lack of math skills shown by my young members. They simply have no idea what 1+ any number even is. We need our math skills in everything we do in our adult life and it is especially important for our careers.

Carey Langdon, Calgary Alberta. My son is in grade 6 and both my husband and myself have problems understanding his math.

Being a 75 year old grandmother who always boasted to the kids that “I was always the top of the class in math”, I was stunned when I recently tried to help my grandson with his grade four math homework and found what a complicated system he had to go through to get the answer. I was able to get to the answer in my head almost immediately, and on paper it only took about three or four steps to show him how I got the answer; but when I looked at my grandson’s work, he had half a page of numbers in a grid system. Needless to say I was of no help to him that evening. When my two girls started school, I posted a set of times tables to 12 on the wall in front of the kitchen table; once they learned one set, we moved on to the next; one daughter became an accountant/ teacher, and the other one is an elementary teacher. Just what planet is the author of this New Math from, and I would like to know how much money has been wasted on this absolute and complete nonsense. Basics in math is absolutely essential regardless of present or future technology. Lets keep the brain functioning.

Sherri Fortin, Edmonton, Alberta. I am a parent to a three year old girl, and am appalled by the direction our education is going, and hope that it changes before it’s time for my own child to start school.

I sent the following to Alberta’s education minister:

As the parent of son in elementary school, I feel compelled to let you know how I feel about the current math curriculum and the plans for changing it. My son is a bright young man, but his skills in math are wanting in a most woeful way. He is in grade six yet has no concept of basic math facts. The teachers he has had from kindergarten to now have all been exemplary; my son’s lack of skill is in no way a reflection of his teachers’ skills and abilities. However we are now compelled to support him at home, effectively teaching him math using the “old” tools we used in school. Rote learning seems to have been tossed aside in favour of more organic learning, but when it comes to mathematics, that is simply not the correct way. In order to successfully progress in mathematics, fundamental and foundational concepts must first be learned. Rote learning makes sense; learning why 6×6=36 is not nearly as important as simply knowing it is so.

Ancient masters long ago toiled in order to give us the mathematical tools necessary to forge new paths in the field. Modern masters use those tools to enable new discoveries; those discoveries in turn are used as springboards to each new iterative innovation. It is the height of folly, hubris and ignorance to effectively toss their efforts aside and expect our children to make those discoveries on their own. We do not expect a carpenter to learn how to build a hammer before he begins his work.

The changes to the curriculum to date and those being considered, are disrespectful to those who have, over the course of history, defined the field of mathematics, and is demonstrably doing a disservice to our children.

I am urging you to repeal the changes being considered and further, bring basic rote learning methods back to the elementary grades.

Catherine Davidson, Airdrie Alberta, parent to an 8 year old girl and experiencing first hand the damage that is being done.

Kate Pachal, Victoria, BC

Terrence Kerelchuk, Fort Saskatchewan, AB

Giselle Haluszka

Calgary, Alberta

I am a father of two girls aged 8 and 4. I have a strong aptitude for math and have always enjoyed working with numbers. By no means am I a mathematician, nor an expert on the subject, however, I have found that a strong understanding of the basic principles of math has given me a very real advantage in just about every facet of my education growing up, and in life after school as well! With this in mind, I am genuinly concerned for my kids when I find out that they are being taught basic math without the basic principles. My eldest daughter is in grade 3, currently learning two and three-place subtraction, and yet when I showed her how to “borrow”, she looked at me like I was speaking a foreign language. Nevermind the fact she was totally unaware of the relationship between addition and subtraction! If the poor kids aren’t being taught these simple yet important skills, it’s no wonder more and more of them are becoming discouraged with math!

In Ontario we have some great ideas for learning Math through inquiry based learning and problem solving but we still need students to be proficient in number sense – multiplication and division – the old rote learning so they can move on to the inquiry based process . The curriculum does not seem to be considering the developmental stages where and when children are able to understand abstract processes of learning. Mary Kelly, Educator in Hamilton, Ontario

My grade 3 daughter has ‘suffered’ at the hands of the new math. Her teacher commented that the traditional methods of adding and subtracting (in vertical format) were nothing more than: “parlour tricks”. She went on to demonstrate the compensation method and all the while I was thinking ‘why is she complicating matters?’ I could go on…

We’ve taken it upon ourselves and have employed a tutor. What choice do we have? Unfortunately we can’t leave the quality of my daughter’s education in the hands of her teachers and the education system. Sad.

Jeff Hildebrand, Winnipeg, Manitoba

Sandy Harle, London, ON

Parent to 4 children. I’m concerned about my younger daughter, who is in Grade 6. She doubts her own ability to do math when in fact she does understand the concepts when we sit down and go through her homework together. I was not a strong math student myself but being taught by more traditional methods, enabled me to be comfortable with numbers and how to play around with them in my head, in order to come up with solutions to problems. My daughter is just confused by math and I am concerned about what it will be like for her in grade 9. We were living in England, when my older daughter was in elementary school, and she was taught the basic skills first. In my opinion unless you are gifted in math, the more traditional methods are the ones that help students see math as something positive instead a subject to endured and dropped at the first opportunity.

Nicole Rosen, Winnipeg MB

Alvaro Gallego, Oakville, Ontario

My kids are yet again learning a new unscientific and unproven method to learn math, which is adding to their confusion and increased lack of self confidence. It is of great concern how the proponents of this unscientific and unproven method managed to high jack the school curriculum and our government failed to test/pilot this learning approach before rolling it out. Let’s restore what was taken away from our kids before it’s to late!

We have had to hire a tutor for our daughters because the “new” math is so confusing. We cant help with homework because our “old” ways are not acceptable. They don’t teach the kids times tables but then expect them to be able to do division. The system needs to change and go back to the basics.

I think our money would be better spend providing more instruction for kids who are having trouble understanding the standard way of teaching rather than going this way. Another reason to consider home schooling…disappointing.

Suzanne Irwin, Edmonton, AB

I am so frustrated with the current education of math. I am told by my daughter her teacher says my ways are the old ways, yet she is totally confused by her teacher. She is the only one that gets questions correct on tests by doing it my way.:)

I’m just concert about the future of my daughter, I think the math need be back to the conventional way, some times U wish win the lotto and send my daughter to study in other country, in my very own opinion , I think canada education is raisin a bunch of lazy generation

Vancouver, BC

I have a son and daughter in Grade 1 and K respectively and I attended a math presentation at their school last week where I learned about the “new” primary math program. I had strong misgivings when we were told by the presenter (a mathematician contracted by the school board) that vertical addition and subtraction would not be taught – “carrying” the ones and “borrowing” from the neighbour were apparently very bad. I don’t understand how basic algorithms can be left out of the curriculum – exactly, how are my children supposed to do math if they aren’t given the tools to do so? I understand that this math “experiment” is well underway in other western provinces and is proving to be a dismal failure – so why is my school adopting this “new” math?

Hi Jerian. Do you have the name of this “mathematician”? Some people who have no credentials in math describe themselves with that term, but what they are is “math consultants” — people who have gotten into a position in which they advise others how to teach the subject. Some math consultants have a background in math, but it is shocking how many don’t. The same is true of some who teach “math education” in teacher colleges. Little or no significant math after high school. It would be interesting if an actual mathematician is talking about carrying and borrowing being “bad”. This is a superstition some in the educational establishment have accepted since a meme about this began with a small scale, poorly designed U.S. study in 1990-91. If you find out the name of this person, we’d be interested to know (email us). — WISE Math (RC)with a daughter in grade 8, i have had to put a great deal of time into teaching basic math facts over the years… despite being a very bright & conscientious student, she continues to be frustrated, & many of her teachers are critical of elements of the current math curriculum as well. i am also astounded by the number of students who are in private math tutoring — it is commonplace. as a family who cannot afford this, i fully support that our public schools need to provide a curriculum that gives our children the skills they need to succeed in math.

Kristine Miles, Squamish BC

Thomas Impey, Breton Alberta

We can always hope for change. We find under this new system it is hard to help our Grand children as it seems to have no system to it. To often we find things changing not for the better, but just for change. Look at the metric system, now we have two systems and need to know them both.

Good Luck

Denise Theberge, Edmonton Alberta

Sofia de Rama, Coquitlam, BC, parent to two.

Liza Flandez, EDMONTON

Maybe all of us can make some type of positive change for the better together. Strength in numbers!

Please do not deny my children the right to an education. They deserve to learn the math skills that they will need for their everyday life.

My daughter is in a 4/5 split class this year. Her elementary school only goes to grade 5. All of the grade 4’s and 5’s are in 4/5 split classes as her school believes that this better prepares the grade 4’s for grade 5 and the grade 5’s become better prepared for when they must graduate to middle school. They have also said that my daughter does not need to be doing any homework for this entire year because she is being exposed to grade 5 level subjects while being placed in this split class. Instead of homework the school has planned 32 field trips. My daughter cannot tell time, count money, has no idea about fractions, does not know her times tables, can only add numbers in her head to single digits. SHE IS IN GRADE 4!! My daughter is not slow, she is very smart, has excellent reading/writing skills and is doing well in all of the rest of her subjects EXCEPT math. This is nothing new, I have been noticing her lack of math skills for at least 2 years now and the school keeps reassuring me that she is doing well. They say we don’t teach times tables until at least grade 3 and then only to level 5. She’s in grade 4 now and still doesn’t know her times tables to level 5, she doesn’t even know the basics of adding and subtracting. I try to help her but I don’t know how to help her when I DON’T EVEN UNDERSTAND the “NEW” math concepts! She is trying but every time you give her math problems to solve all she gets is this blank look on her face as she has no idea where to start or how to go about trying to figure out the answers. It breaks my heart to see her struggling with math at such a young age because at this point IT SHOULDN’T BE THIS HARD!! I can’t even hire a tutor or go to Sylvan for help as they are all teaching the “NEW” math. I am so discouraged and disheartened that this is where the school system is at as all it is doing is hurting the children that we are supposed to be preparing for life. If they do not have the basic math skills mastered how can they be expected to succeed in life?

Randi McDougall, Victoria, BC

My son is in grade 5. His problems started in grade 4 and have gotten worse. He’s now so frustrated and confused he doesn’t even want to go to school. I’ve enrolled him at Sylvan which is doing wonders for him and me! Wonder if the school board will reimburse me for paying someone else to do their job.

I am a grandmother who saw my grander daughter struggle with math when her was father her primary caregiver. It takes some of their family time to teach her multiplication with flash cards daily. Please teach our children so when they are adults they will be self suffient.

Carol Ryland Edmonton Alta. Cheers to the Dr. who was strong enough standup for her daughter and show us all to be strong

We are frustrated and don’t understand why we have to out-source someone to teach our children the basics. We strongly support this initiative.

My youngest son is in Grade 11 this year and is a first class honor student. He does well in math, physics, and all his courses but it is painful to see his lack of basic math skills. I was told that after grade 4 there would be no more time spent on basic math. As a concerned parent at that time I did a lot of work at home with him but it is not enough. It should be done at school rather than school time wasted watching movies. It is a joke that he can do advanced placement math but can barely add up a grocery bill without a calculator.

Day to day life requires basic math skills. Alberta students are sadly undereducated in this area but the pressure is on for them to take advanced placement courses in high school.

My husband is a chartered accountant and I have worked as a registered nurse. We recognize the need for basic math skills in both these professions. If we recognize the need why don’t those planning the course material clue in?

K Petersen Medicine Hat , Alberta

Jason Fisher, Calgary, Alberta.

I hope we straighten this out before we wreck a whole generation. 1+1=3 Right… Lol

Anyways we have a school meeting on Feb, 18 2014. For the parents at woodbine school to try to get some answers about this teaching system. Please attend. I’m sure they will have experts telling us that it is great. We need everyone’s 2 cents.

I would like to join the movement to go back to math basics. This creative math is frustrating for both the children and the parents. Children are expected to use strategies that are based on the basics, yet they’re never taught the basics. Very frustrating. Parents are forced to pay tutoring fees so their children can learn what they should be learning in school. It’s not right.

We need to return to the basics. I applaud you for standing up for the children.

Jenn, Oakville, Ontario

Eva Kryzanowski, Beaumont Alberta

Parent of 4 sons, am seeing first hand the damage done by this program. My son’s entire grade 8 class could not do long division this year!

Twyla Bruce sherwood park

We need to return to the basics. It’s truly unfortunate we have to hire tutors to teach our children critical facts necessary to understand math. The new curriculum paired with the new report cards are not doing parents or students any favours. The report card shows both my children as proficient yet they my daughter needs a tutor due to not understanding math as it gets more in depth and her tutor says she doesn’t have the basic facts which is affecting her understanding. I’m considering a tutor for my son just to teach the facts knowing what is in store in junior high. As a tax payer I thought that’s what my taxes are suppose to do provide an education for my children. Very disappointed.

I’m from Sherwood Park Alberta and fully support a return to the basics of mathematics.

Just as with any other endeavor, mastery depends on facility with the fundamentals. Gymnasts must be able to find their balance. Musicians must learn to flow through scales and triads. Artists must understand color theory. A writer must understand phonetics. A negotiator must understand history. And all of us, needing math in our every-day lives, must understand addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division.

Start with the fundamentals. The rest will follow. Ignore the basics and you are trying to build a castle on quicksand.

I’m in. I’m terrified for my toddler and baby. This method must lead to so much frustration for little ones. Bring back the ‘mad minutes’!

Le Bey Mc Callaghan

I have a son in Grade 5 and spend hours every week teaching him math basics becsuse it is not being taught at school. This is extremely concerning and needs to change.

My husband and I are totally in agreement.We have a new grand child coming and we sincerely hope the math program goes back to basics. The Math program as it is, is a failure.Back to the basics is the only way to go!!!!Brian and Ginger Kuzyk,B.C.

Ex-economics and econometrics teacher, mother of 3 pre-teens. Back to basics please including learning multiplication tables by rote. We need to set these kids up for success and we’re making it harder not easier. Why?

Sarah K. Kehler, B.Sc. Biology, B.Sc. Nursing (in progress), parent to 6 kids (ages 7-15), Millet, AB

My kids need to learn the math that got and is getting me through 8 years of post secondary education successfully. What they are learning now is leaving my teens struggling with simple stuff in high school.

We must get back to the basics. I have a son in Grade 6 and a daughter in Grade 5. I’m in a panic about the Math being taught in Alberta Schools and can’t believe we have digressed so much in our education fundamentals. This must change now before we all lose. These children will be the engineers, nurses and professionals calculating the strength of concrete in our buildings, bridges and roads, they will be the people calculating our medications, the people calculating truck loads, pipeline capacity, tank pressures, etc and they can’t even give correct change at Safeway without a computer telling them what to give. 20 years from now, who will be programming those computers? If they don’t know the fundamentals, how can those computers be programmed. Math is not Art, it is 2×2=4. It is memorizing, practice and repetition. Please show your care for our children and Return to Fundamentals.

Steve & Marilyn Stawiarski, Edmonton AB

Raised 3 daughters who have their grade 12 Math. They continually lament when they have to make a simple calculation at the store to find out what a 10% discount is or how to quickly calculate ratios. The practical everyday use of math. The best thing we did for them was memorization of tables and rounding up or down. I am all for advanced math where needed later in senior high school as they choose their avenue of education and careers. Agree with the comments on teachers trying their best but chained down by a carricula that they know doesn’t work for most students. I still remember my teachers in elementary and can name them from kindergarten to grade 8. God Bless them. Lets enpower them, like the one comment stated by WISE ” Perhaps the noise we make will help more of the “gurus” (as she puts it) revert to support roles and teachers will have more autonomy to teach as they know best and to encouragement and support to use resources they find most helpful. ” Lets get our provincial ministers of education to act on our concerns, let the frontline teachers lead the system to a better and practical math education that encourages our children as opposed to discouraging them. Best math I took before university was math 15 – go figure. It helped me make all the calculations I needed for my profession.

Later comment (May 2017) added:As a parent and grandparent I have seen the lack of general math knowledge in our children. Thank you to all the math experts commenting making it clear on where the problem lies. I wholeheartedly support this initiative.

Steve and Marilyn Stawiarski

I am a parent of one and a university biology student. I recently learned that the science curriculum in Alberta has not been updated in 20 years.

Ashley McLean

Edmonton, Alberta

Raymond Lee, Edmonton AB

Sad to say I am not the best at doing math in my head and should have applied myself much more while going through school, but I do believe it’s important for the younger generation to develop those basics! Trust me kids it will help you for better future prospects.

I agree-get back to the basics of Math

Tonni Shank, Edmonton

I agree we need to get back to basics. The math they are being taught is making math more confusing for kids! I was told by my school board that they had to send their math teachers to learn how to be taught how to teach the new math. This makes no sense to me because there is something wrong when you have to teach the teachers how to teach something like math. The kids need to learn the basics, and then once they grasp the basics all the other “Mental Math” they are trying to teach will come naturally. I have taught my kids the basic way to do math and they understand, give them mental math and all logic goes out the window they fight, cry etc. when they have to do their homework. If this is how my evenings are to be spent with my kids… Then they can make sure math can be finished in class, or allow me to teach them how they can understand without having them lose marks, because they didn’t take 23 + 54 round down to 20 round down to 50 add 20 + 50 to get 70 then add 70+7 to get the answer REALLY!!!!!!!! For grade 3. Maybe the people at the top need to start thinking about the kids! Stop being so book smart and brain stupid. Quit trying to fix the things that aren’t broken.

Henry Howell, North Saanich, BC, parent to boy & girl (aged 5 & 7), Oceanographer

I have 4 children, 1 girl & 3 boys. Grades 6, 5, 3 & 1. My daughter (gr 6) and son (gr 5) require extra help from my husband each night to understand the basic concepts of math. We have had friends who are teachers privately tutor our daughter to bring her up to speed on the basic math facts. We have math keys, dry erase multiplication board books, kumon books and mad math minutes to do randomly in our home when we have spare time, not to mention apps on all the iPods and IPads and iPhones so they can work on these things on the go…why am I teaching my kids? I don’t have a degree…if I wanted to teach my kids I would have homeschooled!!! I put them in public school because I believed they would get a better education this way…oops my bad…

I don’t blame the teachers they have tried, but they can only teach curriculum…

Elizabeth Cheung. Burnaby, BC. parent. I agree that the math courses have been “dumbed down”. Drills and memorization of basic maths DOES WORK!!! I don’t my child to be a subject of some science experiment and be the test subject of these touchy-feely theories. btw, I once overheard an elementary school teacher said “I just hate teaching math”…

Oh, yeah, and I am also a BSc grad.

Marc Mathurin / Hampton /NB

I have 8 year old having no fun with math and it’s making it hard helping her as it’s nothing I learned in school. When we try our method.. it works.. the new.. pure pain..

Sean O’Sullivan, P.Eng. Coquitlam, BC. 2 Boys 4 and 2

What I see about the education systems scares me, no testing, no spelling, no grammar, no math methods; just because it is traditional doesn’t mean it is wrong. Computers are tools not thinking beings and write is not always write. Steve Jobs and Bill Gates seem to have done just find learning the traditional way. When schools went from using slates to pencils and paper or from slide rulers to calculators did they over hall the entire teaching philosophy? Is Canada to become where India farms out all it’s call centres and data entry operations? When the next generation doesn’t know how to write, spell, or do math the future options are limited. Where texting and computers are a way of life proper spelling and math is more critical than ever. OMG is not what you want to see on a resume

I support this initiative. Math in Canada is being taught backward. The normal flow in Math is from left to right. Here things are mixed up. Divisions are written and read from right to left. The borrowing method in solving additions and subtractions is replaced by another vague method. Decimals and percentages are taught in weird manners. Only very few children learn Math in this system. The rest may never learn or if they do they learn it through tutors or their parents. It is unfortunate that some teachers whose class averages are realistically below 50% insists on teaching with the new methods. This system needs immediate revisions. Math was not my area of strength, but with the old system in Iran my classmates and I never had this much problem and confusion with it.

I don’t need to comment only that finally in grade we have an “older” teacher who is finally teaching rote learning. Thank goodness. I disagree with abstract thinking at such young ages and anyone who has children will agree that abstract comes later. There is the odd “brilliant” child who can use word problems to solve a math problem but when we are just trying to hone reading skills, fine motor skills abstract math and the actual reading of the problem will take immense time just to read it then figure it out. Let’s get the basics figured and then take it from there.

Reed Spencer, grade 9 math teacher. Students’ knowledge of math basics has been going downhill for the last few years. Some do not know the answer to 6 times 7 without a calculator. I am getting tired of ‘research shows’ as the answer when a teacher asks why.

I have been teaching technology in secondary schools in Ontario for 13 years. Most students coming in to my grade 10 classes do not know their times tables, cannot add two fractions together, cannot multiply fractions, cannot reduce fractions. I often see students who have all their high school math credits, that cannot do the above.

In spite of the gravity of this problem, I have never seen this innumeracy addressed, inside the school system, in a manner that may institute change.

Why do we continue to let such soft-headed thinking dominate in our education system?

Julie O’Shea, Maple Ridge, BC, parent of 2 girls (11&9). Math makes sense is a horrible program. I wish I found this website earlier, have felt my concerns have not really been heard at teacher level and will go no where! Been paying for a tutor for the past year! Let’s get back to basics!

Hi, I commented a couple of months ago my concerns as a Kindergarten teacher. I have enjoyed reading all of the comments and am so there with you in my belief that old is not bad and that it is wrong to throw away something that works, for the new that has never been tested! Having taught for more than 30 years in most of the elementary grades (K-7), I have seen many new (very costly) initiatives that are often forced on teachers with no opportunity for their feedback, opinions, or findings. These initiatives are thrown away a few short years later (when some other pseudo “guru” claims it is all wrong and something else has to be implemented). I understand that we are the first and sometimes the only contact for parent concerns, but please remember that many of us share your concerns but are under an incredible amount of pressure to live up to the board’s and /or Ministry’s guidelines and curriculum. Please don’t assume that we are choosing to throw out what we know is useful, but we are forced to and sometimes intimidated into doing what we pedagogically are in opposition with! I along with many of my colleagues are totally devoted to teaching and to our students and we strive daily to do the very best for them. It is disheartening when I read comments that blame “the teachers”. Please rethink where the blame really falls. We need your help, support and political clout to make sure that our voices are heard to make the necessary changes. I really don’t mean to vent, but I was hurt by some insinuations that we are the problem.

Orna commented once already but I thought her final points about blame (not) being placed on teachers were important to add here, so I’ve moved the older comment, adding it to this one below. (Reminder to users: we only approve one comment here because this thread is to keep a headcount.) Indeed, WISE Math does not hold the position that teachers are at fault in our math education woes, though some have tried to colour us in this way. As anyone can verify a large proportion of our joiners are teachers and we continually receive encouragement from teachers both privately and publicly; we are proud to stand with our front-line educational workers and represent concerns about which they can’t always speak out publicly. We do advocate concerning teacher training issues and for better classroom resources. Teachers generally appear to understand that this is not a criticism of their profession — we want to see them set free to be the teaching professionals they trained to become. Our concerns are largely with forces such as curricula, training, policies and resources that bind our teachers to delivery of math education in non-optimal ways or hamstring their efforts to overcome such barriers. Perhaps the noise we make will help more of the “gurus” (as she puts it) revert to support roles and teachers will have more autonomy to teach as they know best and to encouragement and support to use resources they find most helpful. I should also add that, yes, there are comments here from people who may have a bad experience with teachers or have an opinion about those in the teaching profession. Though we wish to maintain a level of collegiality, we consider this a place to vent, and many do. Views expressed in this thread are those of the commenters, not necessarily official positions of this initiative. — WISE Math (RC)Earlier comment by same user (moved): As a kindergarten teacher, I see the importance of early exposure to mathematical concepts. It is a sad state of affairs when we ask students to explain their thinking when they do not understand the basic functions/algorithms. Math curriculum should absolutely have room for practice and mastery. I agree that Math teachers should have specialized training and a passion, as this will impart that passion and enthusiasm to their students.I completely support this!

As a business owner and parent I am scared to see where our children and future workforce will be without the basic math skills taught the “old way”. In obtaining my engineering degree if I couldn’t do my math the old way I would not of graduated. As Jennifer says above kids may make it through K – 12 but try entering university or college with math heavy programs such as engineering, sciences, or business programs where you are expected to do your math without calculators and computers. A high school degree is not what it used to be, we are setting our children up for failure at an older age.

Kris Wilson, Winnipeg

Michelle Beauprie, Portage la Prairie, MB – concerned parent

I am really not happy with the elementary programs in Maple Ridge B.C. My wife and I have taught our children more math than the teachers at there school. My children are in grade 5 and 2 and both are bored most of the days at public school. Enough teaching to the lowest level and let’s get back to teaching at the highest. Get assistance for those who need it, don’t tie up the whole class… This is a very frustrating situation the school boards have caused with the lax demands on students. Neither of my children even have been assigned homework???? To much marking for the teachers I guess??? Where did we go wrong. The thing that is most interesting is we are still regarded as a great educational system??? I suppose that was from previous generations. Calculators are no substitute for brain power and if our little ones are not taught in these young years how to do the thinking, the. When will they be taught…..

Andrei Georgescu, Vancouver, BC, software engineer and father of a 11 years old.

Vancouver, math tutor.

The math education system causes me to create my career here. Thanks new math. However, I do not want my daughter to learn it. It is really bad.

Iwen Lo, Vancouver

Rebecca Harris, Beausejour Manitoba. Second year undergraduate Mathematics Major

Mrs. Jiang, Scarborough, Ontario

I think the biggest issue is : Many of the elementary teachers are struggling on their Math too. The elementary teachers are supposed to teach English, music, P.E. , Math…..

Many of them didn’t take any post-secondary education in Math subject. It’s better to have the math teacher to teach Math, the music teacher to teach Music. Elementary schools will help the student to build up the foundation of their math learning, it’s a scaffolding process.

Also, the elementary math learning do need many of the traditional learning methods, for example: memorizing and a lot of practice questions.

I’ve appended below a subsequent comment from Mrs. Jiang in response to another comment. We only allow one comment per visitor here to keep a headcount. Unfortunately WordPress doesn’t have a nice way to do this. Occasionally we’ll accommodate a follow-up comment in this way but it’s work-intensive for us so please minimize it. WISE Math –RCHi, Olena, I agree with you. Sometimes I noticed that some Grade 10 students didn’t know how to calculate the percentage and Grade 12 students need to bring a copy of multiply table on their math tests. How disappointed it is !

I think the high school math should change from 110 classroom hours to 220 classroom hours to move up one grade. Nova scotia already started to do this. Otherwise it’s so hard to meet the specific curriculum expectations, and as a math teacher, you can’t skip any of the specific expectations, otherwise your students can’t move forward. It’s a building block teaching process.

But, to meet all the specific curriculum expectations, 110 hours semester is not enough, The high school math teachers have to rush just to meet the expectations and the student don’t have enough time to practice and practice

Both my children struggle with Maths taught here in Canada, but had no problems with maths back home in Ireland where they still teach the “old” way. When I try to help them I get told “Mom that’s not how teacher says we’re supposed to do it”! I’m all for “back to basics”! Lisa Barry, Fall River, Nova Scotia

Michelle Ronning, Pitt Meadows, BC : Tutor

I strongly support reverting to learning the basics of math (arithmetic).

“Math Makes Sense” does NOT make sense.

I graduated from a Saskatchewan high school in 2000 — my high school was not using math textbooks at the time, as the math revolution was already under way in Saskatchewan. My teachers were pretty upfront in stating that the provincial standards and depth of curriculum had fallen considerably since the start of their own teaching careers. In fact, when I later started my undergrad at Waterloo and took the first-term analysis and abstract algebra classes in the advanced math stream there, I found myself considerably underprepared compared to my classmates. This was despite always having been a provincially top-scoring student in the national high school math contests.

I worked hard and managed to catch up to everybody else by the end of that term, but it was really rough.

As for teaching algorithms by rote versus emphasizing theory (or discovery/creativity-based thought processes), it’s interesting to note that this dichotomy persists through research math, and it’s often important to learn both sides well. I like these examples from homological algebra, in increasing order of abstraction:

Linear algebra (high school): multiplying matrices by hand vs. understanding function composition

Computing singular homology (undergrad): computing CW-complex boundary maps by hand vs. using long exact sequences

Understanding Tor and Ext (grad): grinding out spectral sequences vs. understanding the derived category

Being able to calculate and having done many examples for the sake of intuition is important for any discovery-based approach to “math creativity”. On a side note, I feel that students also need a way to communicate their discoveries — I would be pretty happy if quantifiers and logical connectives were taught in high school, so that students could graduate with some appreciation of what it means to apply a theorem, with justification, using a proper English sentence. (It was very hard correcting these habits as a teaching assistant for undergrad math classes.)

So, yes, I very much support this initiative.

Jonathan Lee — BMath (Waterloo), PhD (Stanford)

Palo Alto, California

Hi Jonathan. Excellent points. I felt compelled to amplify it a bit lest anyone think that your position is anomalous among strong students. As provincial contest director here I get to know a lot of very strong students like yourself, even a few superstars. It is tempting to believe that students like this somehow transcend the need for “basics” but that is simply misguided. While a few mathematical Mozarts go straight to advanced thinking with little evidence of elementary steps, really what most top students have is unusually rapid mastery. For many it’s the result of hard work earlier in their education — the stronger your foundation the easier it is to make connections. And when asked, most top students, like most pro sports players or great musicians, will insist that ambitious beginners pay attention to developing fundamentals. Or as Euclid famously replied when King Ptolemy asked him for an easier way to learn mathematics,“There is no royal road to geometry.”John Barsby, a local master teacher, now retired, trained many, many Canadian superstar “mathletes” during his career. His open “secret”? He used to say that to reach for the stars a student must have a “well-equipped toolkit”, meaning that they must know, and master the use of, a broad base of tools and methods. You have focussed exactly on one of the key problems with “reform/fuzzy” mathematics: by neglecting fundamentals hoping to develop “understanding” with priority, neither is accomplished well, and students’ potential wasted. — WISE Math (RC)Sandra Riley Port Coquitlam, B.C.

I strongly feel that there are many educational issues adversely affecting our children. The decline of the math component of the curriculum is certainly a major one. I would desperately like to see a change for the better. There are many other countries educating their children better than ours and in the end they will be the ones more qualified for professional jobs.

Des Hughes, Pitt Meadows, BC

Olena Osipov, Maple Ridge, BC

I want to thank you for starting this initiative. It is sad to see my 7 year old son learning math on iPod and by math games, at same time lacking total basic math skills. Grade 2 kids can’t even multiply. I teach him extra at home myself but it’s not the way it’s supposed to be. As born and raised in Europe, I remember the math we were taught and it was way more advanced and there was homework. It’s right, math is about memory, repetition and practice.

I host international students sometimes and when they go to Canadian school, they laugh at the level of math in class. It’s sad. Canada is a developed country and we should and could be more educated. Knowledge is power!

I totally agree. As part of my curriculu I teach paycheck math to 8th graders. They have no idea how important it is to learn. It is amazing how the education system in the US believesthat real world basic math knowledge is no longer important to learn.

Wendy Bastiaanssen, Maple Ridge BC parent to three school aged children.

Bree Maple Ridge, BC

Carol Kostachuk, Maple Ridge, BC

As an Accountant, I see the importance now that my Mother encouraged in us as children. Math is all around us in everyday living, a must. Too many kids give me that “deer in a headlight look” when I randomly quiz them on their times table – they haven’t got the basics!!! Sad generations coming… Something has to change and soon!

I am a frustrated BC parent of two (ages 11 and 9) and I support this initiative. I’m appalled at the lack of fundamental skills my kids have, and they both have an aptitude for math.

My daughter was in our district’s enriched math pull out program. She could add, subtract and multiply at age three. Yet halfway through grade six she still doesn’t know all of her times tables or is able to calculate percentage without a calculator. This is asinine, and is not because of a lack of aptitude on her part.

My son, meanwhile, understood basic fractions and could add negative numbers when he was in grade one, and now halfway through grade four struggles with the most basic of math concepts and got a C on his report card in math. Again, this is in no way a reflection of his level of innate ability but rather a snap shot of how this current curriculum is negatively affecting the way our children are learning and progressing in math.

My children both have the ability to be getting A’s in math and they are not, and the fact that I have to provide my son with additional tutoring in math after school is utterly unacceptable.

Something must be done to change the way that math is currently being taught in our schools.

I am a high school math teacher and a mother of 2. What I see coming home from the elementary school and what I see in my senior level classroom is worrisome. Many kids can not even tell time on an analogue clock! They can not tell me what 3×4 is without a calculator. I am still teaching fractions and long division to my grade 12 pre-calculus students. These are the ones headed to university! What a sad state of affairs.

Dale Fraser, Bedford,NS

I wholeheartedly support the move to restore basic math to our schools and give our children a reasonable chance to compete successfully in an ever competitive and math competent international world.

Later addition:Darlene Couwenberghs

I think your experience, and the recent comments by Mrs.Loverings, is proof positive that the new math curriculum is NOT working and we will be turning our children and country into 3rd world status if this is not changed soon.

MY son is completely lost in Math, He absolutely hates it, he is so confused. He had a teacher sit down with him recently, and go over some basics, and he then got it! And now likes it. He has even heard a few teachers describe how the new way of teaching math is confusing and kids are doing very poorly now. Please let’s revamp this method, and get back to what worked better. We need kids to succeed, not confused.

Mother of 1 son.

My son, now in Grade 7, has repeatedly told me that the “Math Makes Sense” materials don’t make sense.

Murdoch Coe, Coquitlam, BC

I couldn’t agree more with all of these comments. The dismal state of affairs with math in our public schools is one reason why my kids are now at private school, where the curriculum is responsive to the parents’ concerns and the kids’ needs. He came out of grade one in public school weak in math and low in self-confidence. We were also going broke paying for Sylvan and Kumon tutoring. He is now half way through grade three, and excelling in math! (without any further need for tutoring). They are using the Mathematics series by Purposeful Design, supplemented by lots of worksheets for extra practice.

Svetlana Yanova, Calgary AB, parent to a 9 y.o. boy. Cannot wait to have basic math back!!

Keeli Henderson, Port Moody, BC, mother of 7 year old twins who has watched her sister fight Math Makes Sense for years and spend thousands of dollars at Sylvan, along with hours upon hours of doing homework with her kids instead of having quality family time. Bring back basic math!

Jackie Costello, Edmonton, Alberta

I am not in favour of the current curriculum that uses primarily Math Makes Sense. It does not focus on learning the basics, is very intrenched in Language (not math concepts) and meet the need of all learning styles. In particular in is terrible for Visual learners, which most engineers and architects are. I agree with this petition and I do hope the government encourages schools to use a programs like Jump Math so that we can meet the needs of all of our learners!

Sergei Averin, Halifax, parent of two girls, 11 and 16 years old. I hope Nova Scotia is more vocal on this issue, as we are at the bottom of the pack in math skills development!

I am frustrated with the elementary curriculum in Nova Scotia which does not emphasize the basics but teaches math in a convoluted way. I’m hoping our new government will respond to our low grades and bring back basic math.

I agree totally. Claiming they are doing back to basics, but they didn’t teach basics in first place. Everything done at lowest common denominator…smarter kids bored. Having to teach extra at home to ensure basics covered. V frustrating.

The current method of teaching math is frustrating and confusing both to the kids and to us parents. What was wrong with the old method? Change it back! They need to learn fundamentals!

Guy St-Amour

Delta British Columbia

Valerie Knowles Coquitlam, British Columbia. My grandson who is now 15 was taught this new math, and needless to say his parents have spent a fortune on tutors. He and thousand of others are having to be tutored.

Donna Pickerill, Port Moody BC Parent of two ages 12 and 15 – we have spent hundred of dollars on math tutors and are fed up! Something needs to change!!!

New math should be out!

Kaylee Lam, B.Comm., M.Arch. Candidate

University calculus TA and tutor

This new math is only confusing our children.

Destiny henderson , Regina,Sk, parent to a gr.4 and gr.1

I home-schooled my then-9-year-old and 5 year old for 3 years. By 13 and 8, homeschooled, my kids got math along with a love of reading, the ability to write with implements, awareness of the world around them.. The youngest doing his older brother’s math along with him! So proud of himself! Within 3 months back in public school they were sure they were idiots and I felt I had failed them. I could not get what they were bringing home as math, The youngest hated math now, and their teachers were incredibly disdainful – I was not to understand the higher realms of education and how dare I have attempted to interfere with their education by teaching them. Many school days spent watching teachers “control” classes whilst drawing! their math. By high school, the eldest realized – it was the school programmes, not him, not me. When Grade 8 science was still being taught in Grade 10 and his english lit teacher said they could not do LOTR because many kids could not read it (GRADE 10) he tried to catch up himself. I barely saw him for 2 years. My youngest had an undiagnosed reading disorder ( despite begging for assessment he was deemed lazy) and gave up completely by grade 9. We were on assistance by then and labelled ” too stupid to bother with, they’ll never go to uni”. I found out that if you end up needing to access welfare, people behave as though your brain has melted and will never regenerate, nor do your children even have one. We hadn’t the resources for tutors. No one advocated for us. No internet. Many long nights of tears around the dining table over school-work, doing our best to understand a crazy idea. I felt I failed my kids. When your choice is rent and food, or tutor, there is no choice. We have the highest rate of child poverty, and with education requiring a tutor after hours, education becomes the realm of the wealthy and the rest of us are ……….I leave that to your imagination as my experience holds horrors not fitting here. Yet, disabled and unemployed, I can still figure out my change faster than the 20-something struggling at the till. (I can’t sit at all nor stand for long due to a badly neglected sports injury so I am deemed totally useless-that being BC’s definition of useful-not your brain, only your hard-working minimum-wage body. There is no retraining available for physical disabilities, only mental ones. The body of the citizen is of value, not the mind). Today, I find myself in a province of young people so disillusioned with the abilities they have been left with after 12 long hard years of enforced schooling some are suicidal, with little hope for a future of gainful employment, and dreams of dust and ashes. We may have a future of resource-rich land, but not everyone born here is cut out to work the oilfields. I realize we need people to work the oil fields and I also realize there are people who want to do this work and people who do not. People who can not. To forcibly de-educate an entire generation or two in order to have a desperate, unemployed, ill-informed, depressed, repressed, poorly educated workforce to choose from seems the likely outcome of the past 15-20 years. I say this because that is what the young say they see.. Some see themselves dying young, broke and broken, covered in grime in the cold hard north, because they “couldn’t get it in school”. Others see no hope of ever supporting the family they so desperately wish for one day. Those who have a goal are terrified to take on the burden of debt required for post sec education, certain that their failings in our “education system” denotes a failure at any endeavour and inevitable bankruptcy and shame.They believe they are stupid, and there-for worthless. They have no idea how to manage their own futures and then are told they must care for ageing parents. More is going on than a lack of math skills. Our grown children who have struggled with these bizarre teaching methods feel enormously hopeless. They are not stupid, not by a long shot, but not all parents could afford tutors for our children to be properly trained outside of school. They were legally forced to attend a school by day and we expected the province, in forcing attendance, to use that enforced time wisely. It was wasted. We allowed their childhood, formative years, to be wasted. We did our best. Evenings and weekend were not enough to fill in all the gaps. Teachers have been supercilious, derogatory,well-paid and discriminatory.. One son wants to work in the area of water treatment, the other, has lost his sense of direction. The one with a goal? The son who only went to public school from gr 3-8, then left for correspondence, then gave up and is educating himself online to world standards, not Canada’s. THANKYOU I support your efforts.for our future.

Sam Chandler, Vancouver, teacher/tutor/lecturer in math, physics, chemistry, computer science. I tutored many borderline kids back to A+ in math & science and onto universities. I also taught computer courses at Fortune 500 companies. I noticed that (1) children are mostly “damaged” by personality conflicts with their educators and (2) by adults who are unable to help or indifferent to math and science but emphasizing on sports & action heros or beauty queens and pageants , and (3) by universities admission policies gone social by demanding kids to be “well-rounded”, i.e. time spent in doing sports, and volunteering etc, rather than expecting the highest possible achievements in math and science and technologies etc, and last but not least (4) the genetic makeup of the students and there is nothing we can do about that. Not all kids were born with high IQ’s, sad to say.

I have taught in many different countries since 1976, so the problem is not unique in Western Canada. We have already lost the math & science race to the Chinese and Singaporean kids according to OECD recent studies. What Chinese kids learn in grade 3 in China are what we teach in grade 7! Go figure that one out and we might just be able to catch up in a few decades. Furthermore, most Chinese students can read English text before entering universities. And our kids on the up-and-coming language of global commerce in this century? Hint : it’s not French.

Mega-engineering and infrastructure projects around the world these days are mostly done by Chinese. Canada and Australia merely supply the raw material to China. So where do you think our engineers and scientists may find employment when they graduate? Will our engineers ever find ready engineering employment here in Canada? Not really, but maybe as math teachers or professors instead.

Since there are so much opposition here in Canada to adopt the Chinese model of education, may be due to pride or arrogance ( Chinese are communists after all as Americans always tell us), I am afraid we can’t expect our kids to out perform the Chinese and Singaporean kids when the environment we put them in don’t even measure up. According to OECD, Canada is below average while China is way above the runner up in math & science tests. I don’t envy the American education system which is far worse than ours, but our system is not too much better either. It is worthwhile to examine why and how the Chinese kids are ranked #1 by OECD, maybe we can emulate if not outright copy them too. Any tiger-mom’s out there in Western Canada? You might be our hope to fight our politicians who seem to think we should follow the Americans into prosperity by financial-engineering and high-frequency-trading on the TSX. Then, Canada will be solely known for Gold and Oil exports, rather than Nortel-like and Blackberry-wannabes also on the side.

Hi there, I fought our district 10 years ago when they decided to implement “new math”. I went to meetings, PAC meetings, talked to our school, talked to the newspapers and so forth. This “new math” made the rounds through all of North America and failed when BC decided to give it a whirl. I predicted 10 years ago that our children would suffer and not know the basics and now they are. My children’s elementary school was a pilot school for “new math.” I felt like I was talking to robots when I tried to make the district use common sense. They all gave me canned and well prepared responses. Please don’t stop the fight! I am so proud of you for getting this initiative started. If you ever need some old newspaper articles on this subject, let me know.

Keep fighting Tara. I am a parent. I know nothing about how math works or how it is taught. But, I am happy to tell you, that I have just now come back from a COPACS meeting here on Vancouver Island. All representatives from the District Office, CUPE, COPACS and school representatives have overwhelmingly supported my request to champion this issue and bring it up to our provincial parent’s governing body, the BCCPAC. This is significant because parents have a very important voice; we’re the ones who elect the politicians. Not only that, ALL citizens have a voice when it comes to COPAC issues. So I am happy to tell you that we can now go provincial wide on this issue and encourage all and any parents to add their voice to this very important cause.WISE Math has given us all an opportunity to voice our concerns, our frustrations, and to try and see if there is something that can be done about it. I am not sure where you live, but if you are in BC, you can find more information on this topic on facebook at the WISE Math BC website. All the best. And keep tuning into this website…and spread the word.

Cheers,Tara Houle

North Saanich, BC

NOTE I’ve added Tara Houle’s response here because only one comment per visitor is permitted but this is an important response. FYI for those visiting here, Tara H is the author of the BC petition that is making some waves and has set up an allied site in BC called WISEMathBCm, which maintains a facebook page here. Below is (this) Tara’s response — WISE Math (RC)

For Tara Houle: Just me again, the other Tara! I have months of research that proves why this new math has not worked. It is simply that “New Math” is introduced to our children at the wrong stage of math development. Math builds on math and there are about four or five stages of order as to how math should be taught. “New math” should not be introduced until about the fourth stage of math development which is around high school. Children are to learn the very basics first and then repeat the basics over and over until it is mastered. The problem is that “they” introduced “higher thinking math” or “new math” in stage one to young children who had no foundation of basics. Hence “they” have now made a mess out of a whole generation of kids who cannot do proper math unless they go to a tutor or education centre. For the record, all education centres teach basic math and are making a fortune.

Jason Bohn, Saskatoon, SK

Having run the Parent Council with my wife for many years at our kids’ school, we have been voicing our concern about this issue for a long time. As soon as the new program came into effect, I could not understand the method to the madness. No times tables, weird addition techniques, explaining why 1+1=2, etc.? Our kids were the first classes to be involved in this program, and are now in high school realizing they don’t know the basics, and the rest of it doesn’t compute either. It’s very frustrating to try and help when they can’t figure problems out and we end up in tears. I really hope the schools change their policies before it’s too late. Math does not make sense!

My son is in Grade 1 and he spends very little time doing math in class – in fact, he spends maybe 3 sessions/week that take about 15 min. max. He always finishes early and then “gets to draw.” They definitely need more math at a more challenging level.

Dacia Robertson, Moncton, New Brunswick

Looks like an excellent program for children to learn the basic math skills which will further enhance their confidence and curiosity.

Just for clarity I’m adding that WISE Math isn’t in and of itself an educational program, we advocate for better instruction in math, which would include, as Dacia said here, “basic skills” and, of course, solid and well-structured development of advanced material upon this; I believe this is what she, and many other parents across the parents are calling for. She may also be referring to the excellent JUMP Math program or Singapore Math, which we do endorse and which do appear to deliver on just those things. — WISE Math (RC)Lynda Gwilliam, Calgary, Alberta – parent to two grown kids who went through the public system and still don’t understand math and one grade 5 student in semi-private school who is learning the new ways and confounding us as her parents when we try to help her study. We have also paid $100’s to tutoring just to memorize the basic facts. Repetition, repetition, repetition is tried and true. I am a big fan of complex thinking and learning by discovery, but math is math and it will always be the same.

We had outstanding mathematics education in Canada. Let’s go back to the basics before we ruin the future of a whole generation of students.

Mark Manger, PhD, Toronto, university professor

Pamela Slessor, Regina

Mother to 3 children (15, 14 and 4).

I have been frustrated for years with the Math Makes Sense program. It hasn’t taught my children basic math skills and has provided nothing but tears and frustration over the years. Being unable to help them with basic math (ie. multipication/division), because I’m doing it “wrong” has caused much frustration for all of us. I wish Math Makes Sense would take a flying leap into the abyss before my youngest starts school.

Nicole Sobus, Edmonton, Alberta.

Arlene Reed, Calgary, AB -parent Grade 6 and 8.

Lesley Sterling, Kipling, SK, mom of three (1, 5, 9) and math tutor — I strongly feel that our kids need to learn the basics, especially when it comes to multiplication tables and understanding long division. The “guess and check” methods are a waste of time, because there is ONE RIGHT ANSWER, so let’s teach kids how to figure it out without delay. My daughter is at the top of her class, but she cried almost daily in grade 3 because having to draw 100 little squares or write out an explanation of how she arrived at an answer was so frustrating, and I completely understand. If the push is to teach kids mental math, we shouldn’t make them explain why they arrived at the right answer. It reminds me of a story where the teacher told a kid to show his work and he drew a picture of himself with a thought bubble with the answer in it!

Regina, Saskatchewan.

Two boys soon to enter the public school system.

My son is in grade 5, in the province of BC. He struggles with math, and when I try to help him with his homework, so many times he has said to me…that’s not how we do it…my teacher shows us differently. Now I understand why! They teach it differently than I learned it. I support going back to basics and scrap the “new math”. This is affecting my sons self confidence which may have lasting affects in his future. What can be done to influence change in our schools?

Howard Carroll, Tillsonburg, Ontario As a dad of a nine yr. old boy , I find the way they teach him math is very frustrating,complicated, long drawn out, and confusing. My son agrees 100%.

Christine Wiens, Calgary, Alberta, parent of two boys, 7 & 10. Let’s bring it back to basics. It’s okay to memorize the multiplication table. Everything doesn’t have to be a fun computer game.

So true. And the good news is that conventional instruction needn’t be boring either. Kids actually enjoy work that is well-structured and easy to learn, skills that make sense and are well-enough arranged that it is clear what is being learned each day. Nothing feels better at the end of a math lesson than feeling that you have some knowledge or skill that you didn’t have at the start of the day. Children intrinsically understand (and enjoy) the feeling that something identifiable was learned. — WISE Math (RC)Shawn Scott, Richmond, BC, If the schools would teach basic skills in math and english we would not need all of these after school classes that parents are paying to send their kids to so they can learn what the schools are already supposed to teach them. This also puts poorer kids at a sometimes permanent disadvantage before they even get to high school!

Science-Technology-Engineering- Math (STEM) areas are the recognized key to our Ontario children’s future careers and Canada’s global competitiveness and Math is foundation of STEM. Ontario elementary and high schools are failing in math for several politically /socially motivated reasons including: (1) lack of adequate number of teachers qualified to teach math well; (2) focus away from traditional math skills where other countries and regions maintain and increase focus on these traditional math skills; and (3) the need for more time / resources devoted in the curriculum to math and STEM.

I support the initiative

Dannielle Allaire, London, Ontario

We need to get back to basics with all of our teachings. Children today have no concept of the basics foundations to do simple math and writing. How are they to acquire these skills if they are not taught?

Geoff Burpee, Toronto, Ont.

Enda Soostar Orillia Ontario College Professor

Iris Kerr, Toronto, Ontario

Katherine McLeod, Georgetown, ON

I’m a newly retired elementary teacher in Ontario and this is an important initiative, very badly needed. The elementary math curriculum and the new initiatives in Ontario were leaving kids very confused, in my experience. It was and is a tragic situation and you have my full support!

Jeremy Lam

Richmond

British Columbia

Scott Forbes, Sherwood Park, Alberta

Good blog and I agree with what is being said and support this initiative.

I’m reminded of the saying “If ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” But using the same wisdom that guided the implementation of “whole language” they went ahead and fixed it anyway.

I hope we can get this misguided approach to teaching math basics turned around sooner than later. My kids only have a couple more years to go…

John Borges, La Crete, AB.

I am a high school chemistry/biology/physics teacher with two boys in school (grades 2 and 5) and one in pre-school. My two oldest boys used to come to school with me and do math drill while I worked. Like my wife and I, they found basic mathematics easy to understand. Although they are both getting good grades in Math, when I ask them whether they enjoy Mathematics in school, they say no. When in grade 4, my oldest came home upset because he had to learn how to do addition/multiplication from left to right (as a child we were taught to do this from right to left). Although he was easily able to do the computations the way I had taught him, I sat down with him and showed him what the textbook required. I assumed that the curriculum and the “system” that created it was not at fault, but that my son just had to learn new and different strategies.

I hadn’t grasped the problem until I read the following article in the paper. “‘This new math is stealing their confidence and their dreams’ — educators speaks out against new fuzzy math curriculum.” I am now concerned that the “system” is doing irreparable damage to children in the primary grades. I think that my boys will be alright, but I’m not sure. In the future, I will definitely be making myself aware of the math curricula that my sons are being subjected to.

It’s a shame when so-called high school graduates don’t know how to make change without the help of an electronic till or calculator.

Bruce Bryant, Father of 6, Lethbridge Alberta

Tao Li, Mississauga, Ontario. parent of one girl aged 11.

M MacDougall, Ottawa, ON

Complete travisity here in Ontario, they are not even learning the basics.

Justin Crofts, Toronto Canada, University of Toronto. I feel that math is the purest form of knowledge available, and the cluttering of this knowledge can truly hamper our children in future generations. There needs to be a strict adherence to empirically proven ways of teaching that allow our students to flourish and have the opportunity to gain the global jobs in today’s workforce. Without knowledgeable empirically proven ways of teaching, there cannot be an efficient way of teaching students.

Thank you for the opportunity to voice my opinion.

I don’t like that my daughters math is supposed to be done “in her head” in grade 4. I have told her to write it out and to do it like that so that she can get it right and not second guess herself all the time. I dread when my son reaches this stage.

Amber, Carleton Place, ON

Saskatchewan

Currently I am the head chef in my own restaurant, but graduated from college with a degree in Computer Systems Analysis and Design. I have had only one person out of 40 between the ages of 16 to 30 that could do simple math we need to use in the kitchen. Not sure what the problem is but there is definitely a problem.

Tammy Peters, Clavet, SK

I’m so discouraged by the state of our math education and frustrated by the lack of response I get from most of my son’s teachers! I find it astounding that any educational institution can find fault with practice to become proficient!

Christine Taylor. Airdire ab. I’m angry that in grade three I already have to pay for private tutoring for my son. It’s ridiculous. I dread math homework and so does my son. It is completely zapping his confidence in all other areas. The gov is failing my son. Period.

Stan Koch, Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan

I was so surprised when we were working with our sons with math flash cards for memorization only to find out that they were told by the teachers that they don’t do that. This no fail policy, how do you know you succeeded if you don’t know failure?

Edward Sharpe, P. Eng. near Thorsby. Two boys age 3 and 5. A lady named Amaya Ortigosa was deemed in The Edmonton Journal as lead technocrat for K-9 math education in Alberta. She’s also quoted by TEJ as saying the following: ““Memorization doesn’t necessarily mean we understand what we’re doing, and we tend to not retain that learning long term.” If she really believes that, she needs a new line of work and that group she’s leading needs a major re-alignment.

I know that 11 twelves are 132, I know that cos = adj/hyp, I know that William I took Hastings in 1066. Why do I know these facts? Because they became immovably lodged in my brain when I took the trouble (with help from my teachers) to shove them in there. I want our kids minds to be filled in the same sticky way. And I know, as surely as nature makes little green apples and turns them to red ones, that alll manner of discovery will follow.

Well said, Edward. Indeed, our capacity for memory and our ability to learn are almost synonymous. How these crazy educational theories manage to separate them, and even treat them almost as antithetical, never ceases to astonish me. — WISE Math (RC). P.S. Merry Christmas, and Thx for dropping by.Karen Wedman, Morinville

My grade 4 daughter is extremely bright and for the first time is struggling in math. It breaks my heart because she now “hates” math and becomes extremely frustrated and upset when trying to complete assignments. I am right there with her! Growing up, math was one of my favorite subjects. I loved that the answer was definitive – either right or wrong. I was also an excellent problem solver (using conventional math). Now when I try to help my daughter with homework, I too become frustrated and irritated with the content.

I am grateful to those who are bringing awareness to this concern and am hopeful that change will come soon!!

Chantel Butt, Edmonton AB

As an adult learning professional and a future parent, it is appalling to a see the impacts of poor math education on the younger generations. Math skills support development with problem solving and critical thinking, and “drill style” games are even supported by scientist that focus on neuroplasticity. Websites such as http://www.lumosity.com use math drills to support the brain’s growth and neuroplasticity as the brain is always changing and responding to new experiences.

As for “discovery learning”, I am not sure how children are supposed to learn on their own without guidance and learning from others who have been through the learning process. That’s like asking children to learn how to be adults on their own without intervention from adults. But that is a whole other discussion!

With many countries around the world beating Canada in mathematics marks, we need to strengthen the math curriculum. We are setting up future generations for failure.

I fear for our childrens future they need basic math skills to help them in life!

Doug Hiebert

Edmonton, Alberta

High school teacher for 17 years, with three elementary aged children. The math for edmonton public schools is a travesty. The students have no math skills whatsoever and the process is hurting them in high school. To me it looks like an education professor with a learning disability, was in charge if the new curriculum. The numbers and anecdotes do not lie. If the defenders of the new math still think this is viable, then how come the results on paper have been plummeting? Surely we can all agree with the results, which have been in steady decline. The numbers don’t lie, and now educators are using “buzz words” to deflect the results. We were once top three in Alberta and now are no where near the top. Please explain this for me? Doug hiebert

Lily Staples, mom of 5, Edmonton, Alberta

Thank you so much for bringing this to light and advocating on behalf of our kids. We’re with you.

Brandon, MB

The amount of struggling that students entering first-year calculus is a result of all the “new” methods that are failing where methods of earlier decades succeeded. It is amazing how what used to work is not accepted any more. This project has my support.

Nhung Tran-Davies, Calmar, AB

With 3 young children (ages 3,5,8), I have started a petition to the Alberta Minister of Education calling for a return to the basics.

https://www.change.org/petitions/back-to-basics-mastering-the-fundamentals-of-mathematics

Dear readers from Alberta: we encourage you to read and consider signing this petition. It takes time, but we have found that this kind of thing makes a difference, particularly if it receives broad support and you don’t give up. Between the two years of concentration in Math in the PISA assessment, 2003 and 2012, Alberta has seen the largest numerical decline in scores among the provinces: 31 points, exceeded only by Manitoba at 36 points. Just before we formed WISE Math, Anna circulated a very similar petition, which got things rolling here. Since then the Manitoba provincial ministry has been convinced to roll back some of the fuzzier aspects of the curriculum (bringing back the standard algorithms and memorization of math facts). If enough of you get behind Nhung’s petition you will make a difference in Alberta! — WISE Math (RC)Paul Bellows- Calgary, AB

My son does a math program through his Japanse school and has learned the traditional way. When he is in regular school his teachers tell him just getting the answer is not good enough, he must show multiple ways to solve the problem. He is getting confused as he is spending time on estimating and on theory. It is easy to see why Alberta is falling behind. We will be forced to teach at home.

As a mother and an engineer I am frustrated by the math skills taught in our schools. I have taken it upon myself to ensure my children have a strong math basis. It frustrates me to see the math program in our schools and at the same time hear Canada has a lack of skilled labor and to solve we are bringing in professionals from countries that have a strong traditional math program.

3 children, 2 struggling. We are all for the basics. The sooner the better.

Father of a six year old daughter. Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.

Fern MacDonald, Olds, Alberta

Dave D. Regina, SK

This issue is not (or should not be) new. I was a “victim” of New Math back in the early 1960’s when it was first introduced into high schools in Saskatchewan. All through my elementary school years, I was a “straight A’s” student in all subjects, including math. Starting in Grade 9 (in 1964) our class was the first to be exposed to the New Math of day. I floundered from the get go …the teacher barely knew the concepts (I suspect he learned them over a summer school session) and could not put them across to most of the students. The result was that he spent all his time with the handful of students who “got it” ….and the rest of us were left in the dust. I never regained an ability to keep up in math. It was my absolute worst class throughout high school. As a result, I did not move on to secondary education because of the requirement for strong math grades in virtually all courses. Fast forward to 1990’s when my own children were in school …they too struggled with the abstract math concepts being taught still. And, of course, as parents we were able to offer little help. We had to resort to outside agencies for math tutoring to help our son. The schools did not offer or provide additional support. Here’s an example of the kind of abstract, virtually meaningless concepts that are still being taught: Jimmy and Johnny are twins, and both walk to the same school. When walking alone, Jimmy takes 10 minutes to walk from his home to the school, and also when walking alone, Johnny takes 15 minutes to walk the same route. How long will it take for them to walk to school if they walk together? Now, my somewhat logical mind says that if Jimmy is a “fast walker” …and Johnny is a slower walker, perhaps Jimmy will slow down a bit to accommodate his slower brother, and Johnny will speed up a little bit, to accommodate his faster walking brother ….and so, perhaps you’d average the two speeds and come up with 12 and a half minutes for a combined walking time. Logical guestimate? (even in Grade 10, my son did not “get” the concept of “averaging”). The correct answer? 15 minutes combined walking time. The reason or explanation? None offered or given by the teacher…the answer was supposed to be obvious.

Back to basics, please …5 generations of bad math education is about enough!

Hi Dave. Excellent story. I’ll only quibble on one point: the difficulty with this problem is not abstraction per se — it is poor design, more specifically ambiguity and unclear expectations. “Abstraction” would be when you begin your solution with something like “Let X be Jimmy’s walking speed…”. But your story illustrates a very important aspect of textbook design in the fuzzy math system. Not long ago I was at a talk by a certain “fuzzy” textbook writer — perhaps the most well-known in Canada (I won’t mention her name here…). She got herself confused at one point in the talk (after I had asked a question). She paused and said “I think ambiguity is a great way to teach children!” I emailed her later saying I’m sorry if she was flustered because of being put on the spot and asking if she stood by that statement, and she affirmed that she did. Indeed, you’ll find her resources flush with exactly that: Problems in which there is no clear expectation, and the student is largely expected to make up their own problem. The teacher/text is to merely put some ingredients on the table, and the student is to “do something mathematically interesting”. (And I wonder — yeah, in whose eyes?). Sadly, your example does not strike me as out of keeping with this, it seems very much in keeping with the philosophy. But, as you perceive, children need structure, clarity, properly sequenced instruction and well-defined expectations. Thanks for dropping by! — WISE Math (RC).Laurie W., Dundas, Ontario – VERY frustrated mother and tutor. Not only have I had to tutor my daughter, but also her friends, for the last three years. Her math teacher last year would ask the children if they were “on the bus or off it.” My daughter responded with, “under it.” I think that sums it up (no pun intended).

Calgary, AB

I saw Anna Stokke’s interview with Diane Buckner and I was thunderstruck. It was as if this woman stepped inside my head and succinctly articulated all of my thoughts regarding math education in Alberta. All I can say to people like Anna and her colleague Rob Craigen is ‘godspeed’. It was Grade 3 when I discovered that there was something VERY wrong with math education in Alberta. The approach they were taking with the kids was, for lack of a better word, screwy. Talking with the teacher convinced me that they were in fact on the wrong track, so I took math education of my son into my own hands … teaching him the times tables and the beauty of the subject (to use Anna’s words). He went from a 60-something, math-hating hid to a 90+ Grade 8 student on the right track … a kid who makes even his teacher proud. I confess that I feel a sense of resentment with Alberta education, treating my child as something of a “guinea pig”, but rather than wallow in bitterness, I choose to fill the void left by the education system.

Anna, Rob … I admire you greatly. I am taking the “selfish” position by looking out for the interests of my son alone. You are standing up for ALL children. Godspeed Anna and Rob.

Magdalena Kaiser-Smit, NIagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario.

Please stop “Discovery Based Math” and bring back the basics. That way Canada can be in the top 10 nations again….sadly we are now at 13th in the world. Pathetic. Reminds me of when they tried to remove Phonics for 20 years.

Winnipeg, MB

I support this! Mom to 4 children (16, 14, 11, & 8). Wife to high school math teacher and sadly my children did not inherit his math gene :(

Julie Luceno, Mississauga, ON

I am the mother of two boys, grade 1 and 6. With the new so called discovery way of learning I have to teach my son their lessons at home in order to maintain their grades. This way of learning may be good for some, but not for my boys. I am very frustrated that I have to teach math including basic multiplication and division, spelling, cursive writing, typing, basic computer skills and so much more at home. And this new math has so much literacy injected into it that mathematics is getting lost in the fog. Our kids need real world skills. Sometimes I think I have become a homeschooler! I don’t put any of the blame on teachers, their hands are tied. Teachers have to follow this new curriculum and many have told me that they can see it is an issue for many kids and they agree it needs to go back to a system where rote skills are included. I think the EQAO scores are telling the story of what is happening right across Ontario. In the mean time our kids are being experimented on and will be left without the skills they need in University and in the real world.

Winnipeg, MB

Very frustrating to be at the mercy of the powers that be …especially when the findings are staring them straight in the face. Had read about this issue awhile back and it is only now hitting home having two kids in school. Definitely beefing up the at home math time (luckily we’ve never depended on the system to 1. teach my kids how to read and 2. learn how to do math.). Really feel for the kids that don’t have any back up at home who will most likely just fall through the cracks.

Ottawa,ON

The new math it’s a 100 percent failure guaranty for our kids.It is a abstract confusion even for the teachers.It will destroy our kids self confidence even the brightest. The traditional math produced Bill gates, Albert Einstein and any Bright mind of the last century. The new math will produce the dumbest generation ever. Please sing this petition and save our kids from disaster!The people behind this new system know exactly what they are doing and it’s time to stop this. There’s no logical or practical reason for this shift in teaching math except the intent to dump our kids down in order to manipulating them. Son do not try to understand the why, it’s because they can and we cannot stop them…..yet.

British Columbia

I am Special Education teacher and I support students who struggle in math and I am always looking for ways to support teachers and students in math.

T. Fitzgerald, Toronto, ON

Parent, former Math teacher

Tal Gershater, Toronto

Parent to grade 2 child and secondary math teacher.

Same problem in Ontario.

Katherine Pratt, Vancouver, BC

Math is a language that needs to be preserved.

Edmonton, AB

How can a person become a teacher with only grade 10? Maybe that is one of the problems? I agree though, teachers should only teach one or two subjects that they specialize in…

Sonia Campagnolo, Toronto, Ontario

I am a math and science specialist who, starting next year will have to teach core (all subjects including language arts and history etc.) . Why is it assumed that just because you graduate teacher’s college, you are capable of teaching every subject? Teaching requires content knowledge AS WELL AS a passion for what you are teaching. I have neither the required knowledge for teaching reading and writing (from grade 6 on) nor any passion for it.

Many teacher’s who graduate with an Arts degree have not taken math since grade 10! Now, they are apparently qualified to teach grade 8 math?????

What a loss to students to have a passionate and qualified math teacher now teaching language. Someone really needs to re-think this notion.

A very good question, Sonia. We have been trying to bring the Manitoba government on board with the idea of having math specialists in every school (where reasonable). Why is Ontario moving in the other direction? Unless Canadian jurisdictions shore up teacher training as in Finland or Singapore so thateveryteacher has subject-area expertise in math, there will be a need for those who specialize in the subject. WISE Math (RC).We need to have math/science specialists teaching students from at least grade 6. It is not fair to expect generalist teachers to have expertise in all areas. Please make sure this initiative becomes Federal not just for the West of Canada.

Charlottetown

J. Mawhinney – middle school math teacher. I love math! So saddened to see bright, interested young teens becoming frustrated and ready to throw in the towel when simple concepts are made overwhelmingly complicated.

I support this initiative.

Mary Smith Vancouver BC

I support this initiative.

Arlene – Vancouver, B.C.

Saskatchewan

Math makes Sense does not make sense. It focuses on the secondary to the detriment of the primary. Help my kids–help all kids!

Robbin Thibeau and Family, do your research people, this is just the beginning of “Agenda 21”

Calgary Alberta

N.Kalsi, Surrey BC,

Jo Reimer, Edmonton AB

Annette, Regina, SK

Let’s help our future and correct this issue.

Theresa Stoehr

Regina, SK

Julie McCarthy, Ottawa, Ontario (two boys in elementary school)

British Columbia

Parent of two children (aged 9 and 7). We have found that my son’s pre-school had better prepared him for math than the current education he is receiving even in grade 2. To compensate, we are spending time each week to teach them the basics.

My kids are in grades 3 & 5 in Ontario. The discovery based curriculum is beyond frustrating for all. I highly recommend http://www.khanacademy.org Set yourself up so that you can monitor the work and progress of your children. Sponsored by Bill Gates and is entirely free! He refuses to accept government funding and is therefore beyond their reach in influencing content.

You can’t just wait and hope for the Ministry of Education to do the right thing. There are too many vested interest who will hold up reform indefinitely, or at least it is too late for you kids.

P.S. Lots of great adult education and general interest material too!

Paul Tomasek

Mississauga, on

go to http://www.khanacademy.org

Melani Hilton, Allan, Sk. Concerned mother of two, previous math struggler.

Derek Krepski, Parent, Math professor, Winnipeg, MB.

Chris Atkinson, Douglas, NB

Both my children are learning this new math and it’s horrible. What a mess! We need to move back to methods that are proven and work!

Y. Zuniga, Toronto, ON

We are struggling everyday helping our daughter with math (4th grade). Something needs to be done quick.

Nick K.

Sudbury Ontario

I fully support this initiative, the sooner it gets back to the way it was, the better! Thanks

Thank you for expressing so clearly what I have been trying to articulate for the past three years. Watching my daughter struggle with the Ontario math curriculum until we put her in Kumon,was very frustrating. I want to complain to the teachers or Board, but it seems futile.

We spend a lot of evenings guiding her through the proofs and then allowing her to practice through rote.

It’s a balanced approach that her school just can’t seem to grasp.

Kitchener, Ontario

Best idea …..

Thomas C. Langer, Winnipeg, MB.

David Molson, Toronto, ON

Thanks! From Sudbury, Ontario

Kerry Stoehr, Regina, SK.

Jennifer Cameron-Turley, Saskatoon, SK

I strongly support this initiative. I have two children, currently in Grades 5 and 10. With the older one, we have put in 5 years of both Kukon and Sylvan, not to mention thousands of dollars, in an attempt to get his understanding of basics math concepts up to “Grade” level. The younger one seems to be hanging in there, but has not been taught times tables or basic long division and has just started Grade 5. This of course leaves her parents, both of whom work full time, to spend hours weeknights helping them. Thank you for all of your efforts!

I have always been interested in Math and was always good at it . I had the same elementary shool teacher in Grades 5-6-7 and mental arithmetic was always part of our day . I am 66 now nearing retirement as a Critical Care Nurse and have to frequently shake my head at the lack of math skills in our newer nurses . They simply have no sense of how numbers work and in our situation this can lead to serious dosage errors. I am always ‘running th numbers through my head ‘ .

I have written a letter to the National Post chastising the writer who referred to Dr Anna Stokke as Ms Stokke . I see this as a sign of disrespect that some women display towards other women.

Later comment:

Came across something interesting in a Snapple cap :

111,111,111 X 111,111,111 = 12,345,678,987,654,321. Only one in my family who thought this was fascinating but I can live with that.

Note to commenters: we only permit one comment per user. Occasionally we’ll accommodate repeat commenters with something interesting to say by merging with a prior comment. See the instructions. We use this thread for a head count. — WISE Math (RC)Stan Blakey, Otttawa, Ontario.

Great to hear about what you are doing.

First I want to thank my grade 6 teacher, Mr Goertze, for drilling us all on the times tables when he discovered we didn’t know them.

I offer some other interesting reading

On Why learn math? a great paper is linked below. Particularly as it addresses the sometimes asinine reasons given to kids by their teachers or to teachers by the organizations that run the curriculum:

http://www.ams.org/notices/201005/rtx100500608p.pdf

As a particularly horrible example I offer the Ontario math help line

https://homeworkhelp.ilc.org/tools/listen_learn/details.php?t_id=221

(For those that don’t want to follow that whole link they give as justification for learning the area of a trapezoid that designers needing to estimate how much paint they need will use it. )

Its worth looking at just to see what the Ontario government thinks is a worthwhile way to spend time and money to help kids learn math.

As a good comparison of what a good math video would look like see

http://www.artofproblemsolving.com/Videos/external.php?video_id=213

And the aops (art of problem solving) guys don’t see video as a great medium – good as a supplement or interest getter – hence a very motivating video as compared to the Ontario math help one.

The aops guys have lots of free material including a great web based problem and answer system

http://www.artofproblemsolving.com/liz/Alcumus/index.php?

Teachers can even use it to view results for their students.

They also have paid courses which are excellent for anyone with a love of math.

I have no interest in aops except as a customer. I wish I had that sort of thing when I was 14, luckily my son does.

Also anyone interested in this topic would enjoy Paul Lockhart’s books

http://www.amazon.ca/Measurement-Paul-Lockhart/dp/0674057554/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1379243684&sr=1-1

WISE Math (RC) Later addition — merged:Regarding drills it would be interesting to hear from kids. Many of them understand the cost benefit of drills in the sports they do. They make decisions on what level they are willing to play at given the cost in activities such as drills rather than games. They appreciate that a coach that pushes them to do more helps them. Sports is also a place where there are examples of poor coaching and poor decisions from parents or kids but for a great many kids it is a well balanced tradeoff of doing some less pleasant activity for the reward of playing at a higher level.

We live in New Brunswick – my daughter is 9 and has struggled in the current system. It’s crazy the way they are taught simple math. They make it so much more difficult then it has to be. Now she has no confidence in herself at all, she always over thinks every question and answer. She had to spend two days a week all summer with a tutor just to get prepared for grade 4 which we will continue for a day a week after school throughout the year. I stand behind what your trying to do 100%. I just wish it was happening in our province as well.

Marcella Moore

Lower Sackville, NS

My daughters were both behind grade level in math. The school suggested some remedies that I found to be illogical. I decided to catch them up myself. I met resistance from my kids. I showed them how to solve problem vertically (the way I learned). They let me know “that” was not the way they were “allowed” to do it…and it wouldn’t count. Right away I knew something was going on…there seemed to be a mandate to prove a certain methodology was better/preferable and it was being pushed irregardless of outcomes. I downloaded dozens and dozens of math sheets form a home-schooling website….went back a couple of grade levels so the “vertical” problems would be easy to solve…they blew through the sheets…and caught up to grade level within a few months. It was amazing!!!! Of course, the teachers took all the credit for the improvement (apparently writing evaluations and reports and preparing a 2 years plan to get them back to grade level made all the difference). I will most certainly be following this initiative….you’ve got my support!

N. C. Louie North Vancouver, British Columbia

Sean Howes, Halifax, N.S., father to a 5 and 7 year old. Wish we had a similar organization for Atlantic Canada.

I cannot believe that the teachers haven’t realized this is bad and get together as a group and fix this. Wow, I’m horrified by what was coming home with my 8 year old daughter. Please turn the ship around somehow.

Greg Gardiner, Saskatoon, SK

I encourage parents to continue to be advocates for proper math education for their children, and not to give up. Although this mess never should have happened, I believe we’ll be heard eventually. Hi WISE Math…You should be proud of the work you’ve done, and that you have gotten your government to listen! My husband recently saw our premier at a golf tournament and said to him, “My wife has a message she wants me to give you. The math program is not working. It needs to be changed.” His response was, “Yes, we’re hearing a lot of that”.

PRIOR COMMENT(*) 2011/12/04

How sad it is when a father who’s an engineer, and a brother who excelled at math find the questions in the grade seven and eight textbook incomprehensible and/or simply ridiculous. Giving students various confusing ways to look at, and solve problems just leads to more confusion, not greater understanding. I think the purpose of school (and as a former educator, I thorougly believe this) is to teach students . . . we have had to spend hours upon hours teaching math at home because of this program. Added to that purpose of teaching students is to teach students to be able to function in the ‘real’ world. The methods by which they want students to approach the various math problems have no applicability to, nor would they be used in, the ‘real’ world. I am more than happy to sign my name to a petition to bring back the former, and more realistic math program. As well, I would be happy to lend a hand in any way I can to this cause. Please feel free to contact me.PRIOR COMMENT(*) 2013/09/10

Unfortunately, the current math program isn’t going to help what you are seeing; it will make it far worse.Hello Janine. Presumably you are referring to the WNCP curriculum in use across most Canadian provinces, in which case we agree. Perhaps you’ve heard that we have turned back a few of the problematic aspects, as of Sept. 2013, in Manitoba. It’s a start, but there is much work yet, and sorry to say, this has no direct effect on your situation in Saskatchewan. — WISE Math (RC)(*) NOTE to commenters: we only allow one comment per visitor to this thread because we use it to keep a headcount. It has been our practice in a few cases to roll comments together for a single user when this makes sense, but we have little time for this kind of administrative task. WISE Math — RCCorrine jorgensen, Langley, bc

My sons math focus text reads more like a social studies text than a math text. There isn’t any math in the math text. I am a very concerned parent. Where has all the real math gone?

Laura, Calgary AB

My son is in grade 5 and they have been back at school for a month. He came home one day with a basic word problem involving mixed fractions. He was confused so we spent 10 minutes teaching him how to find the common denominator. Problem solved? Not so. My husband and I got told off by the teacher last week at “Meet the Teachers” night, as the class has not yet learned the term denominator nor how to find a common one. Apparently, we may confuse our son with our methods.

The less confusing method is to spend on average 1.5 hours (over 2 days) to “figure it out by themselves” and then discuss results as a class.

We have continued to help him in the evenings and he has now been told that he cannot keep his “evening” work with his class work as it is not being done the right way… (Im)patiently awaiting return phone call from the principal.

God help us.

Hello Laura. We’re hearing this same story so often nowadays! Thank you for laying it out in such straightforward terms. Let me assure you that you are not harming your child by showing them standard methods of performing key processes of arithmetic. It is a shame that the school is unwilling to do so and doubly so that they would stop you. Unfortunately there are members of the “consultancy class” who make it their business to go around indoctrinating teachers into these crazy positions, and the one you outline is unfortunately very common, and really is the epitome of what the tinkerers have tried to “accomplish” with WNCP and the attendant prescriptions in how to teach. It’s a big problem, and it is not your fault. It is unfortunate that they seem likely to penalize your child for you providing assistance in this way. Unless you’re up for a big struggle you might consider whether there is another school nearby, assuming that your district has a schools of choice program. Not all schools/teachers have bought into the prevailing dogma so zealously. — WISE Math (RC)I

Hi Tammy, I presume you are just adding your name as a signature/comment, and this is fine. We allow each commenter here one comment (so as to keep an accurate count). If you have more to say than “I” you are welcome to send a longer comment and we’ll just replace this one with it. — WISE Math (RC)Melanie Bauman, Ottawa, parent to two girls (aged 7 and 10), concerned parent

This summer I taught my child long division with my friend and her ten year old. I felt a smug satisfaction with myself as she has not been taught this yet. I have a problem with her having to waste time by “drawing her math”, using blocks and bars to demonstrate everything . They want her to have a calculator for grade 5 math. There will be time for a calculator later in high school (as I had), but AFTER she learns her basics. If the school does not teach her these things I WILL! Division in 1980 is Division in 2013. Same thing. Make groups smaller. Divide and conquer! Keep it simple and do not re-invent the wheel. Repetition is key for her and I think it is for most children and adults too.

Well said Mel. Indeed, this business of “drawing math” when doing arithmetic is a throwback to Roman times. You will be told that it is to “reinforce place value” but of course it does nothing of the sort: place value is very much what the algorithms such as long division are about. Such efficiency and clarity was not possible in the old Roman system where “value” was represented by distinctive symbols rather than by position. Today we see “I” replaced by a little square and “X” replaced by a rectangle but the approach is otherwise much the same except that with Roman numerals there was, at least, an orderly arrangement on the page, whereas kids are encouraged to draw these figures today willy-nilly as if position had no significance. This may be a helpful lesson in understanding numerical value in abstract terms and to separate this from numerals, which are a different kind of abstraction … but it isanything buta reinforcement for place value as claimed. What we have observed lately is that if one parses the apologetical writing in favour of the so-called “reform math” being taught, it is discovered that the distinction betweenexplanatory toolsand actualtake-home skillshas been erased. They simple do not understand, or at least do not acknowledge, that while there is some explanatory value in drawing these pictures, they are not useful tools and therefore not valuable educational outcomes in themselves. They have confused a stop along the journey with the destination. We do not object to these diagrams, which have their place — we object to the mistaken notion that these and other “strategies” somehow are equivalent to the generalizable skills they are suppose aid in explaining. WISE Math (RC)Alycia Smith, Winnipeg, i am a new teacher, graduated 2012, and working in an adult literacy center and it is unsatisfactory to see such a large percentage of adults who do not have their basic math skills. Seeing this in grown adults makes me fearful of our current youth who are not retaining their basics as well. Things need to change.

Extremely concerned high school student.

Ontario

Rochelle Michaels, Thornhill, ON

Why do students come here and excel in Mathematics while our Canadian-born students falter? Why are we closing the doors of opportunity to our students before they finish public school?

What’s happened to my country ?

So many parents and teachers are deeply frustrated and concerned about the state of math education – Thank you for your work!

Liz Barrett

Whistler

British Columbia

Doug Dillon, Brockville, Ontario.

As a longtime math educator in Ontario, I have witnessed these difficulties for many years and periodically back to the basics initiatives appear but do not stay. I heartily support your work.

Sharon Dillon, Brockville, Ontario

As a high school teacher, I am appalled by the dismal math skills of students, and the low standards of the Ontario curriculum. Things need to change!

Mark Rabena, Winnipeg, MB. Teaching Assistant at UofM.

Alex Gontcharov, Ottawa, Math Graduate Student

Kingsley Bowles Winnipeg, MB. Thank you!

Michael Villanueva, math teacher, Winnipeg, MB

It’s not only the curriculum that needs changing but the whole teacher-training program that also needs a complete overhaul. These two go together.

Hi Michael,You are quite right and we wish we had positive news to report in that area but we do not. We have stressed again and again that things need to change, both with entrance requirements for universities and with the training in math that is received by teachers at the university level and the amount and type of courses that preservice teachers are required to take. Unfortunately, it seems as though change will be slow to come in this area.WM

Colleen Wilson, Winnipeg, single parent to a very bright Grade 6 girl (when she was four she loved math and we used to do double digit adding in the car for fun). Now she hates math-says she “sucks” at it and has even taken to counting on her fingers “like the others do in class”. I was told by her school principal that rote memorization was “shown by research to be a waste of time”.

I also homestayed international high school students . They were surprised when their Canadian counterparts pulled out calculators -Canadian students had no clue how to do simple calculations or graphs without them. The homestay students (from South America and Mexico) found our math “way too easy and far behind” their curriculum back home. I felt embarrassed.

As I tutor students in the new curriculum in schools I wonder how these students will be ready for university. Excellent issue to address.

I would also like to see some discussion about how students are tested. The grade 12 departmental exam in Alberta is multiple choice. Written answers were eliminated because of costs. Multiple choice exams are a poor evaluation of students’ math skills.

Faye Strong, Calgary, Alberta

My friend (a high school teacher of English) of thirty years ago told me then that the students coming out of high school were horribly unprepared for entering the work force. He warned me to be careful in hiring people with high school diplomas dated after 1984. These days I hear many stories from business owners and their frustration with low skilled employees. Time to get back to rigorous grade school / high school education that focuses on the basics: reading, writing and ‘rithmatic.

My daughter’s math education has been so frustrating. Our children have become part of an educational experiment, and many will suffer for their whole lives because of it.

Deb Kurdydyk Wpg. MB.

I have spent countless nights helping my daughter (Grade 6) with her math homework, but more importantly, with the math they are NOT teaching her. She does not know her timestables – not her fault, but I don’t want her to end up like the Apple “Genius” we encountered last year that could not, after over 10 minutes, make change for a simple cash purchase. Forget issues with university math; we are not giving our kids even the most basic math skills they need to function in society!

Winnipeg, MB

As a mother of a two boys (age 1 & 5), I strongly support this initiative.

Jody Branch, Okotoks, AB, mother of an eight year old girl and a six year old boy. We do extra work at home to fill in the gaps and also simply to practice. With hardly any homework, how are children suppose to practice their new skills or solidify their knowledge?

Stephen Atkinson, winnipeg, Manitoba. Spent my career as scientist working with mathematics. Struggling to teach this ridiculous new curriculum to my grade 4 child who comes home from school completely confused and demoralized.

A call to action to all who support this initiative: choose your votes carefully the next time you are able to exercise your democratic rights, and cast a vote to elect representatives in your local school division board and provincial legislature who commit to making changes to the curriculum.

You can’t vote with your wallets, but you can vote.

“Consumer” of Manitoba’s primary, elementary, secondary and post-secondary education services

Parent to a future “consumer” of these same services

Nancy Macdonald, Winnipeg, Manitoba. Grade 4 student struggling with math in my household.

Rheanna Costen. Winnipeg, Manitoba.

Lisa, Brandon MB, struggling to teach a grade 4 student multiplication tables

Jason Boychuk, Calgary AB, 42 years old – and still knows his times tables without thinking. 8 x 7 was always the hardest! :)

Saskatchewan

My frustration is immense. I thought my daughter was having trouble with math. Took her to expensive tutor and discovered her trouble was with comprehension in reading. Taught her math the old way and she excelled. Worked on her comprehension and all is good. She is in grade 7 and has no recall of sime multiplication tables. That is something you always take with you. It was tamped into my memory. Used all the time.

I really can’t stand how they have turned a simple math question into a half a page long answer. That is not the real world.

Lee Hergott Saskatoon SK

Frank McGilliray Sault Ste. Marie Ontario, parent of four children 11 , 13 , 15 and 18. The two older children are fairly proficient in the basic academics however the two younger children are not. For example my daughter can’t cursive write nor do long division and my son barely understands the basic concepts of simple math, this I blame on the curriculum.

Not only is the over all curriculum distorted but the methods of instruction also.

The curriculum appears to be geared more toward behavior modification and character development rather than the imparting of knowledge and the mastery of skills in grammar, cursive hand writing and arithmetic. However as important as this issue is – the methods of instruction concern me even more. Group Learning is now being applied to all elementary grades and dominates over independent learning. Recommendations by Educational psychologists state group learning should only occupy a portion of the school day but is in fact now being used all the time. This in essence deeply affects an individuals ability to perform tasks independently and robs the individual of independence and thus creates independence toward others for his or his success. Group learning is more customary to countries like China, Japan or Taiwan who function under a social system of collectivism whereas the western parts of the world such the USA , Canada and Briton function under a social system of individualism. These two contrasts between these two systems are like oil and water.

Collectivism in the classroom plays a significant role in the overall problems Canadian culture will have to endure in the future. The curriculum developers are those individuals who are responsible for this mess and a re-evaluation of this process needs to be addressed before the day comes when the culture of Canada is significantly altered from its current constitutional status found within the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and civil bill of rights, which in essence acknowledges the individual to be an autonomous entity rather which is not the case found under collectivism.

Education is the key to the preservation of the virtue of liberty, democracy and freedom that at one time was important in this country. An ignorant civilian population cannot possibly understand these principles and therefore threatens the very lives and culture of all Canadians.

[Hi Frank, your thoughts are much appreciated. WISE Math currently focusses our energies primarily on matters of curriculum and teacher training but, in today’s educational climate where certain strong ideologies and fads hold sway it is nearly impossible to separate these from pedagogical issues such as you raise. We may articulate the issues you raise in slightly different terms, but your thoughts as read resonate with many parents from whom we hear. The matter of group learning is of concern, partly for the reasons you state but also because of the social dynamics. Many children simply do not cope well with group work. In particular, you’ll find most strong students resent being put into groups, and most weak students are intimidated by the prospect of appearing clueless in a jury of peers. Many others simply have social handicaps or difficulty communicating, and this approach merely magnifies the degree to which they are disadvantaged. Further, in classes where group learning is the main paradigm, far less material can be covered, less consistently, and in less depth. The value of a lesson depends far too much of the luck of the draw: whose group one lands in. This is just large-scale social experimentation, and I personally get angry when I think about it. You are right that there are cultural differences with the Asian systems, and while your distinction between “collectivism” and “individualism” is not wrong, it is probably an oversimplification. In fact, the Asian approach to mathematical education places a very strong onus on the individual, and his/her responsibility to family and community (another oversimplification). It is common for apologists of the current educational fads to cherry-pick some aspect of some Asian system — such as group work, or starting lessons with an open-ended problem — that happens to resemble some approach they are promoting, and magnify and distort it to the point that any intrinsic wisdom one might glean is obscured. And, as you observe, cultural differences alone ought to counsel caution in making inferences for Western classrooms based upon social relationships observed in those of Asia. –WISE Math (RC)]Valentino Galati Bolton Ontario

Concerned parent.

Winston Candow, Whitby, On. Grandfather of 10,all in school & all struggling to some degree with the new math. I strongly support this.

Barry Waldner, Parent, and Math Teacher, Manitoba

I am a math teacher in a small school. As a Math teacher I find it hard to find meaningful Professional Development in the field of Mathematics. Most times when there is a notice about a math inservice I need only read the first few sentences and notice that it is sponsored by a textbook manufacturer and although it says that it is not meant to promote any one series over another, attending such sessions has proven otherwise. I have attended great math sessions (for the first ten minutes) when the focus suddenly shifted to a marketing inservice where the presenter (usually one of the co-authors of a textbook) suddenly becomes a marketer of a textbook. Its not that I can’t appreciate them trying to sell a textbook, especially when they were an author, I can see how they would think that it is the perfect textbook. Math however is more universal, it cannot be taught from one textbook or resource. It is a life skill and I feel it should be approached as such. When we go for a drivers license, MPI doesn’t just give us one, we have to learn about driving, practice driving, and then are tested on our ability to drive. If we do not practice and do not master the art of driving we will not get a driver’s license. The same applies to math. Textbooks are set up so that the teacher is the “keeper of knowledge” and we are expected to just spew it out for students, or they take the other dramatic approach where students are expected to teach themselves through “discovery”. Students need to be guided to master topics. If they cannot add and subtract, then they need to master these skills before they are asked to find perimeter; If they cannot multiply or divide what sense is there in trying to get them to understand equivalent fractions?

[

Very good points, Barry. Your last point concerns “just in time learning” where students don’t learn a skill until it’s needed. Of course this means one must cram learning of elementary and advanced things into a single lesson, violating common sense. What you say about Pro D being a captive-audience sales presentation appears, unfortunately, to be the norm. What is supposed to help teachers in the classroom turns out in many instances to be more mercenary in nature. The frustration only increases when you learn what these publisher representatives get paid (by the ministry, your school and MTS): for some of the more popular clinicians the going rate is $10,000 for a 2 day workshop. And that is before your school goes out and orders hundreds of their overpriced publications. It’s a multimillion-dollar industry. — WISE MATH (RC)]Jared Brandt, Regina, Saskatchewan, High school mathematics teacher.

I feel that students are being pushed too early into “understanding.” Instead, math should be based primarily on facts and algorithms until a later age, when understanding is built. While I like the ideas of the new curricula in later years, I believe that the “old” curricula were better for the early development. As a high school teacher, I see many frustrated students, who do not know how to multiply or divide (especially large numbers), but instead rely on calculators. In spite of the theoretical approach in elementary school, these children do not come to high school with the necessary skills to understand their own knowledge.

[

Very well put, Jared. Indeed, this is exactly the problem. A very large American study some years back compared the performance of approaches in which skills are emphasized against several approaches in which cognitive understanding is emphasized, and it was found that those systems adequately supporting skills development did far better than those that focussed solely on “understanding”. Shockingly, none of the latter systems even did as well as the status quo — students learning under these systems actually performed more poorly than the general population on cognition outcomes, whereas those learning under systems emphasizing knowledge and skills. If this interest you, google “Project Follow Through”. — Wise Math (RC)]I am so frustrated with this Math Makes Sense program! My son is in grade 5 and has not been taught the basics of multiplication and division yet is expected to use 20 different ways to come up with answer that he could find easily if just taught the simple old fashioned way to multiply and divide!

I am in total support and wish you all the best in changing the way maths is now taught. I hope teachers don’t see this as an attack on them but if they require more maths education perhaps their salaries should reflect that.

I live in Brisbane, Australia and we have exactly the same issue here. They don’t care if the answer is correct but that the student can display deeper level thinking. How can they without the basics. My bright girls are failing maths. My grade 4 daughter still doesn’t know her times tables and I’ve been told I have to teach them to her as rote learning is a waste of class time! I only wish we had a lobby group like yours and I wondered if you could give me any advice as to how to get one up and running?

Tempe Laver

Hi Tempe. Welcome. Starting an initiative like this one is a matter of will. You don’t need many resources initially. In the U.S. there were numerous groups of parents with shared concerns who began such groups. The ones that took off, however, and began to have an effect on educational policy, generally included professional mathematicians. Our initiative is a little bit the reverse of this: WISE Math is founded by mathematicians and others have signed on in support. Because we are subject-matter experts we can convey the message somewhat more effectively than others. In our view, however, this issue belongs to the general public and it is unfortunate that we have to wave our credentials around to be taken seriously. Anyone who is well-informed can address these issues. As we say in our intro to this page, however, there is strength in numbers, and simply organizing will get you started. You’ll find people who’ve been lonely warriors for years and they will come with surprising skills and personal resources, quite relieved to have comrades-in-arms. You’ll also find that many just had no idea where to start. Read some of our resources linked on our pages. Especially the NMAP report, and then check out the resources at NYChold, which are quite extensive. If you’re hoping to bring mathematicians on board I especially recommend the two videos prominently featured on the NYChold main page — watch them yourself and use them to introduce the subject (it explains some of the basics in terms that will connect with mathematicians). Compare what you learn in those sources with actual things you can document in your own schools. Then get articulate about what you object to and advocate for. Write an op ed; start and publicize an internet petition. Put up an attractive web page. Then just put one foot in front of another. Don’t try to go it alone though. And send us updates from time to time. –WISE Math (RC)Montreal

I fail to see how this math helps a child at all.My daughter is in grade 6 now ,and she is struggling.How can a child progress in math when the basics are not taught.She hasn’t even grasped her times tables.I’m only 42 and trying to help her with math every night becomes very frustrating.If our teachers in Ontario make the highest wages(overpaid)why are so many children struggling. It needs to be changed back to the basics before a child can strive at math.Signed a very frustrated father.

Glad to see this issue begging addressed.

Natalia Ensor, Clyde River, NS

Lethbridge, AB

My oldest son – now in grade 12 with an 80% average, barely passed math 10 two years ago. My second son is now in math 10 and will likely not pass the class at this point. Unless the teacher ‘works the numbers’ so to speak, so he can go onto Math 21. The material in the current math 10 curriculum are things I remember taking in math 30 and math 31! I loved math when I was in school, but I don’t remember much of it anymore (it’s been over 20 years) and I simply don’t know how to help him. We’re both feeling helpless at this point! The system is broken and something needs to be done to fix it!

Michelle Carlson, Brandon MB. Parent of 4 children.

From Brandon, Manitoba mother of one, aged 12, Grade 7.

Lana Russell

Brandon,MB

Parent of an 11yr old and a 7yr old was shocked tonight by my sons inability to complete basic division.

I was very surprised that I had to drill multiplication at home for my stepchildren. I wish school focus was more on the basics.

Leslie Drohan

Brandon, Mb.

Derek Buttery, Alexander, Manitoba.

Father to 3 boys {10, 7 and 5 yrs old}.

It’s not just mathematics that needs review, but maths is an excellent place to start. Kudos and thank you for doing this.

Julianne Pabuayon, Souris, MB

I strongly support this initiative!

Anything that makes teachers and others who are responsible for educating our young people should be publicly accountable. I don’t know for sure, but it is my feeling that our education system has ‘dumbed down’ during the last 10 years. We need to get rid of the ‘no fail’ and ‘no zero’ policies. Why else forced the U of Manitoba to create a University 1? People should be required to be able to read their Grade 12 diploma before being allowed to move on.

I agree with you 100%. Our education system has definitely been dumbed down. I taught math for a mere 2.5 years and was so frustrated with the system I had to teach under, I had to quit. I was asked to pass kids who wouldn’t even try and the no zero policy is a joke. That policy was initiated with the thought that if time pressure was removed, more students would do a better job on their assignments and it would reduce stress for struggling students. The policy has completely backfired. We are creating students who have absolutely no time management skills. Very few students are using the opportunity to do a better job on their assignments, rather, they are continuously putting assignments off in all their courses until they they are so completely swamped that they either give up or complete only the bare minimum just to “get it done”. Half the time they can’t even remember what the assignment was about by the time they get to it and so learn very little by doing the assignment at all. It is especially detrimental in math because one concept builds on the next and if we can’t force them to get an assignment done on time they haven’t got a hope of understanding what comes next.

Dion Wiseman, Brandon, Manitoba

Brittany Bergwall, Brandon MB

Thank you for the wonderful resources listed here. Looking at the grade 1 & 2 curriculum I was floored that things I though should be standard practice are not even taught anymore. We do math at home now and I am always looking for extra resources so thank you. I will support you in any way I can, because nothing is more important than our children’s education!

Amazing! I am in BC and struggle with the exact same problem with my son, who is now in Grade 5. I have been feeling very alone in my frustration. We do much more complex math based on the traditional concepts, which I thankfully learned, and mastered very well, in Eastern Europe. He finds “our” math much easier… Wait until they teach them in Grade 5 how to solve basic equations – the Math Makes sense textbook teaches them only one method: “Guess.” There are two pages of examples about how to “guess” the right answer! If at first you fail, guess again. As much as I have honestly tried, I cannot call this math – this is pure “guesstimating”. As I tell my son, I would never trust him to build a bridge using the math he is learning in school here!

Can you please, PLEASE extend this initiative to BC? Math education is a disaster, and a tremendous disservice to our children and our society. I am happy I can help my child, though I feel I am doing the job that the school should be doing.

[Actually our initiative covers “the (Canadian) West” as the name suggests. We have fewer contacts and activity in B.C., which is why you see us reporting largely on things happening in Manitoba and Saskatchewan. We hope to extend our work to all places where WNCP has found a foothold, but it helps to have local organizers since each province has local issues and must be dealt with separately on a political basis. Those in B.C. wishing to organize are encouraged to contact the small group hoping to form a B.C. Chapter of Wise Math. — WISE Math (RC) ]Brianne Daudlin, Medicine Hat (AB).

Brian & Barb Daudlin, Medicine Hat, Alberta. Watched our three children drudge through Math 10, 20, and 30 without realizing or acquiring those important math/life skills. We are eye witnesses of the shortcomings.

Stuart Shanker, Gore’s Landing, ON.

In the words of Sri Ramakrishna: “math builds character.”

It appears the new method of teaching Math was someone’s attempt to “fix” something that “was not broken” . Is the so-called “fix” or new method of teaching Math breaking the will or desire of students to learn Math because it is so confusing? Get back to the basics – I learned Math under the old method and it served me well in University and throughout my career.

Extremely frustrated BC Mom of a 4th grader, and you’re about to find out why. Here’s an example of what my daughter and I dealt with today, courtesy of Nelson Education’s Math Focus ….

This came under the heading “SUBTRACTING NUMBERS CLOSE TO HUNDREDS OR THOUSANDS” and the instructions were to “use mental math to calculate”. Here is the completed example question with their explanation and instruction:

—————————————————————————————————–

“To subtract , add to the smaller number until you reach the greater number” For example:

1904 – 897 = _____

“This is the same as 897 + ____ = 1904”

To reach 1904, add numbers to 897:

897+3=900

900+1000=1900

1900+4=1904

“The difference is: 3+1000+4=1007”

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Really? Why on earth would I allow my daughter to spend a moment doing a subtraction question this way?! Honestly I’m so exhausted with this nonsense. Nothing would please me more than to tear your book to shreds.

Needless to say, I support this initiative.

Hi Sonia, and welcome. Ironically, this is an example of what in the lingo they call a “personal strategy”. That is, the student invented it all on their own. Isn’t that great? Just pay no attention to the detailed instructions in the text. Nope. Uh-uh. The student invented it all by themselves, and so we shouldn’t question it.–WISE Math (RC) ]I shouldn’t find that shocking but I do. These ‘personal strategies’ (and there are countless of them) have resulted in this last unit encompassing estimating, rounding, addition and subtraction from left to right and right to left, regrouping, borrowing, renaming — all to seemingly accomplish basic subtraction principals. Pretty dangerous to 9 year olds who desperately require fundamentals. I’d not have believed it if I hadn’t seen it myself. Subtraction used to mean “take away” or “difference”. Now it’s just a a word with a cloud of haziness surrounding it. I’m in constant damage control mode and its very sad, as my daughter is actually not too bad at math at all. Unfortunately this teaching has destroyed her belief that she is able. She categorically believes “she sucks at math”.

Jian Song, father of two girls (aged 12 and 16).

Several years ago after I realized how bad the math textbook “Math Makes Sense” is, I told my daughters to ignore the math they learned at school. Instead, I took full responsibility to teach them math. I used placement tests downloaded from Singapore Math (SM) to see the level they were at, and then I ordered the SM textbooks and workbooks at proper levels. I started SM grade 3 for my grade 4 girl and SM grade 5 for my grade 7 girl. In my view, SM is the best curriculum for teaching arithmetic to primary grade students. It doesn’t use any confusing and complicated “strategies”. There are no colorful pictures, no activities or puzzles, no “guess and check”, and no over-use of manipulative. It teaches fewer topics at a time with slower pace, and moves to new topic only when student fully masters the current topic (this is contrary to the spiral approach used in our school system, which I believe is a major factor among others for the deteriorating math education). The word problems in SM are carefully crafted and promote logical reasoning and abstract thinking. The arrangement of the sequences is well thought to reflect accumulative nature of math knowledge.

My daughters finished SM long time ago and I am still teaching them math at home. I teach them algebra, geometry (proof based Euclidean geometry, not the dumb-down taught at school), trigonometry (again, proof based), analytic geometry and maybe calculus in the future. As I don’t trust the “new math”, all the textbooks I am using are old-fashioned written by these professional mathematicians and great educators: Israel M. Gelfand, Andrei P. Kiselev, Morris Kline, and of course the Great Euclid.

While I am trying my best to ensure my children to receive a good math education, I feel heartbroken to see a whole generation of young people being ruined by the education system. That is why I fully support WISE Math. I am also talking to my children’s teachers and other parents to raise their awareness. I hope the collective efforts will reverse the declining trend in math education.

[Excellent anecdote, Mr. Song and thanks for sharing it with us. I’m glad to have this posted here, because you describe very well an effective strategy that many parents have found. Singapore is, indeed, one of the two resources we currently endorse for such purposes. It is unfortunate that parents have to remediate against what is learned in school under the official curriculum, and doubly unfortunate that this means some children will be shortchanged simply because their parents do not have the background, time or skills to do what you have done. Many parents write us asking what they can do for their children. We have put some suggestions here. Like many parents, Mr. Song has found some of these solutions on his own and shown the way. WISE MATH (RC) ]

[Note from Anna Stokke: I absolutely agree with everything you’ve written here. I also use the Singapore Math program with my daughters (in combination with the JUMP program) and it is excellent.]

Jiang Song has captured the essence of mathematics — abstraction, reasoning and proof — that is so sadly missing from the current curriculum. It was these characteristics that first drew me to mathematics in grammar school in England. It is distressing that many Canadian students never meet real mathematics. Well done, Mr. Song.

Alan Donald, Vancouver, BC

As a former high school teacher turned professor of statistics, I have taught every level from Grade Eight to graduate courses in mathematics and statistics. The higher level students I met in the latter part of my career were, of course, those with the talents to overcome bad teaching in elementary school. But I was always curious about the walking wounded who stumbled through high school math and are now surviving with minimal skills.

An oddity. Skimming through the list of signers, I notice that most are from Saskatchewan and Manitoba. BC is under-represented and Alberta is — so far as I can see — absent. Any explanation for this?

Hi Alan. Our geographical distribution probably has mostly to do with the fact that this initiative began in Manitoba and Saskatchewan, though it pertains to the curriculum coming into use everywhere to the West of Ontario. We’d be happy to hear from people in B.C. and Alberta willing to devote their time to spearhead this initiative in those provinces and partner with us as spokespersons for WISE Math. In fact, although we have not worked toward this, perhaps at one point we’ll have representatives from each math (not forgetting stats, physics, engineering…) department in the jurisdiction. WNCP becomes implemented system-wide in most places by 2013 so we expect interest to increase at the universities as folks discover the joys of dealing with students without the standard tools, what skills they have left unpracticed, missing the beautiful standard algorithms that foster economy of thought learning ad-hoc “strategies” instead, and a “multiple representations” approach instead of focussed problem solving skills.— WISE Math (R. Craigen)

Hi Alan,There are those of us here in Alberta that have signed this petition. We are not absent, but under represented. My daughter is currently in grade 5 and I have been teaching her math at home since the end of grade 1, when I realized the schools/teachers/curriculum wasn’t doing its job. I have tried to educate other parents to what is going on, but most seem complacent as their child, at least at our elementary school, does not come home with any worksheets or tests so that parents can realize that there is a problem. All they see is a report card and if your child is outgoing and puts their hand up in class, they may be wrong, but guess to ‘explore and discover’ a concept, they get great grades. Never mind that they don’t actually know anything. One of my ‘mom’ friends whose daughter is currently in grade 10 has finally realized what I was talking about when her daughter started failing grade 10 math after getting 80%-90% in grade 9. I am tutoring her in math and her grades are rising. The preparation for these kids as they head into high school and university (if they make it that far) is extremely poor. I am hopeful that at least a change can be made before a whole generation of kids is ruined by this ‘reform math curriculum’. But unfortunately the education powers that be seem so resistant to change until 20-30 year fads run their coarse.— Comment added by Nathalie Hunt (Joined 2011/12/14)

Later comment submitted by Alan Donald on 2015/08/28 at 1:04 pm | In reply to Ken Tough. — WISE Math (RC)Thanks, Ken, for your perceptive comment. Yes, you are quite right that the linguistic approach negates the “concise, precise, and logical coherent” nature of mathematics. That nature is exactly what we should be teaching.

Alan Donald, Vancouver.

(B.Sc., M.Sc., mathematics; Ph.D., biostatistics)

Alice Mayer, Calgary AB – I am very disheartened with the new math curriculum taught to our young students in AB. When I was young being taught Math I had no issue with anything and now trying to help my ten year old daughter is next to impossible. I had to be taught by her grade 3 teacher how to do division because I could not make sense of what they were being taught. Its absurd to me that they would want to make a subject that is difficult to most students even more difficult for our little ones to learn. Dont children have enough to deal with in school already? Why would they want to make it more difficult for them???

To say I support this initiative is an understatement. I have two sons in Grade 1. I am truly flabbergasted at the Ontario education system. At parent teacher interviews, I learned that neither boy can count to 20, they can’t recognize numbers (especially out of order) and they can’t write numbers–I guess they’re too busy managing data and discussing their feelings about it. My sons don’t know what a ruler is, or how to use it to actually draw a straight line! Instead, they’re given a blank sheet of paper and just told to write however they think should, since “students are responsible for their own education.” They don’t even understand that to form numbers they need to work from top to bottom and write them left to write, keeping the numbers between the given lines. And yes, to their shock, neatness does count– it’s very hard to do a math problem if you can’t read your own writing!! We’re half way through the school year, what have they been doing? Well, they glued together a paper cube… Maybe I was naive as a parent thinking that they could start Grade 1 and they would actually learn basis skills— I went to Grade 1 and didn’t know how to count or say the alphabet which I learned. One of my sons has already voiced an interest in pursuing science as a career– what kind of real skills will the Ontario system give him? I looked at the Grade ,1 it states that basic operations are important but my kids can’t even write or recognize numbers!!! What a travesty! What are we doing to children? Other parents I have talked to are experiencing the exact same thing–they are tearing their hair out and spending hours tutoring tired resistant children who’ve been at school all day. Thank you WISE Math, I’m definitely behind you!

Here in Quebec the ‘New Math’ is part of a curriculum wide reform, that has changed the way all subjects are taught and evaluated. The reform has failed our children.

University student, I support this initiative

We support this initiative 100% and want our grandchildren to learn the old fashion math and (reading) the same way we did; and our daughter did in school, years ago. It has and continues to serve us well in our daily lives.

How are we as parents able to help our children with homework if we ourselves don’t understand the work they bring home…why does it have to be so complicated, after all what was wrong with the way we were taught,are we now to believe that our educating years were just a waste. Please lets go back to the way things were,as the saying goes, WHAT’S NOT BROKEN -LET’S NOT FIX!!!

Can we please go back to the basics in all parts of education. Our children would benefit more from it. I want changes made now.

I’m actually reading this from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania but I wanted to add my support from the USA. I’ve taught math to elementary, middle, high school, and college students. I have also worked hard to be cognizant of my own learning experiences and I believe all these experiences agree with the approach endorsed by this organization. Keep up the good work!

Mariam Al-Hawaj, Richmond Hill, ON, I am a research assistant at Math and Stats Learning Centre in University of Toronto Scarborough, and a mother of two girls ( aged 9 and 14).

I support the initiative.

Michelle Wilson, Regina, SK

Seymour Iles, Dawson City. Yukon.

Very glad I found this after getting fed up with the current maths teaching fad. Happy to support this effort.

Thank you.

Kathryn Foran, Dawson City, Yukon.

Oh my God, thank goodness you exist. I sincerely appreciate that someone is taking issue with our current curriculum.

Bill Sutherland, Kimberley, B.C.

I am currently enjoying my 33rd year teaching elementary math. Math skills are declining and I support Wise Math initatives.

EDWARD PLOSZAY, WINNIPEG, MB. I support this initiative.

Now that Nova Scotia has embraced the WNCP Mathematics curriculum, it’s time to open a new front in Atlantic Canada. You are helping us to WISEn up when it comes to Math.

Shannon Galon, British Columbia My husband and I have been spending an average of three hours a night trying to figure out out 13 year old son’s math. By the end of the evening, we are usually all ready to burst into tears, especially him. This is crazy! We have three other kids that are not getting our attention because of the “new” HORRIBLE, math!

Let’s start preparing kids for success. Have had four kids struggle with this book now. Enough.

Wonderful : )

Trevor Thomson, Winnipeg, Manitoba.

Ivan Cassidy, Wolfville, NS.. I am a parent and grandparent, a former teacher of Math for 5 years at the elementary & 9 years at the secondary school level in N. Ireland, and am now retired after 28 years as a professor in teacher education at Acadia University. I wholeheartedly support the WISE iinitiative.

Karen Chopp, Winnipeg, MB

John Murray, Winnipeg, Manitoba

Formerly a mathematics and science curriculum consultant with the Manitoba Department of Education and now working in the renewable fuels sector with Manitoba Innovation, Energy and Mines. Seeking opportunities to engage WISE and the mathematics education community at large in a broad-based set of discussions – but particularly focusing on the theoretical basis for linking the fortunes of Canadian students of mathematics with those of such disparate jurisdictions as Singapore, the State of California, and the United States. Is the emphasis on international cooperation – or on competitiveness? When may that open discussion take its next steps?

As a university professor i daily witness the devastation caused by the “new math”.

Gale Smith, Lockeport, Nova Scotia

I’m a parent of three girls (10, 7 & 6)in the public school system. My oldest daughter currently struggles daily with her math and I’m very concerned with the adoption of this new system. I love the ideas presented here and feel the comprehension levels of students would increase drastically if they were implemented throughout our school system. As it is I spend many hours each month with tutors for my daughter (in grade 5) to be able to maintain her A average in math because the current curriculum is confusing enough, I’m afraid to see what will happen when things change over. We do need change within our school system, just not the one they’re adopting.

Tony, Mary Ann Marissink, Wolfville, N.S.

Breathe of fresh air to read these ideas. We have 2 12&13 year old girls in local public school. Oh, my frustartions but now I realize I am not alone. SQE in Toronto mirrors similar ideas. Keep up with this thrust please!

My name is Scott Adamson and I am a retired teacher living in Nova Scotia.I certainly support your initiative and fear that our province is jumping from the frying pan into the fire with the adoption of the Alberta math model championed by Dr. Small. I feel that John Mighton’s approach, as described thoroughly in his book THE MYTH OF ABILITY, is what is needed in Nova Scotia schools, not the “random abstract” model of Dr. Small, but the “concrete sequential” approach of John Mighton.

University student minoring in mathematics.

A very positive thrust. Hopefully something productive will result.

Rebecca Pellerin, Halifax NS

Jason Schwandt, P. Eng, Unionville, Ontario.

Liz Williams, Maple Ridge, BC

Math teacher

Darienne Suruj-Nath, Vancouver, BC

Mathematics teacher–I am saddened to see such weakness in the Math curriculum. We are cheating our children. They will not have the skills to be trained as scientists, engineers, accountants etc. I fear these jobs will, in the future, go to immigrants who have received their training elsewhere. We must get our act together NOW by teaching the fundamentals of numeracy.

Reply from Sandra Roberts:You are so right about this. I do not see many ‘born here’ Canadians even trying to take these higher career paths. It saddens me greatly.

Sandra,

Edmonton, AlbertaMaha Chishti, Toronto, Ontario, frustrated parent of the math curriculum for my school aged children grades 11, 6 and 3. My grade 11 daughter went to many math tutors only to be utterly confused and has come to the conclusion she hates Math. She is brilliant, unfortunately never saw MATH as fun! I did all my schooling in the 70’s and 80’s and did pretty good in math I didn’t excel however I did see how it was a fun subject. My kids grumble and get frustrated, my husband and I do not understand the “new” mathematics. I support this initiative and hope to see our children in Canada learn and appreciate Math in a whole new light!

Reply from Jane Branchflower:Your children might find help for their difficulty with and attitude to Math at the following web site:

http://www.khanacademy.org

It offers free tutoring in a number of subjects, especially math. Mr. Khan can also be seen on youtube where he explains his purpose in setting up the site.

Jane Branchflower,Caledon, Ontario

Ting Mallari. Winnipeg, Manitoba. Mom of 5 & 7 yr old boys. Kudos to this initiative.

Jo-Anne Scott

Winnipeg Manittoba

The devestation of math skills and basic understanding of number relations, functions and basic calculation, have contributed to the situation we are now seeing, where most Alberta educated students leaving high school avoid mathematics instruction at all costs in post secondary. They have little understanding of mathematics and are calculator dependant, memorizing key strokes for the Math 30 final. Little wonder students trained in Asia and Eastern Europe are dominating our math and science professions. The current system is stealing from our children, and is nothing less than child abuse. As a former curriculum director for a large school system I tried in vain to stem the erosion of knowledge for curriculum. That erosion is now creating a crises in edcuation.

Very concerned that children need to learn basic math skills to enable them to quickly judge the accuracy of an answer which they have calculated. Being out by a factor of 10 should not go unnoticed by anyone!

I was amazed when I compare my children’s school curriculum with my nephew’s from my country of origin. My kids were born in Canada and I thought the school level would be much better than a third country’s. I support Wisemath

Elizabeth Wilcox, Edmonton, AB

We have ordered old textbooks for our 4 children and plan to spend our summer “holidays” teaching them what the schools have failed to teach all year.

Sunil Singh, Math and Physics Teacher, Toronto

The math education in Ontario is the worst ever! So much money spent and so little math being done. A lot of pseudo-math and edubabble, with naive taxpayers picking up the tab for this self-congratulatory pap! Check under the hood…this shiny new car is a clunker.

A damning commentary on Ontario’s math curriculum. How many more high school students have to drop math after they’ve fulfilled the compulsory requirements, before the government wakes up to the fact that in an age where we need more students who have a passion for math, we have utterly failed to engage them in this endeavour?

I am shocked and disappointed that so many elementary-age students in Vancouver do not know their times tables. I support the WISE Math initiative. Thank you for caring.

Garth Cochran, Calgary, AB. My boys went through school 20 years ago and I was appalled at the quality of the teaching them and how poorly they were being taught. I’ts gotten worse!

Theresa Seim, Hanover Ontario

I am tired of cashiers who cannot make change unless they ring in the actual amount on the cash register, and look amazed when I can come up with the correct answer. Back in the old days I made my kids learn their times tables and how to add, substract, multiply and divide and I am glad I persevered through all the tears, so are my children now.

Monica Thimer, Mission B.C

Daughters at 10. And 13. I am frustrated every day when my 10 year old brings home homework that she can not understand nor do because she des not have he basics down and no they want her to strategize! Math makes sense is so wordy that any child with a problem reading or comprehending will be set up to fail in Martha’s well.

Parent of an 8 year old boy in grade 2.

Tessa Reid, Post Secondary Math Instructor

Edmonton, AB

Kathy Pelletier, Edmonton, AB

Post secondary math instructor

Desiree Wengrowich, Winnipeg, Manitoba.

My kids basic math skills are sketchy at best. I believe that it is my job as a parent to help him at home if he needs assistance. But I have discovered his general math knowledge is so poor that I will be hiring someone to help make sure that gets filled in.

I do not blame the teachers per se; many of them are doing the best they can with the limited time and resources they have. In our particular school division, I believe that the continued use of the CAP program is one of the reasons our students are falling behind overall. The kids are missing out on several hours of instruction so that the division’s “assessment” requirements can be met. But math education is just not up to par in this province, in my opinion. Get these kids some times tables, so they can have the tools they need to solve more complex questions later!

Charlene Walberg, Winnipeg, MB, parent of one child 10, with a keen interest in mathematics.

Melanie Bell, Edmonton, AB

Post Secondary Math Instructor

Colleen McCracken

Winnipeg, parent of an 11 yr old and 13 yr old

Carmen Hopf, Fort Saskatchewan, AB

I am a mother, a grandmother, and a teacher.

Not having basic skills is effective in stopping many children from having any success in math and undermining their confidence for their futures.

Darlene Payne, Winnipeg, MB.

Teacher. I agree with this initiative to strengthen our math education from the primary years through grade 12.

Ryan Seabrook, Saskatoon, SK

Sara Seabrook, Saskatoon, SK

Cy Lenz, Saskatoon,

Nidhi Srivastava, Winnipeg, MB

Without solid foundational knowledge, creativity is not possible. Change the curriculum to address this…please.

I am wholeheartedly in support of this initiative.

Ellen Thompson, WInnipeg, Manitoba

Margaret Andres, Dalmeny, SK, mother of a seven year old

Debora Shanks, Dalmeny, Sask.

parent of 11 year old and I support this initiative

After teaching math at both the University of Alberta and at NAIT to a wide audience, I can say that basic innumeracy is the most troubling, widespread and preventable flaw in our education system today. The fundamental problem with our curriculum is this: Every student is being expected to re-derive all mathematics they learn on their own. This is simply not feasible. First of all, unless we want to extend high school to last until students are 30, there is not time. Second of all, some of the elementary operations we are so afraid of introducing through repetition are prerequisite to the type of reasoning we are expecting students to have before they learn the operations in the first place. Imagine telling carpentry students that lesson 1 was to build a hammer from scratch!

Until this can be corrected, I humbly suggest that parents do the following: If you are unable to understand the point of homework that is being given to your son or daughter, generate your own simple addition/subtraction/multiplication/division worksheets and given them to your children as part of their “chores”. Start with whole numbers, but work up to integers and then rational numbers. I understand that it is unfair that you pay for an education system to do this for you through your tax dollars, but it is your children who pay if they do not have these simple skills. Even using the basic formula functions in Excel with random values and hiding some of the cells it is possible to generate simple 15-20 question sheets that can be completed once a week to ensure baseline competency. My father did this for me and I intend to do it for my children in the future. Beyond the obvious benefits of numerical literacy, if your son or daughter has a solid grounding in the basics they may begin to experience some of the intended benefit of the more abstract exercises that are the focus of the “new” math.

P.S. If anyone reading this is involved in future curriculum development, please avoid using the word “new” when describing math. It immediately diminishes the credibility of whatever system you’re proposing.

Alex Ondrus, Edmonton, Alberta

You expressed the problem in a nutshell, I am going to forward this to everyone I know who has young children. I love the spreadsheet idea, and fully agree with the “new” math comment.

Kari Bergmuller, Winnipeg, Manitoba

I am in favour of this.

Ion Bica, Alberta, Assistant Professor

William Toni, Winnipeg MB

Chantal Shilliday, Winnipeg,MB.

Lauren Hope, Winnipeg

BSc (Mathematics) BEd

Parent to two children, ages 1 and 3.

I strongly support the WISE initiative. Please let me know if I can be of any assistance to the cause.

Robert Hilts, Edmonton, Chemistry Professor

Hi,

I am a grade 7/8 Math/English teacher at a public school in Ontario. I have grown absolutely tired of hearing about ‘not drilling’ math facts to children. Don’t teach the students the ‘algorithm’. Let them work cooperatively and discover the strategies for themselves. I was wondering if you’ve heard of Marion Small and her influence on the Ontario curriculum regarding teaching through the open-ended question rather than memorizing facts. I would love to get some feedback from some real math professors regarding this ‘education guru’. I use that term lightly. I think that we are suffering in Ontario as well. Our board scored the lowest in all of Ontario and we PREACH the Marion Small Math Approach! Doesn’t that tell you something? I hope to hear from you soon. Thank you for your time.

A Concerned Teacher!

Shona Suderman

Winnipeg, MB

Both my husband and I are Engineers by training, and our daughter started Kindergarten in September. I have growing concerns about the methods I have been seeing being employed for solving math problems by my friends and peers who have children in older grades. I’m frankly alarmed at the fact that people are buying their junior high aged children high end calculators that my husband and I didn’t use until we got to University. These calculators are being mandated by the school system. Students in grade school need to learn the basics before they can understand how to use graphing calculators in any sort of meaningful way.

Fereidoun Ghahramani, Professor, Department of Mathematics, University of Manitoba

Cornelia Bica, Edmonton, Alberta

I teach mathematics at NAIT and I am the mother of three children in elementary and junior high school. I am appalled at what is happening with the education of our children. Mathematics curriculum seems to be especially targeted, with the stated goal of making it better but with the actual result of making our children less prepared than everyone else in the world, pretty much. We are short-changing our children by offering them sub-par education. I have to spend a lot of time at home to remedy the damage that our schools are doing. Math is now more confusing to most children, and we are driving away more children from math than before. Ironic, when the stated reason for curriculum change was quite the opposite. I hope we can reverse this trend.

Stephanie Hofmeyer, Sherwood Park, Alberta

I am a high school math teacher and have noticed a significant decrease in mathematical fluency over the past 5 years. Something needs to change.

Susan Roddy, Brandon, Mb

Thank you Anna. My son entered grade 1 reading and doing Math at a Grade 3-6 level. In Grade 6 he was operating at a Grade 6 level. He did maybe half an hour’s homework a week but got glowing reports (except sometimes his behaviour) until he went off the rails a bit in Grade 11. Partly this was athletics and a poor attitude. But I am positive that if his academic teachers demanded even one tenth of the committment and discipline his athletic mentors did he would have done so much better. (Thankfully he is back in post-secondary education in BC now.)

I am a math professor. It is vital that young students learn the basics early and well. It is also as important to challenge talented, keen students as it is to give remedial help to others.

Your efforts, Anna Stokke and others, to improve mathematical education are excellent and sorely needed. Unfortunately both school and university education in mathematics leaves a lot to be desired. Both levels of education have incredibly strong built-in resistance to changes initiated by knowledgeable insiders that could improve the educational outcomes. On the other hand our school system has been beset by bizarre imposed changes initiated by anonymous outsiders – the “New Math” disaster, windowless schools, open area classrooms, no-fail policies, and now this self-discovery learning of mathematics. You would think that is common sense and common knowledge that children/people can only be creative in mathematics (or art or any other field) if they already have a lot of learned basic knowledge that they can use to mould their creative ideas. Unfortunately this common sense is lacking in the people who bring these new initiatives into our schools.

Thanks,

Peter Aitchison

Retired Professor of Mathematics, University of Manitoba

Winnipeg, Manitoba

Emanoil Theodorescu, Toronto, ON

Professor Stokke: Education standards in mathematics are abysmal, judging from the public information I see. I came to wonder why there are still young Canadian and US university professors in math departments.

Worst of all, mathematicians who might “infiltrate the system” are at the mercy of … illiterates and of policy makers.

Although I agree with the document, I note that it completely left out that it isn’t a Canadian, or even North American phenomenon: it’s … (almost) worldwide! Isn’t it a bit strange ?

Oh: TeacherEd from the UK teaches 11th grade students that x^2 – 3x – 2 can’t be factored! (No mention of base field/ring at all!)

11th grade ? Two years away from university ?

Thanks.

I and my family migrated to Canada in 1991, and unfortunately math has been poorly taught in schools since then (at least that was my experience).

The math that I learned in my birth country ( up to grade 5), got me through almost all of high school . I basically wasn’t taught anything new until grade 12- calculus and Algebra & Geometry, and that’s when I started to get grades under 80%.

In my country, we were not allowed to use calculators, we were taught the long divisions and were given time to practice during school. According to my mom, in El Salvador, kids are taught the basics (adding, subtracting, etc) from

preschool . I hope that with our voices are heard and the math curriculum improves! Math takes practice, lots and lots of practice !

Didn’t think it was broke in the first place!!!!!!!!

Kathleen Nichol, Brandon, MB

I teach students who did not take high school courses in math, physics and chemistry, who need them now at university. Students learn well when motivated, but it is very difficult to learn the skill of math in one, or two semesters. The experience with numbers takes a few years and practice to develop. Once this familiarity with numbers grows, relationships are seen much quicker and new levels of math can be learned and appreciated. Then the doors open … to many careers … where seeing relationships,using numbers, really, really helps … geology, business, research in biology and chemistry and astrophysics and …

Reply to (In reply to orna aminadav Ontario): I teach a course for Elementary School Teachers-in-Training. Your comment made me think. I try to get them to think of operations in a variety of ways, which I think is good. but I have some students who are still struggling to get the algorithm down. I have to think of them, too, and help them get a basic algorithm working first. Then they can explore other ways. Thank you for the reminder.

Rob Borgersen, Instructor in Mathematics, University of Manitoba. I see every term students are weaker and weaker in the basics. I am now a father (my son is 16 months old), and I am frustrated that likely much of his math education will need to come from me…or even worse, that I may need to correct the incorrect math he learns from his math teachers who don’t know math.

Eric Schippers, Winnipeg, Manitoba. Math professor. Father of two girls, ages 3 and 6.

At some point in one’s life, adding, multiplying and dividing should no longer require creative problem solving.

It is wonderful to encourage creativity and problem solving skills. To think that this implies that algorithms should not be taught is just silly.

If a student is too weak in elementary high school mathematics, there is almost no chance for them to succeed in a university math course. I have seen many such cases in my teaching at the University of Manitoba. Many times, a student could not pass a calculus course not because they did not work hard, but because of the lack of high school math knowledge. The solidness of their foundation really decides what you can build on it.

Yong Zhang, Winnipeg, MB., Math professor and parent to a 15 year old girl.

Senior Scholar, Math, U of MB. There seems to be little or no response to the discussion from representatives of faculties of education (who actually train teachers) or representatives of provincial departments of education. Similarly, while I listened to most of the discussion on CBC Cross Country Checkup, if there was any contribution from those communities, I missed it. I wish you well in your attempt to gain the attention of those communities.

Math Professor

Tommy Kucera, Winnipeg, MB. Mathematics professor. My first training in teaching, as a graduate student, was in remedial mathematics teaching. It is heartbreaking to see today so many bright young students with good study habits and good high school grades for whom even two terms of “remedial” mathematics would not be enough for them to realize their full potential in university level mathematics. The new curriculum, with its antipathy to skills development, is going to make the gap between school mathematics and university mathematics even greater.

Alan Kuzemchuk, Peace River, Alberta. Parent and chemical engineer/math tutor

Greg Sivertson

Victoria BC

Wayne Loutet, Duncan, British Columbia. Retired Math teacher who is now back in the classroom as a teacher on call, and a tutor, and periodically a short term contract. Finally I am reading what I have been thinking for so long. Fix this in the elementary and middle school by getting math specialists in each school. When I retired, I worked for a publishing company that was preparing books for Alberta, for the WNCP new curriculum. We were not allowed to use mnemonics, such as CAST rule, SOHCAHTOA, BEDMAS etc., we were not allowed to use the word “Step” to show how to solve a type of problem, for it may suggest to students that that was the only way to solve the problem and that they could not try any other way. I could go on and on, but my feeling for the “good old boys” in Alberta’s Ministry of Education was: “Every Good Boy Deserves Flogging!!”.

I don’t know how many times I’ve gone in to a local vendor to purchase about 150g of a product that is priced per 100g and had the clerks stare at me like a deer in headlights (or insist on selling me 200g because that’s the only math they can handle).

As someone who works with university chemistry students, as a mother of 8, 6, and 4 year olds, and as member of society who has noticed an alarming erosion of the mathematical literacy in many of the younger generation, I strongly support this initiative. We are failing our students if they are struggling so desperately not only if they want to take university-level math, but also if they can’t perform simple daily tasks that any high school graduate should have mastered. They deserve better than this.

Kathy Palmquist,Fort McMurray,AB

I so agree with this ,my daughter is in grade 8 and the new curriculum is so confusing…. My son is in grade 12 and his grade was the last on the old curriculum…

great job!!!

I stongly support this initiative. Mother of two-grades 5 & 7, very frustrated with our math curriculum. Our childrens future is at stake. I’m an RN not a math teacher. My family time is precious and to be expected to teach math at home is insane, to figure out the math curriculum so I can try to attempt to assist with homework is time consuming and frustrating. These kids need to learn the basics in school and ARE NOT being taught them. This needs to change SOON, for the hope of our kids future careers!

I am a university professor and am concerned with the math skills of many of my students, who are otherwise very bright. Also as a parent of a fifth grader, I am very frustrated with the present “Math Makes Sense” curriculum. Yesterday, I came to know about your initiative through the CBC program. As I was also planning to do something about this curriculum, which I believe should be called “Math Does Not Make Sense”. I highly appreciate your initiative and would be willing to participate in efforts to strengthen our math curriculum.

My 10-year-old daughter, and I, are victims of “Math Makes Sense”, better known in parental conversations as “math makes no sense”. As far as I am concerned this system is the emperor’s new clothes, and I am grateful to initiatives such as this for pointing out the naked truth.

Barb MacKinnon, Truro, Nova Scotia

I totally agree with this initiative. I have been frustrated for years with the math curriculum here in NS. There is not enough practice, and no mastery of the skills needed for higher level math. My daughter is finishing Gr 12, and achieved an 85 in precalc, but only with extra help from teachers and tutors. My son is in gr. 10 and sees a tutor once a week, and I’m thinking of twice a week next year. My son is starting to feel he will be shut out of certain careers because of his math skills. I don’t understand why there isn’t a national curriculum for math, instead of each province wasting money developing poor curriculum. I believe that technology will help to solve this in the future, with personalized programing for students. In the meantime, the provincial education departments need to collaborate to solve this issue.

[

Hi Barb. Your frustrations are common across the country. I don’t know, offhand, if NS has adopted WNCP (some Maritime areas have). If so then it is close to a “National Curriculum”. For what it matters I agree that uniform standards across the nation would alleviate certain problems. However WNCP has not fixed, but exacerbated problems. The good news is that if we can fix WNCP we can help kids in several provinces simultaneously. Read about some of the solutions proposed in the NMAP report, which gives some idea what sort of changes we’d like to see. If you agree with what you see there, talk to others in your area and put pressure on your elected officials — WISE Math (RC)]I have 3 children approaching school age so my wife and I have been looking into education more. She is a school teacher as well (not practicing) and we have really been considering home schooling. Many homeschools support ALTERNATIVE math teachings like understanding the abacus and using Asian influenced addition (10 -1, 10-2, 10-3 instead of 11,12,13 etc). Our language actually is a huge struggle for students to overcome as students have to translate first, then compute. I also hire students in my geomatics company and have seen a huge decline in students getting their math at a grad 12 level in BC. This is due to the high influence of trades programs instead of graduating with the basic sciences and having options when graduating. I don’t think I’ll let my kids even step into a public school until there is major reform to math and other subjects.

[S

lightly Edited — WISE Math (RC)]I agree with many of the comments already posted. I was listening to CBC radio yesterday and heard about your initiative. Keep up the great work!

Completely shocked at the math curriculum. Strongly believe if children don’t have the basics such as times tables mastered in the early grades they will be left behind in later grades. Not everybody has a natural ability for math. Mother of two Grade 2 kids.

I agree 100% that math education – certainly in Ontario, and apparently in the rest of Canada is in a dismal state. There is far to much emphasis on “creative solutions” in the early years – when students should be solidifying basic skills. As with any trade or art, you need to know how to use the tools before you can start to apply your creativity.

A painter can’t paint if they don’t understand the technical process of painting. A writer can’t write if they haven’t mastered spelling, grammar, punctuation and structure of a story.

So pleased this initiative is finally underway! The state of math education for my 4 children in Ontario has been appalling!

[

Hello Joanne. Pleased to have you on board. Just for your information, while WISE Math is concerned about the Ontario curriculum (and a few associated issues), the issues there are slightly different than here in Manitoba, and our mission is to address the regions affected by the WNCP curriculum. Recently we have been in conversation with a small group hoping to do about the same for Ontario; when they get a web page started we’ll likely put up a link on our resource page. Parents, mathematicians etc with fire in their belly to help set up a sister organization there can email us and request to be put in touch with them. WISE MATH (RC)]However, we do encourage people from Ontario and other provinces to sign here and some of the issues we are trying to address affect all of the Canadian provinces. We can put you in contact with people in your area who are working for change. ASJohnathan Burchill, Calgary, parent to one boy (aged 5/3), physicist. These books by a theoretical physics Nobel laureate might be of interest: “Tips on Physics” by R.P. Feynman, Chapter 2, on the necessity of practicing math for doing first-year university physics), and “The Feynman Lectures on Physics, Volume I, Chapter 22, Algebra: an inspiring explanation of arithmetic as the foundation for Euler’s famous formula connecting complex numbers with geometry.

[

Hi Johnathan, thanks for the references. Feynman was one who understood the value of nailing down skills, and while he did not call himself a mathematician the fact that he was a Putnam Fellow will strike instant respect into anyone who understand what that means in terms of mathematical prowess. My favourite Feynman anecdote concerns a lecture he gave on the fundamental forces of nature to a group of physicists: “As you know, gravity is weak!” and he pounded on the podium to emphasize the point: “Matter of fact, it’s D@#% weak!”. At that moment a large speaker cabinet suspended above the stage came unmoored and crashed to the floor in front of him. Feynman glanced down at the mess and back to the audience, without skipping a beat: “Weak … but not negligible!”You didn’t say directly, but I’ll take your join comment as indicating your support for WISE Math. WISE Math (RC)]Pauline Ripat, Winnipeg, MB (parent of two)

Thank you for heading up this initiative.

I have 2 kids, one who learned the basics well, and the other who is learning to count on her fingers in order to solve basic math problems. It seems counting on fingers trumps multiplication tables and long division. Frustrated.

Albert Welter, Professor and parent, of daughter (age 10) enrolled in an elite (supposedly) private school in Mantitoba, who has had to resort to the Sprit on Math (highly recommend) program to ensure that math requirements are being fulfilled. Highly disappointed in Manitoba curriculum.

Hello:

I taught math at the high school level and the college level for many years. I graduated from Math and Physics at U of T.

I went through many curriculum changes over the years. One most notably was the “New Math” in the 60’s. This was a supposed response to the success of the Russian Sputnick.

This was soon abandoned.

It appears now that the powers that be at Queens Park (Ontario) have come up with another plan to revolutionize math teaching.

I admire the stance you are taking.

I listened to Rex Murphy today and was impressed with comments made by the Math Professor at the University of Winnipeg.

One comment. The basic skills, add, subtract , multipy, divide were mentioned

When speaking of the subtraction algorithm, the professor mentioned “borrowing.”

With all due respect, I do wish that the teachers in the lower grades would teach the reverse additive method for subtraction.. With this, “borrowing” is never necessary.

I was taught this method by my grade two teacher many yrars ago and have been forever grateful..

Thanks for your attention

John Hudson

[

Hello John, yes things have gotten “interesting” in Ontario, though helpfully they have retained — with reduced emphasis — the standard algorithms. By “reverse additive method” I believe you are referring to a lovely variant on the standard subtraction algorithm in which one adds in one digit of the subtrahend instead of borrowing. It is one of the few widely used genuine variations. While it is easier to use many find it harder to see why this step “works” which may explain why the other is more common — it’s likely a pedagogical thing. But since it is only a minor variant it could easily be taught to capable students alongside the standard algorithm without undue confusion. Another lovely variant for subtraction is tens-complementation, which comes close to the way computers do arithmetic. But explaining that one requires a considerably more advanced concept of place value, which probably excludes it from elementary arithmetic. WISE Math (RC)]I’m a retired teacher mainly math phys.ed and sciences. I must concur that the foundation knowledge is missing more often by more students the longer I stayed in teaching math. Sadly, no new math curriculum seems to be coming here in Alberta to alleviate my (our) concerns.

without basic math skills how are our children going to take up the positions of mathematicians and math professors in the future? we are not doing our children a favour by taking out the challenge and making it “easy to pass all students” so no one is left behind.

Kirsten Kramar, Winnipeg parent to 2 girls (aged 4 and 10), sociology professor. My 10 year old daughter is brilliant in both music and math and I’m worried that she will not getting the basic skills she will need to be curious about math and her own abilities.

Thank you Anna Stokke for talking to our River Heights Liberal Association last night. As the provincial Liberal leader in Manitoba I am very concerned about math education. I believe that our children need the very best start possible in math. It is vitally important to how well our young people will do later in school and as adults.

It was my pleasure. Thank you for inviting me!–Anna Stokke

Monica Krenzler, Lacombe, AB

Thank you!!! I have a degree in Math and can help my kids (Gr 9 and 10) but why should I have to? I can’t even begin to voice my frustration with the “new math”! Kudos to the teachers that dare to teach “old school”!

I have a degree in computer science and am at a loss as to how to help my two high school aged boys without spending huge amounts of time to learn it myself. Time and energy I simply don’t have, especially since I’m not sure I’d even be able to get it “right”.

Thank you so much for this forum. There has been so many nights I would have loved to throw the Nelson Math textbook into the fireplace. When asked to compute 6 X 4, my bright grade 5 son draws 4 circles and puts 6 dots in each, then he counts the dots #%$@* ?! Another issue is the amount of “group work” or group problem-solving-math my children do at school. In exasperation I try to explain that they won’t be doing their Grade 12 Calculus exam on a group!

Are there any Ontario parents who have started an advocacy group? If so sign me up…I’m in.

Lacey, Pitt Meadows BC

I fully support the initiative of WISE math. Far too many children are overwhelmed by the “new math” in texts like MMS.

Tatyana Greens . Winnnipeg, MB

Heather Rowe-Fahlman, parent to 3 children (one learned math the “old” way and is flourishing, the other 2 are struggling learning the “new” way), Winnipeg, Manitoba.

This just does not seem like the best way to go about teaching math. Why is there all of a sudden a problem with how it’s been done for years? I understand different people learn different ways but this just seems to be making it worse not better.

Holly Berube, Sherwood Park, AB. After reading the Maclean’s article I was shocked. I did not realize how much of a problem the new math curriculum was. My daughter who is in grade 4 is struggling. She feels that she is the problem. I showed her the article and this website and she was surprised.

I feel that this present math system has totally destroyed my childrens confidence and I have absolutly no confidence in the teachers who are presenting it.

I am a professional engineer and parent of two (14 & 16) and I applaud your initiative and thank you for providing a channel to attempt to effect change in the way math is taught.

I fought this battle when my own children were in the system. For a while it looked hopeful once the PC’s were elected in our province. However, the educrats are so thoroughly entrenched at both the ministry and the board levels that I came to the conclusion that the only way to reform the system is to close it down and start all over with a form of charter schools.which would reflect parental choice and also eliminate the unions. Advocating for your children’s education can take over your life.

Salina Stilborn, Regina, Saskatchewan. I support this initiative.

Mother of a grade 6 girl. Master’s in Biology. I am appalled by the ‘Math Makes Sense’ program and the lack of fundamental math skills being taught. I’ve pretty much given up on the school teaching her math – instead, my daughter uses an online tutoring service (www.ixl.com) to study at home to learn what she isn’t being taught at school.

She tells me the basic skills she’s learning online were simply never introduced in the classroom (and the online program is BASED based on the curriculum!). One thing in particular that the online program gets right, in my humble opinion, is that you don’t pass a level until you can demonstrate proficiency in EVERY required skill. Every wrong answer means you need to do more questions to practice (and enough right answers in a row means you know your stuff and have mastered the skill). The MMS program is so caught up on forcing the children to use multiple strategies and adding complexity to basic math functions that the skills themselves are lost in the shuffle. It’s ridiculous that she has to come home and study on her own just to learn the concepts the board of education already claims to be teaching.

Lise Dawson, Nanaimo, BC.

My husband has a Bachelor of commerce degree and I have a Master’s in Nursing degree. We have struggled to help our kids pass math for years (now grade 11, 10 and kindergarten). I cannot count the hours spent and the tears shed as we poured over text books in an attempt to understand this ridiculous curriculum. If this is not stopped there will be damage to another generation of students. I am very disappointed in a publicly funded education system that is so miserably failing our children. It is shameful….

Ian Bastin, Winnipeg

Just read the Macleans magazine article “Why is it your job to teach your kids math?” from March 13, 2012. I am happy to see this initiative – it’s something I can wholeheartedly support! My husband has a degree in Engineering and is not happy with this new math program. We have spent many frustrating hours helping our oldest daughter with math as she does not know the essentials and finds many of the methods confusing. Let’s get back to the basics!

These comments are a breath of fresh air.

I have a background in engineering and medicine. My wife has a masters degree in biology. We have been working with my daughter for the past two years (she is in grade 4) trying to go through the “new” Alberta math curriculum. It is absolutely crazy. There seems to be little room for a solid foundation of basic facts in the math curriculum. There are chapters in her textbooks that cover “strategies” for solving problems but these are not taught in a way that makes any direct connection to a child.

Children at the elementary level are very concrete in their thinking and they need to be taught that way. How does the Alberta government expect kids to excel at the sciences without knowing the basics of mathematics?

It is shocking to me how this will turn kids away from math because they will find it frustrating and confusing. We will end up with fewer mathematicians, physicists, chemists, engineers, computer scientists, accountants, statisticians, nurses, doctors, etc. because of this curriculum. In effect, this will harm our economy.

I have yet to meet any parents who disagree with me and I have spoken to quite a few.

I’m just glad that my wife and I have the time and patience to help my daughter through this. I’m also paying to have her tutored in math. She has a dream to be a veterinarian one day. I won’t let her down. I wish the Alberta government would make the same comittment.

I fully support this initiative.

Alexandra McGregor, Toronto, Ontario

I support this initiative.

I strongly agree with and support this initiative. I am so tired of having to “home school” my kids after they come home from school.

YOU FOLKS ARE A BREATH OF FRESH AIR!!! I operate a tutoring service in Regina Saskatchewan. Our business name is “All About Learning”; in reality it should be changed to “All About Math”! Over 95% of our business involves helping parents and students who are struggling in math. The number one problem is simple, no basic skills! The second biggest problem is poor, or sometimes even wrong instruction. http://www.allaboutlearning.ca

Brett

I share your concerns!

I was not prepared for my child to struggle with Math to the point that he is once he entered grade 7 this past year. I presumed that he was going through the phase of paying attention more to peers than his teacher once the math lesson started. However, my son has done well in other subject areas without the same level of concern. My son seems terribly confused with basic elements in math and because there was no concerns in previous grades, I became confused regarding a sudden ‘brick wall’ in my son’s learning. Recently, I saw the McLEan’s article that has led me to this site. I am astonished and relieved that perhaps it is not only what may be my son’s reported lack of attention but also associated to what many are experiencing with their children’s learning or lack thereof. I have turned to tutoring, online math sheets, and some long evenings going over math with a son that now believes he is ‘stupid’ and unable to grasp math. This loss in his self-efficacy with math and many times, his esteem among peers as they make mark comparisons, is a byproduct of the issue. The teacher seems competent however, I wonder about this when my son is often blamed for not asking when he needs help as the reason for his grave marks. I have considered that as other parents have done, to volunteer or work at the school in order to monitor my children’s education. Thank-you for identifying this issue…it’s not just my family’s experience!!!

Professor of physics and father of two children (4 & 8 years old).

Bill Gates, Steve Jobs as well as every computer genius learned math using the old system.

If the whole reason for the new math is to enable our children to better use computers, someone might want to let Bill Gates know so he can catch up.

Bill Gates learned the old math, as did Steve Jobs and every other computer genius.

Now what was the reason for the change? Need I say more!!!

Later commented added in:When l asked why our kids have new math the reply was that due to the computer age it is necessary. And l say “oh really then someone should have told Bill Gates and Steve Jobs. Its too late for Mr. Jobs but maybe Mr. Gates can still take the new math to him help with his multi billion dollar COMPUTER INDUSTRY”!

In Grade Four, my son, who is now in First Year University, was in a class where a new Math Textbook and Workbook was piloted. The problems were all word based. There were no examples of what was required to perform the various equations. It was very confusing not only for him but also for myself and my husband. I am an architect and work with numbers everyday and my husband is a real estate lawyer where he as well is working with complex numbers everyday. I spoke to his teacher and the Principal regarding how poorly written and confusing this new textbook was. Unfortunately, they both said, that the ciricullum was heading into this word based experimental direction as mandated by the Ministry of Education.

I have also noticed that over the years of my three childrens schooling the standards for recruiting teachers have been based on minimum qualifications rather than significant qualifications. At our high school one of the senior Math teachers is a trained English teacher. She, as you may imagine, is not the first choice for a math teacher. This was brought about by the strengthening of the Teacher’s Union in BC and I am sure it is the same in other provinces. I have long been concerned about this trend.

My three children, who are all naturally strong in math, have had a Math tutor for both Grade 11 and 12 as had all of their friends. These students are getting A’s and B’s. I feel sorry for those families who do not have the financial capability to afford a math tutor. It is essential for everyone to have basic math skills. People need to understand their credit card payments, mortgage rates and even basi precentages. Sometimes it seems that Ministries of Education grab onto the new thing with little research such as this word based experimental math program or in BC when they started to teach the Whole Language style of reading. Another failed yet seeming progressive educational trend. Thank you for making your concerns public. Hopefully it will make a difference. Many wonderful things have been lost in the school system as the “New New Thing” comes into vogue. Hopefully basic math skills won’t be one of them.

Hi Andre,Our family shares your frustration with the math curriculum being taught in our public schools. I’m creating a group here in BC where we’d like to bring awareness and try and bring about some change with the Ministry of Education. If you would like to add your name to our email distribution list, please contact me at houley@shaw.ca. We would like to bring awaretness to this fantastic initiative to this province.

There will be a small segment on this math problem on CBC Radio next Tuesday. Michelle Eliot’s “The Parent Project” will be featured between 3-6 pm on “On the Coast”. Their website is

http://www.cbc.ca/onthecoast/columnists/parentproject/

Thanks for sharing your story and your support.

Sincerely,Tara Houle

North Saanich, BC

I have suffered the humiliation of the BC education system and it’s inability to educate me,I have always felt frustrated and lack confidence in my abilities or my lack of abilities in math. Now 30 years after I graduated from high school,my children are struggling with math. Why do I now have to pay for a tutor (that by the way is not tax deductible)at a rate of about $350.00 a month for one child, when they are being taught math in school and my tax dollars are paying for those teachers. I also think, Math, English and P.E should run year round. Angela D. Taylor Kamloops BC

Hi Angela,

We’re trying to get an awareness campaign going here in British Columbia. I’m just so impressed with all the work that this initiative has done in Winnipeg and across this country. I would like to add our collective voices to this cause, out here in BC. Send me an email at houley@shaw.ca and spread the word!

Sincerely,

Tara Houle

With our daughter beginning Kindergarten this year, I have spent the last year trying to work out where best she would be educated.

Coming from a British education that is strong in math, I was really disappointed to see that there is very little emphasis put on math in the curriculum (here in Victoria. BC) Furthermore, the girls are already beyond that which is being taught and we fear that our daughter is bored already in her class, just one week in.

I may take some heat for saying this but in my school..Math, English and Science were split into ability. The syllabus was then set out for each class and student ability. Allowing for students to move classes, should they need.

A weakness in the math curriculum only means that the children will not meet their full potential. Comprehending math begins in the early years of school and should be a priority until you graduate.

I coach sports for a living and without the fundamentals being taught properly, you can only go so far on natural talent. If I didn’t prepare my athletes as best I could, then I would be failing them. The same begins in our home. I work hard to give the girls the best chance in life. My parents did the same for us.. Many hours were spent at the dinner table learning.

I fully support WISE. Hoping that with enough support the government will change their priorities when it comes to education and our children.

Kelly

I waited until my oldest daughter was truly lost in mathematics before I realized that the school was creating the problem. I bought a “sensible” arithmetic curriculum, and began teaching my girls the basics of mathematics. I had tried to support the teachers in their techniques, but when I was shown the way the children were being instructed, I was confused too! (I have a degree in Computer Science, I am not unfamiliar with higher/lower level mathematics!)

Since that day, my children have all received basic math instruction from me. I actively tell them to ignore how the teacher is showing them, and “do it my way”. I hate this, but it is the only way to keep them on track.

I have shared my experiences with other parents, and shared my resources, but I have not been able to change the system. Perhaps with this “bigger voice”, we can be heard.

Janice Mosher, North Saanich BC, 3 girls – aged 11, 9 & 6, software developer

I am extremely frustrated with the math teaching methods being used today. My grade 6 daughter is struggling with the basics which should not be the case. I am forever helping her at home, she is having an extremely hard time grasping the techniques they are teaching her, and it is only getting more difficult for her. We need to go back to the methods we used to use.

I support this initiative, it is high time that something like this happens! Our children deserve the proper teaching methods.

I am a retired senior high school math teacher and have taught grades 6-12. I am greatly frustrated by the steady decline in the math ability of Canadian students. The reasons for this are many. A lot of elementary school teachers have received little training in mathematics and, in fact, some have an aversion to teaching math. The majority of these teachers are usually well versed in the arts but are not what I call “math people”.. Over my 35 year career I have witnessed, in the junior high and high schools, many non-math trained teachers being given full time math teaching assignments. The belief among some administrators is that anyone can teach math, so they allow non-math trained teachers to teach the subject.

The latest fads are also extremely detrimental to having students learn math well. The move away from practicing skills has destroyed the students’ ability to gain number sense. Tiger Woods receives lessons and it takes him many months to incorporate the concepts into his game. Hours of practice are the only way for him to do this but the latest fad is to do away with rote learning and practicing in schools. Letting students ‘come up with their own methods’ is like asking them to re-invent all of the math that has taken centuries to develop from the best minds on the planet. This type of trial and error is time-consuming and the results are not guaranteed. Students should not be left to ‘figure things out their own way’ without strong guidance from a knowledgeable teacher.

I agree fully that math is in a crisis but until the ministries of education stop listening to the half-baked ideas that continually seem to arise in education and start listening to the math experts I see little hope. No wonder my math tutoring business has exploded.

Reply From Alan Donald, Vancouver, BC“Letting students ‘come up with their own methods’ is like asking them to re-invent all of the math that has taken centuries to develop from the best minds on the planet.”

Well said, Ken.

My inner cynic raises the suspicion that WNCP’s main function is to permit teachers to dodge the responsibility of learning the mathematics they are supposed to teach. This suspicion is strengthened by your observation that many teachers (even some in high school) are not trained in mathematics.

AlanOur children need to learn basic math skills. I support this initiative.

Russ Carlson, Calgary AB

Why is it that basic reading, writing and arithmetic are now the responsibility of parents?

A nice initiative; we must do something about this problem.

Father of two teens – Grades 9 and 11 – struglling with the Ontario math curriculum.

Dennis Weichman, Toronto,ON

While at Teacher’s College in 1970 I was criticized by a professor for being old-fashioned in my approach to trigonometry. I was told that I had to “swing with the pendulum” of educational trends if I wanted to succeed as a teacher. Being a stubborn young student at the time I refused to change and have felt like a rebel for the last 40+ years. When I discovered WISE Math in an article in Maclean’s and read many of the comments on this web site I just had to lend a voice of support. Since my “retirement” in 1998 I have been tutoring high school (and Grade 8) students and have in the last few years written a series of Math Study Guides based on the Ontario High School Curriculum. I then added a Grade 8 book “Get Ready For High School Math” and talked to many Grade 8 teachers who seemed quite happy to get a “No-nonsense” review of fractions, decimals, percents, simple algebra etc…..things that they felt were important but were afraid to depart from the course description!

The curriculum all across our country ( not just Ontario, I have learned) is controlled by academics who make a name for themselves ( and a secure job) by making parents feel inadequate.WISE is an important initiative in that it gives parents a forum which hopefully can be used to change what is taught and how it is taught.

I agree with this initiative . After 17 years as a post secondary instructor and program head, I am greatly concerned by the increasingly poor level of math skills in our appliants to our program, from the K-12 system. We now have to add in tutorials on top of the regular class room work , so that students can grasp the basic math foundations. This deterioration of math skills in secondary schools ultimately harms the students in their other courses, in post secondary, making them struggle more than should be necessary.

I am the parent of 3 children. I have degrees in Math and Statistics. I now work as a tutor helping children learn math. All the changes to the curriculum seem to make learning math more complicated for children and I totally support the WISE initiative.

You need the basics before you “go outside the box”. I am a former Educator who has a granddaughter in this system. The teachers are not Math majors and can’t/don’t know how to teach the new Math and parents have trouble understanding it. That alone has a great impact on a child’s self esteem.

I support.

Michael Maloney, Teach Your Children Well, Belleville ON K8N 5B6 1-877-368-1513

Trained as a teacher in 1964, I left public education 45 years ago in frustration and started my own learning centres. Using empirically proven methods, Behavior Analysis, Direct Instruction and Precision Teaching, all developed during the 70’s, we have successfully taught math and reading to 100,000 children and adults.

It’s all about better teaching tools. We have them because a small hearty group of scientifically-minded educators provides and improves them for us to use. Sadly our teachers are never provided with them, or even know about them, so they struggle mightily as best they can. It’s time for education to move into the world of scientific scrutiny of its methods and to select those proven to deliver results to our kids. We have them and are happy to share.

My bright articulate daughter (grade 4) began slipping in her mathematics this year, and the homework began to reflect the overcomplicating procedures that now exist as the “soup de jour” in elementary mathematics. I addressed the issue with her Private Catholic School, and they suggested the need for Teacher’s Assistants in the classroom. I suggested, as math is my strength, a return to appropriate mathematics education. As stated above, the Maclean’s Article is very timely. Mathematics and also Grammar, are not properly taught in the school systems, and frankly, as a parent educated on four continents, I am appalled with the education that is presently fed to our children. How did this process come to be? How can this be rectified, and when will this be resolved? These are the three questions, that I want answers to. …….preferably before my daughter’s self esteem is reduced any further…

I am deeply troubled, I would like consistent updates pertaining to the progress this organization makes with the Ministry of Education.

Reply from Sandra Roberts:I too feel this way. I have sent my concerns directly to the Minister of Education for our province. Perhaps that may be a good starting point for all of us. We need to deluge their inboxes and write to them for this much needed change. Canada is falling behind other countries in our scholastic skills. We need to demand our politicians legislate this revision to our school curriculum immediately, regardless of what province we are from.Message from Tara Houle, BC:I have already emailed 2 letters to our Minister of Education here in BC about the dismal math teachings in our schools. I would like to see if anyone is interested in connecting here in BC to see if we can bring awareness of this problem to other parents/politicians/educators in this province.

Message from WISE Math: If you are in BC and are interested in connecting with Tara Houle, please email contactwisemath@gmail.comMy sons in grades 1 and 3 bring home quantities of math “activities” and homework that I cannot help them with. When I do explain how to do simple addition or subtraction, I’m told I’m doing it wrong, I have to “rename” it, or do three different sums to get to the final answer. School is hard enough – one son has trouble reading – and now our family life is disrupted and taken over by the stress of homework and poor teaching methods that the teachers are forced to adhere to.

Rebecca Clarke, Deep Bight, NL.

C. Berriman Regina Saskatchewan

I completely agree that the approach to Math in the schools is greatly ineffective. Problem solving requires the kind of reasoning skills that not all young and growing brains have fully developed. Certainly basic hands on, concept development is necessary but in the end actual knowledge of the skill should be the ultimate goal with major emphasis on such.

Karen Love, Calgary, alberta

My daughter is grade 6 and I struggle to help her with the math and although math was never my strength I am not a stupid person…but I feel it when she brings home math homework.

Robert Cahn, Victoria BC

As a retired classroom teacher (but still involved in math education as an author) I am totally aghast at the removal of basc math skills and drills from elementary (and secondary) education. I have seen firsthand the frustration of students who, for example, cannot do long division. In senior high school this is crucial for doing polynomial division. Students who do not understand the fraction algorithms will have trouble with algebra around Grade 9!

The problem is partially caused by untrained teachers in both elementary and secondary schools struggling to teach mathematics, when they know little more than their students. Furthermore in other subjects teachers have moved away from traditional curricula, e.g. the teaching of English grammar and spelling, and spend endless time reviewing novels, as if this were the only form of English worth learning!

Perhaps this group needs to connect with teachers of English, Science and Information Technology in order to ensure that future students are not TOTALLY de-skilled from the basics of each subject.

Good luck!

Reply from Alan Donald:Robert:You bring up a point that has been bothering me: How can students handle high school algebra if they are not fluent in arithmetic? Answer — they can’t, While I appreciate the frustration of parents forced to fill in the gaps left by the schools, what annoys me most is the oblivion of the WNCP creators to the requirements of later grades. Never mind polynomial division, a student who cannot divide 3/5 by 6/5 is going to be completely floored by (x-1)/x divided by 1/x.

Alan Donald, Vancouver, BC

Reply from Robert Cahn:

Thanks for your reply…sadly it seems that even algebra might be too difficult for high school students of the future. Another area that seems to have disappear is the technique of “proof”…students are given formulas and algorithms without proving them.

Sometimes this is necessary, but mostly we should be proving the mathematics that we teach, as this is the foundation of what mathematics is!

P.J.Umpherville Saskatoon Saskatchewan

Thank you for this initiative – i fully support it. After spending 2 frustrating years trying to get my eldest daughter to understand basic math, she finally asked me for some outside help. After a mere 6 months at a learning centre, she is way ahead of her schoolmates in math skills, and went from hating math and having no self confidence, to excelling in math and is full of confidence again (she’s in Grade 5). It was her lack of confidence in her math, which was causing all sorts of problems both at school, and here in the home. At the same time, my youngest daughter (Grade 4) is going backward in her math skills. After being taught simple math here in the home, she is now in a classroom where graphs, computer games and grids are taking the place of flash cards and multiplication tables. It looks as if we’ll now have to try and budget to accommodate additional learning for her in the next school year.

The article in Maclean’s magazine last week was timely. I have always feared that the current math teaching methods in our public schools is creating a 2 tiered level of education for our kids. For those kids whose parents are able to tutor math themselves, or can send them to an outside learning centre, they will have a far greater advantage over the MAJORITY of kids whose families are unable to assist their kids in the same capacity. This is WRONG and simply UNFAIR as learning Math skills are a basic tenet of public education. How many more columns and articles need to be written before the Minister of Education starts LISTENING to the chorus of discontent with the current math curriculum being taught in our schools?

The stats are in, and employers and educators alike are flabbergasted, dismayed and frustrated to find these future workers do NOT have the necessary skills required for the workforce. Bring back multiplication tables and long division. It’s a basic skill required for our children’s future.

Tara Houle

North Saanich, BC

Leave the calculators out until the basics are taught and fully understood to progress to higher math concepts even in the private school systems.

I strongly support this initiative. MMS must go.

Carleen Koop, Calgary, AB parent of 2 boys (8 and 10)

I am currently a special ed teacher with a background in Maths and Sciences. I did my teacher training 25 years ago in elementary education. I have taught grades 1 through 10 and tutored in the prison system. I have been very concerned about Maths education since the beginning. In my graduation year, out of several hundred graduates I was the only elementary combined Maths/Science concentration (the only one for 6 years) and my friend from home (who had a degree in Physics and Astronomy) was the only one with a Maths concentration. Though both of us had university Maths credits, we told we had to take a foundations Math course with other elementary candidates. We were shocked at the number of high school graduates who did not have a basic understanding of the number system, confusion with anything beyond basic algorithms, nor any awareness of logic. These people were mostly interested in reading, nurturing children, or music – particularly those who were aiming for the primary grades. Most of them admitted that they disliked or were uncomfortable with Maths. They are teaching today and were to pass on this bias to their students. When I got struggling students in grade 8, the break-down was usually traced back to around grade 3.

Working with teens and adults, I discovered a lot of anxiety and reluctance regarding Maths. I had fellows flunk basic operations who could figure out how to cut X amount of pot to make X amount of money in their heads. They had learned Math in school but did not connect it to functional applications in life. Once we made the connection with concrete applications they had no more problem with Maths.

I currently have 2 children in middle school with the new system. Both were able to figure out basic math applications at an early age; they are both very confused at this point. Trying to learn too many things at once. Having to use every strategy for every problem is overwhelming, and is confusing them. And despite my credentials, I cannot help them because they have to do it the school way – any alternate approach is too much. Apparently “Math has changed since the olden days” – well, yeah, I am still doing stuff the ancient Greeks and Egyptians figured out for me.

I think you have isolated the two most urgent concerns.

PS You think this curriculum is tough for your kids, try doing it in Braille!

Amanda McGuire, Okotoks, Alberta, parent to three boys (aged 12, 10 & 7)

I come from a family of math-related profressions: Mother – Math Teacher (with a physics/math undergrad and masters in math); Father – Docter; my 2 brothers and I are all engineers. They way math has been taught (or not taught…) to my daughter (now 12) is definitely leaving a gap in her skill set. When I sit with her to review homework or prepare for tests, if I can’t teach it the same way as in class, she’s even more confused and dismayed. Since math is cumulative learning, I’m scared it may be too late and limit her choices before she even has a choice. Kristi, Vancouver, BC

Davan Russell, Edmonton, AB

As a young engineer who uses basic math (addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division) daily and more complicated math regularly I know the importance of a good basis in understanding how to do math quickly and easily. I fully support the initiatives of WISE Math. Not a parent yet, but I would want my children to have the best math education possible and question if the current curriculum would complete that objective.

I have two children, four years apart in age. I have seen the results of this new math strategy in my son’s math performance. Upon the introduction of this “improved” method of teaching math his mark has dropped from an A to a B. (His other grades have not). In addition to being confusing to both high and low achievers alike, I believe that there is a gender bias in the program. The program asks the student to explain why and how the answers were obtained and “showing your work” is not enough. Boys in particular do not like this. It doesn’t help them either. There is nothing wrong with learning robust strategies first. Yes let’s give them the steps first and shortcuts later. Delayed epiphanies are perfectly fine. A grade five student does not need five strategies for rounding numbers. One method is fine to start with. If nothing else let’s return to the older math program that my daughter has been taught. At least she does not struggle in math in high school. One more thing, in early elementary, my son was better in math than his older sister… until the newest math program was introduced. To quote my son “… math is so so boring now…”. This is from a child in grade 8, about the time when math actually should become a whole lot more interesting.