Wanting to help with homework, parents learning the 'new' 1-2-3s of math
Fan-Yee Suen, CTVNews.ca Staff
Published Sunday, February 24, 2013 7:00AM EST
Helping kids with math homework, especially at the elementary school level, shouldn’t be more difficult than putting two and two together. But many parents across the country are struggling with even the simplest math problems due to an updated curriculum, which some say eschews rote-learning and emphasizes problem-solving skills and mental math instead.
To solve the problem, one Winnipeg school is offering remedial classes to hands-on parents, educating them on the basic building blocks of the new approach.
Following the positive feedback from an information session hosted last year by the Pembina Trails School Division, parents this week learned about the updated math curriculum.
The approach encourages teamwork, Grade 2 teacher Christine Kovachstold CTV News, adding that even she learns from the seven-year-olds in her class.
“Because all children are different learners and have different ideas and different strategies. We all learn from each other,” the Winnipeg teacher said.
Jason Brandes, whose daughter is in Grade 4, said he was initially frustrated by the new curriculum because he “didn’t get the memo things had changed.”
Now, he sees the value of the new method.
“I think with this type of skill, it’s not just about understanding mathematics but being able to look at their environment, see trends, see the way patterns are forming and be able to anticipate that,” Brandes said after attending the session, along with many other parents at Van Wallegham School, an elementary school in downtown Winnipeg.
Van Walleghem principal Brad Burns said parents often express “anger” to him when talking about the challenges of trying to help children with their math homework, but said parents shouldn’t be discouraged.
The long-term benefits of the new curriculum outweigh the initial frustration, he said.
“Children who are very young have the ability to think quite deeply about things and if we don't give them practice doing that at a young age, when we do introduce it,they are not engaged by that."
But not everyone is convinced the nouveau way of learning is as effective as some educators claim it to be.
According to the Western Initiative for Strengthening Education, an organization headed by university professors in Saskatchewan and Manitoba, this latest shift in math education -- while it promotes global understanding -- neglects basic math skills.
“The notion that practice of basic skills interferes with understanding of math concepts is illogical and misguided and denigrating terms like ‘drill and kill’ do not serve students or teacher well,” explains the group on their website.“Indeed, understanding and practice of basic skills go hand-in-hand.”
WISE adds that because of the new curriculum, many parents are forced to hire private tutors to help their children in school or spend extra time with them -- something the group says should not be necessary.
“It is extremely important that children receive effective instruction in math, guided by strong math curricula, during school hours.”
In 2011, WISE lobbied education ministers to move away from the new math curriculum, inviting parents to sign their names to a petition calling for change.
So far, the group has amassed over 900 signatures.
With a file from CTV Winnipeg’s Ben Miljure