“Students will teach themselves math, according to the new draft of California’s K-12 math curriculum framework, write Bill Evers and Ze’ev Wurman on EdSource.” It’s a fad called discovery learning, in which students struggle to learn math on their own, rather than teachers teaching it to them. In practice, that means students’ parents will have to teach them math at home, because they won’t learn much at school. This sort of “learning” may be more fun for bored teachers, but it can make life miserable for busy parents, and leave students unprepared for jobs or colleges that require proficiency in math.
As Joanne Jacobs explains in “Why make math harder than it has to be?”
The framework calls for “student-led” instruction, “active learning,” “active inquiry,” and “collaborative” instruction, they write. It dismisses direct instruction.
It won’t work, write Evers, director of the Center on Educational Excellence at the Independent Institute, and Wurman, who’s also affiliated with the institute.
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In the spring 2012 issue of American Educator, the magazine of the American Federation of Teachers, top educational psychologists Richard E. Clark, Paul A. Kirschner, and John Sweller summarized “decades of research” that “clearly demonstrates” that for almost all students, “direct, explicit instruction” is “more effective” than inquiry-based progressive education in math.
Instead, the framework uses “struggle” (or “struggling”) more than 75 times, they write. The theory is that students learn more when they figure something out for themselves instead of being taught. There’s no mention that “research warns against excessive struggle as time-wasting and discouraging, often leaving students with incorrect understanding.”
Evers and Wurman are authors of ‘Critical Math’ Doesn’t Add Up, which argues that math teaching should not be ideological.