Can Ontario fix its maths curriculum?

Filling the pail

As a long time observer of the Canadian province of Ontario, I am given hope by news that Ontario Premier, Kathleen Wynne, has acknowledged the need to improve the maths curriculum.

Ontario’s maths results in the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) have been declining for some time now. My hypothesis is that this decline has been caused by a move towards a more constructivist mathematics curriculum; one that prioritises students developing their own strategies for solving simple arithmetical problems. Cognitive science suggests that it is better to memorise critical content and to explicitly teach strategies in small steps with plenty of explanation and practice. The constructivist approach is likely to fail to embed key maths facts and it is probably a frustrating experience for many students, particularly those who struggle the most.

If I am right then Ontario’s previous response to declining maths scores was never going to work…

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