The recent numeracy article in the Brandon Sun of Dec. 5 contains very disturbing information in reference to where Manitoba sits among 10 provinces in math ratings.
This is a concern I have had for some years, based on watching and quizzing some young people (including our own grandchildren) dealing with the basics of math that I refer to as “guzzintas.”
So what does this mean? By asking how many times six guzzinta 54 you get their attention because of the terminology and, going forward when you clarify the terminology, you will most likely find the answer to be “with my calculator.” Sad.
Now for some statements from those “in the know.” Under recent changes to the math curriculum, students are required to memorize their times tables and are learning to multiply and divide on paper and in their heads before picking up a calculator, so says Brandon School Supt. Donna Michaels.
Jaime Lombaert, vice-president of George Fitton School, says, “We just need to pare down the essentials that need to be taught first, the things that are absolutely really important for kids to learn. I think less outcomes and more focus on the essential outcomes is what students need.”
Education Minister James Allum told the Winnipeg Free Press that he was “quite disappointed” by Manitoba’s rankings, calling them “quite clearly unacceptable.” He goes on to say “I had expected them to be better, we can do better, and we will do better.”
My reasons for writing this letter are not pointed at anyone in particular, but at where I believe the thinking of the department of education in general has “fallen off the rails” when we refer to the math curriculum in particular.
In turn, this should be concern enough for all trustees, superintendants, administrators and teachers, to take a stand with the department of education and request they be part of the solution to rectify the problem going forward. If not, these same people may put themselves in the position where they could be recognized as part of the problem, instead of being part of the solution.
In closing, to me, Mr. Allum’s comments indicate the system is broken, which I would say has been the case for some time. This reminds me of my old grandfather’s statement of “If it ain’t broke, boys, it don’t need fixin.” Very poor grammar, but I’d suggest the department of education has a lot of fixin to do. The grammar will take care of itself.
Respectfully written without prejudice in the best interests of all concerned, especially our youth.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition December 13, 2013