Geoffrey Canada notes that, 56 years ago, schools were failing to teach effectively. He is angry that, 56 years later, schools are still failing to teach effectively. Any business, he notes, with a failing business plan, will change that business plan – schools have not changed.
Similarly, math education has not changed. Sure, we have gone through several different approaches (think New Math), but the overall approach is still the same – the teacher lectures, gives examples, and rules to memorize, and children repeat practice problems. It’s the old Kill and Drill.
Studies have repeatedly shown that project-based-learning (PBL), and student collaboration and discussion are excellent ways to engage children and get them thinking about the concepts behind Math. An excellent example of this is the work down by Jo Boaler and others at Stanford. Inspiring Students to Math Success and a Growth Mindset.
So, as usual, we are already aware of methods and approaches that work. And we certainly have years and years of examples of approaches that don’t work.
There are many, many excellent and dedicated teachers out there. In my view (and, coincidentally, Sir Ken Robinson’s ;-)), the solution is to push the authority back to the teachers in their classrooms. (Not, as Sir Ken puts it, in the committee rooms of the legislative bodies).