Smoke and Mirrors: Slipping math scores don’t equal a crisis, says math conference panel

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Slipping math scores don’t equal a crisis, says math conference panel.

Sure. And if you believe this, I have some stuff I’d like to sell you……

Our students are dropping in math scores, compared to where they were 10 years ago, BUT we are reassured that it doesn’t matter? Nothing to see here…..

“In numeracy, we were below the average for our adults,” said McGarvey. “Our 16-24- year-olds certainly do better in numeracy than the 45-50-year olds and the 55-65-year-olds … This sort of proved to me that, yes, the mathematics that 15-year-olds and teenagers are doing is more helpful in terms of them developing problem-solving skills than perhaps some of our adults who are complaining about mathematics in the schools.”

Since when did we start to assume that math ability remained constant, OR that adult math skills were directly related to the math we learned (or didn’t learn) in school?

This is statistical smoke and mirrors, and their claim that the differences between adult and youth numeracy levels indicate all’s well ONLY holds water if the differences were the same 10 years ago. Were they? If those numbers are not available for comparison, then making ANY claims about the meaning of these values for this year are fabrications.

We KNOW that knowledge and skills tend to drop off over time if they are not used, and the kinds of math that we learn in school are not the kinds normally needed in every day life, so it would stand to reason that math skills would be lower in adults, … which means this comparison is meaningless.

Cognitive Dissonance in action. The people doing the talking have an investment in being right. The “new” approach to teaching math HAS to be better than the old, otherwise they are wrong.

The president of the Alberta Teachers’ Association said what PISA measures is very narrow compared to what Alberta’s education system tries to teach students.

“The Alberta curriculum is far more complex,” Mark Ramsankar said. “We talk about student agency, we talk about ingenuity and creativity. PISA doesn’t measure that.”

So, it’s OK. Never mind the fact that our kids are doing more poorly at the math skills we’ve been measuring we are to trust that they are doing *much* better at a whole pile of things we aren’t measuring.


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