There’s A Better Way to Teach Math, writes David Bornstein on the New York Times’ Opinionator Blog. Jump Math, a K-8 curriculum used in Canada and England, might even “eliminate the bell curve” in math class, Bornstein suggests.
John Mighton, once a Toronto math tutor, developed Jump.
” . . . very early in school many kids get the idea that they’re not in the smart group, especially in math. We kind of force a choice on them: to decide that either they’re dumb or math is dumb.”
Children’s working memory is limited, Mighton says. Many children have trouble “remembering math facts, handling word problems and doing multi-step arithmetic.”
Despite the widespread support for “problem-based” or “discovery-based” learning, studies indicate that current teaching approaches underestimate the amount of explicit guidance, “scaffolding” and practice children need to consolidate new concepts. Asking children to make their own discoveries before they solidify the basics is like asking them to compose songs on guitar before they can form a C chord.
Jump breaks down math problems into “micro-level” concepts to ensure complete understanding. “No step is too small to ignore,” Mighton says. “Math is like a ladder. If you miss a step, sometimes you can’t go on.” Students who succeed in small steps build the confidence needed to “jump” forward, he believes.
In a controlled study in rural Ontario, the Jump fifth graders “achieved more than double the academic growth in core mathematical competencies.”
Just another fad?