Alberta Students Experience Alarming Increase in Math Illiteracy, Outnumbering Top Achievers

The percentage of math illiterate students has tripled since 2003, rising to 22.4% from 7.4%

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According to the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), Alberta students have seen a significant decline in math literacy over the past two decades. The percentage of math illiterate students has tripled since 2003, rising to 22.4% from 7.4%. This alarming trend not only affects their academic performance but also their future career prospects, as math proficiency is crucial in various fields. The decline in math scores has been linked to the adoption of a teaching approach called Discovery Math, which prioritizes personal strategies over foundational skills and practice. Experts argue that this approach has proven ineffective and detrimental to students' mathematical abilities.

The PISA results for Alberta's students show a worrying decline in math literacy. In 2022, the percentage of math illiterate students reached 22.4%, surpassing the number of top achievers. This figure has more than tripled since 2003 when it stood at 7.4%. Consequently, students lacking basic math proficiency may face difficulties participating fully in modern society and pursuing certain careers. Math experts, such as Professor Anna Stokke from the University of Winnipeg, express deep concern about this trend and emphasize the long-term consequences for individuals and society as a whole.

The decline in math scores coincides with the introduction of Discovery Math, an alternative teaching method that gained popularity in North America over the past two decades. Discovery Math emphasizes guiding learners to develop their own strategies for solving math problems rather than focusing on foundational skills and practice. Critics argue that this approach fails to provide students with a solid mathematical foundation, hindering their ability to understand and apply mathematical concepts effectively. Despite poor math results across Canada, Discovery Math consultants continue to be hired for professional development programs, raising questions about its efficacy.

To address this issue, experts suggest a shift towards a more rigorous curriculum and teaching methods that prioritize foundational skills and practice. Alberta has already taken steps to improve reading and writing education, and it is now crucial to apply similar efforts to math education. By embracing proven teaching methods aligned with cognitive science, Alberta can reverse the decline in math literacy and provide students with the necessary skills for success in an increasingly quantitative world.