Unbelievable! Discovery based learning – a huge failure in the wrong context – is the latest fad in teaching math to children in Canada.
Discovery-based learning is the idea that someone is given a problem to resolve, and they will explore ways to solve the problem. Brilliant idea, but problematic to the core. Problem-based learning (e.g. used in medical education) is a form of discovery-based learning, and when used right (like in a medical school), and with a massive amount of support (I’ve supported a class moving to problem-based — huge amount of prep and work), is the most effective method of preparing medical practitioners for working in the real world.
How is this related to learning math in elementary school?
One of the things needed for discovery-based learning to work is that the foundational knowledge needs to be in place. Elementary school math, by its very definition, is where children acquire their foundational skills in math. The basic academic skills necessary for doing academic work – reading, writing, and arithmetic – are rarely learned through discovery. If this were so, there would be little illiteracy in te world. People would have figured out these skills, on their own, as soon as the brain was evolved enough to have these capabilities. It didn’t happen.
A very few individuals had the interest, time and inclination to discover these basic skills on their own, and then they taught these skills to others. The earliest foundation of civilization. There were never masses of people who discovered these skills for themselves. There are still millions today, who do not have access to basic education who do not discover these skills for themselves.
Some things just have to be taught!
This is another example of educators having a good idea and then implementing it with no research whatsoever to see if it will work. The research HAS BEEN DONE! and discovery-based learning DOES NOT WORK! for the fundamentals. People do not learn that way, but with no background in how people learn, teachers will rush from fad to fad, ruining generation after generation of children and their learning.