Back to Basics: Mastering the fundamentals of mathematics
  • Petitioning Honourable Jeff Johnson

This petition will be delivered to:

Alberta Minister of Education
Honourable Jeff Johnson

Back to Basics: Mastering the fundamentals of mathematics

    1. Petition by

      Dr. Nhung Tran-Davies

      Calmar, Canada

The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) recently released a report confirming that math scores, measured in 15yr olds, have declined significantly in the ten years since the new math curriculum was introduced across Canada. As a mother of three young children who are just entering into their primary years of education, I find this news extremely disturbing, alarming and unsettling. Even though I am neither a teacher nor a mathematician, I can not, in all good conscience, remain silent and, hence, be complicit in the systematic breakdown of our children's education.

In 2009, Alberta Education went through the formalities of having a "dialogue" with Albertans for "Inspiring Education" to create the illusion that parents actually have a say in our children's education, when in fact we are part of the Western and Northern Canadian Protocol (WNCP) that have steered the curriculum in accordance to its own unproven theories and philosophies. In theory, the "new math" curriculum is alluring with the promise to help students develop a deeper understanding of how calculations work by allowing students to learn different "strategies" to get to a "reasonable" answer, to perhaps help students problem-solve.

In practice, the "new math" glares of absurdities in that students are led through multiple convoluted "strategies" to get to a solution, with no emphasis on mastering any one method. As a result, the importance of knowing basic math facts (eg. algorithms, time tables, automatic recalls, vertical additions) is diluted down to a weak understanding and poor grasp of basic mathematical concepts in addition/subtractions and multiplication/divisions, which in effect ill-equip our children to reconfigure equations in their own minds, problem-solve, and think critically. What is more detrimental is that children with great potentials are at a heightened risk of losing confidence in their own abilities when a simple equation is overly-complicated with counter-intuitive strategies. Students are, consequently, repulsed by math without realizing that it is not due to their lack of abilities but rather the system's inabilities. I am not asking for the complete removal of all these strategies, but merely a re-balance, a refocus, a re-emphasis on the importance of acquiring and mastering the basic math skills. Only then will our children greet mathematical problems with the knowledge that math really can be easy, fun, and applicable to all aspects of life.

I am a strong proponent of education and I am in full support of the multitude of dedicated and wonderful teachers, but the system itself has to be overhauled and changed drastically now that the reports confirm that the system has clearly failed the first wave of children subjected to their grand experiment. When children, such as Malala, are shot for just wanting the opportunity to go to school, it would be an absolute injustice to our children and all children around the world when we squander the opportunities we do have.  Years from now, when our children graduate, I want them to have a choice – a choice in what and how they want to be. To not equip our children now with these fundamental skills is in effect closing all those doors to their dreams.

Apparently, Alberta Education is in the process of making some revisions to the curriculum for implementation in 2014. The time is now for us to act, to be heard, to have a voice in what we feel is critically important to empower our children.

Recent signatures


    1. Thank you!

      Dr. Nhung Tran-Davies
      Petition Organizer

      Dearest fellow petitioners,

      With summer upon us, I just wanted to wish you all the gift of Time and good health. May I say how blessed I feel to have been on this journey with you, for I have learnt along the way how many of our lives are intertwined in six degrees of separation and how wonderful you are as fellow advocates for our children.

      Yesterday, I was moved to tears while sorting through boxes and boxes of books and school supplies that were donated to me for a children's charity. What was so amazing was that these items were from a woman who, before her illness, just happened to be a math teacher. If you could see all the children's literatures she had for her students, the lessons she had scribbled in her daily planners, the sharpened pencils ready to be used, all the construction papers, blocks and sticks, and the countless textbooks she had studied to enrich her skills (even John Mighton's Myth of Ability!), your heart too would be captivated by this bittersweet moment. Though I knew her not and her memory has faded, what she had speaks to the love she had for teaching and for all her students. Her legacy will live on in all the young lives she had touched and all the children she will be helping from this day forth. Today, I honour her, Marilyn Reid.

      To see how profoundly loved our children are by this teacher is a great reminder of how wonderful so many of our teachers are. They have truly dedicated their whole lives to teaching, guiding, and nurturing our children and they deserve our utmost respect and deepest appreciation for all that they do.

      That is why, though summer is here , we should not forget that our work is not quite done. Among many educational issues, two points of contention from our math perspective:
      1. The fight has been about the content of the curriculum. Johnson still needs to take the bold step of making "the standard algorithms" an expected outcome for all students. It cannot be left as optional. The standard algorithms are an essential part of the math basics.
      2. The fight has been about returning our teacher's autonomy. Ensure that their Inspiring Agenda to mandate discovery/inquiry-based learning does not take hold and threaten teacher autonomy and our children's quality of education.

      Have a great summer and a wonderful Canada Day!

      Warmest Regards,
      Dr. Nhung Tran-Davies

      p.s. My thanks also to the following individuals who have played prominent roles in effecting the change that we have achieved so far:
      --Dr. Robert Craigen, Dr. Anna Stokke, Dr. Vladimir Trotitsky, Cornelia Bica, Dr. John Bowman, Dr. Litvak, Dr. Cornelia Anton, Dr. Hadi Kharaghani, Dr. William Hackborn, Dr. Gannon, Dr. Subhash Karnik (Wise mathematicians)
      -- David Staples (Journalist extraordinaire)
      -- Michael Zwaagstra (Teacher and Advocate)
      -- Dr. Ken Porteous (Engineer and advocate)
      -- Mr. Stuart Wachowicz (Eminent Chair of Cogito and Advocate)
      -- Mr. Leif Stolee (Eminent teacher/principal, education advocate)
      -- Bruce McAllister (Education Critic passionately and tirelessly holding Johnson accountable to our children, teachers, and parents in and out of the Legislature)
      --Jerry Manegre, Marion Leithead, Maurya Braun, Cynthia Cheung, Kerry Bezzano, Mae Chow, Glen Saunders, Sharon MacLise, Angela MacLeod Irons, Debbie Hoover, Ryan Prins, Nicky Addo-Bond, Lyndon Dorval
      -- Brian Greene (Painted for me an image of a lone rider amidst the vast, endless prairie...cheered me up after the rally).
      -- Diana McQueen (gave Johnson the last push to meet with us)
      -- Dr. Raj Sherman and Deron Bilous (for showing us support at our rally)
      -- Wilma, Wade, Lily, Orville, Cheryl Joseph, Melody and Fred, Shelley Berry, Stephanie Chan, Ryan O'Farrell, Audrey Russell, Theresa Balko, Barbara Silva, Bao Thoai, Blaine Mah, Clint Sunjens, Colleen LaPerle, Licia Corbella, Corrine Newbury, Erin Brierle, Cristina Cotfasa, Dr. Hans Herchen, Dr. Douglas A Craig, Elizabeth King, Emanoil Theodorescu, Greg Oberti, Hilary Nicol, Humaira Palibroda, Teresa Murray, Tara Houle, Susan Monar, Sybille Wunsam, Caroline Simon, Scott Digweed, Sharon and Milton Gibertson, Sandy Crux, Priya Chellasamy, Nawaz Jiwa, Natalie De Roij, Nargess Khosrowshahi, Michael McIntosh, Lynnea Waselenko, Carrie Day, Carmen and Peter Markowski, Vicky and Phil Baril, Linh Truong, Hoa Nghiem, Kim Petire, Jennifer Burgess, Sylvia Krogh, Randi Kehler, Linh Le, Bonnie Islam, Elke Aippersbach, Kanna Narayana, Pao Lao, Bonnie Lorne, Lynn Lourance, Layla Pretzlaff, L Rimmer, Kev, Ken Ference, Juliana Dueck, Julie Miller, Karl Airey, Carmen and Peter Benkoczi, Ken Corbett, Cal Beaudoin and many, many more....Thank you for all your kind words and for steadfast support.

      Just for fun, you can vote against discovery math also:

      Province announces return to memorization-based classroom math

      A mom in Calmar is celebrating after the province announced school kids will again learn basic math facts in the classroom. Nhung Tran-Davies started a petition asking the government to move away from "discovery math" and to move back towards the basics, including memorizing equations and times tables.

    2. Reached 15,000 signatures


    Reasons for signing

    • Stephane Simard LETHBRIDGE, CANADA
      • about 2 hours ago

      With 4 kids, ages 8-14, I've seen first hand that these "new math" strategies just don't work.

    • Lindsay Seewalt COCHRANE, CANADA
      • about 14 hours ago

      Because I don't want my young children to grow up and be 'math-challenged' because of our government's convoluted approach to 'higher learning'

    • Mildred Gonzalez Aceves CALGARY, CANADA
      • 2 days ago

      i agree, within years we forget basic math and get stuck in subjects, they should keep reviewing!

    • Crystal Schofield NANAIMO, CANADA
      • 2 days ago

      Education IS Important, period.

    • Flora Gillespie CALGARY, CANADA
      • 6 days ago

      The government of AB's agenda to "inspire education" using constructivist teaching methods is ill- informed and mis- the majority of their policies.


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