The traditional approach to math education has been to demand that students be rigorous and systematic thinkers who to pay attention to detail. The reality has been that students who don’t understand the big ideas tend to have little interest in being either systematic or rigorous.
BC’s new curriculum framework suggests new possibilities for how we teach math without really spelling out what that approach might look like. (You might have noticed that the example button on the official grade 9 math curriculum page remains empty.)
It is fairly safe to say that, as teachers, we are all in favour of big ideas. In an age of big data, focusing on understanding concepts can help us make sense of and categorize information. Yet, especially in the fields of math and science, it is the details that lead to the big ideas. This interplay between the big ideas and the details is crucial.
Underneath the umbrella of Big Ideas, the new BC curriculum lays out two lists: Curricular Competencies, defined as what students are expected to be able to do and Content, which is what students are expected to know. These offer practical lists for teachers, but we feel there is an important component missing. This relationship between what we know and what we do is forever mediated by the tools we use.
Designing a learning trajectory that powerfully knits together the big ideas with the content and needed skills and identifies the needed tools for this job is our current challenge. Welcome to Exploring Data and Discovering Algebra in a Technology-Rich World.