Prevention Equals Treatment, Dept.

traditional math

A recent paper by Sweller discusses how and why inquiry based approaches harm student learning and is largely ineffective. This is not the first paper that Sweller has written about the subject (not to mention those written by Kirschner), but it may be the most definitive so far. The paper has sparked interesting observations. In particular, I was intrigued by a friend’s remarks that the prevailing mindset in schools and districts is that only students with learning disabilities need direct instruction and that it functions primarily as a student services support.

In math education circles direct (or explicit) instruction has been painted as the prevalent currency of traditionally taught math. And those who seek to reform math education tend to deride and mischaracterize traditionally taught math as 1) consisting solely of explicit instruction with no engaging questions or challenging problems, 2) focusing on rote memorization and no conceptual understanding, and…

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