Math wars: is it "drill and kill" or "discovery learning"?

Today, Barry Garelick sent me an article of his which explores the topic of MATH WARS.

You may have heard of them. Math wars refer to the debate or controversy about how math should be taught in school. There have been two main camps: those who emphasize discovery learning and calculators, de-emphasizing algorithms and memorization - and those who claim kids need to learn and memorize basic facts and algorithms such as long division.

Mathematicians have been fiercely opposing the math education reforms that are based on the discovery learning postulate.

In my opinion, I think kids surely need to memorize their basic facts, and learn the basic algorithms. Learning by discovering is a fine teaching method, but it shouldn't replace teacher telling or explaining how things work.

I guess what I feel is that learning by discovery (or explorations) can be great but you need to use it right and not let it 'rule'. It is an instructional method or a tool - not a goal in itself.

Anyway, if you are lacking in this topic, Barry's article summarizes nicely how math wars and fuzzy math began, what has been going on, and how the wars are now (unfortunately) turning into politics instead of being purely an academic debate.

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