Canada’s standing in the international math education rankings is falling.

A recent report showed that the nation ranks 13th in mathematics in the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), conducted among 65 countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

Which might not sound too bad, except Canada has been slipping steadily, down six spots since 2006. This slippage was consistent across all the provinces, and was also reflected in a drop in the number of high achievers in the testing.

What’s caused this drop?

The debate continues, but some point to a 1990s swing in educational philosophy towards “discovery learning” – an approach leaving students free to solve problems based on their own unique learning style. It’s a very equitable method, and accommodates learners from all social and economic backgrounds, but is often at the expense of more traditional approaches that emphasize practice and mastering foundational skills.

Like multiplication.

A telling quote in the story:

“But Anna Stokke, an associate professor in the department of math and statistics at the University of Winnipeg, argues changes are needed. Prof. Stokke is part of a group that launched a reform movement to restore some of the basics into math education. “The education culture needs to change. Educators need to recognize the importance of practice, hard work and mastering basic skills early on,” she said.”

As reported in another Globe and Mail story: “Even before these latest PISA results were known, ministers (of education across the country) had identified improving mathematics skills as a major focus for our education systems.”

Don’t be a  math statistic. Help your child master foundational skills in multiplication.