Brent Davis, Faculty of Education, University of Alberta,
Tom O'Shea, Faculty of Education, Simon Fraser University,
Peter Taylor, Department of Mathematics, Queens University,
Walter Whiteley, Department of Mathematics, York University
At the 2003 CMS Forum on School Mathematics, held last May in Montreal, one of the key issues discussed was the problem of overloaded school curriculum, the result of pressures felt across Canada to include more and more topics, and cover them in less time. The rationale often given for maintaining current programs of study is: "The kids will need this if they're going to be successful at university math". But students' learning does not increase proportionally to the increase in concepts covered, and so, the end product of such curriculum is frequently a student with a toolbox full of disconnected knowledge, but not necessarily well prepared for university courses.
In preparation for the second CMS Forum, which will be held in 2005 in Toronto, the discussions on curriculum were continued by one of the Working Groups at the 2003 CMESG meeting at Acadia University. One of the outcomes of this work was the Position Statement on School Mathematics Curriculum. This Statement will be a starting point of this panel discussion.
The title of the panel was inspired by a session held ten years ago, at the joint AMS-CMS-MAA meeting in Vancouver, which was titled "Less is More". The mathematicians present there expressed an idea that, if we exercise some restraint and provide more freedom, teachers can be more creative and students are much more likely to come away with the skills we want them to have. Everyone at the session agreed. But, in the past ten years matters grew even worse. So, is there any realistic hope for a less-is-more curriculum?