Early focus on rote memorization squashes intellectual curiosity
When U.S. education policy pivoted toward easily-measurable skills as an indicator of a teacher’s effectiveness, schools heard the message and retooled the curriculum to teach skills that are easily tested. Unfortunately, drilling students on basic arithmetic at a younger age didn’t even improve their test scores. Students reported a lower desire to learn math and progressed slowly through the curriculum.
Solution: Build basic intellectual reasoning skills and arithmetic skills will follow
Education pundits are eager to distinguish between academic skills and intellectual skills. While academic skills can be taught through memorization and drill exercises, students quickly tire of the activity and can become disengaged with learning. Intellectual skills are taught through open-ended explorations, discussions, and experiments. They teach students to think critically about an issue, try new things, and look for new possibilities.
A groundbreaking (but forgotten) study in the 1930’s found that Manchester, New Hampshire schools that dropped mathematics from the curriculum of grades 1 through 5. No addition, subtraction, multiplication, etc. would be taught until sixth grade. Instead, students were invited to actively discuss topics that interested them. When the test cohorts reached 6th grade, they quickly caught up to and surpassed their peers in math reasoning tests.
- Psychology Today | How Early Academic Training Retards Intellectual Development
- DEY Project | Lively Minds: Distinctions between academic versus intellectual goals for young children