Teachers in many Canadian classrooms are being encouraged to de-emphasize factual knowledge, in favour of a more hands-on discovery approach with students.
But some basic facts will always be essential in making higher-level learning possible.
For example, it’s difficult for students to understand the grievances of the Métis, without knowing the facts about Louis Riel.
A student who memorizes multiplication tables is more likely to succeed at algebra than one who uses a calculator to multiply 5 times 6.
Students who don’t know the tables are more likely to become bogged down and confused by the steps that are needed to solve such problems.
For most of us there is a limit to the amount of information that can be easily stored in our memory. Something like learning a new phone number can be a struggle for a while.
But once the number has been committed to our long-term memory, it’s relatively easy to retrieve the information from our cognitive load.
Students who know their basic facts experience less difficulty with cognitive load when solving more advanced problems.
Knowledge is essential to the development of critical thinking skills.
I’m Roger Currie. Join us again next week for more thoughts on the Frontier.
For more on education, visit our website www.fcpp.org.