Education Minister Darin King is dismissing concerns about the province’s math curriculum expressed by a former head of Memorial University’s math department, saying it has the support of those currently at MUN.

“The view that would be important to me from Memorial would be the current head of the math department and the current professors,” King said in an interview with the St. John’s Morning Show.

“I’m not totally familiar with what Dr. Gaskill had to say. I’m aware that he was promoting a book on TV the other night and that was part of the comments that he made about the curriculum. But the current department head at Memorial acknowledges the strength of the curriculum, has been a major supporter of the curriculum as a matter of fact.”

Earlier this week, Dr. Herbert Gaskill said that curriculum is "a mile wide and an inch deep."

Gaskill said a lack of memory-based instruction in the early grades, such as learning times tables, is setting students up for failure.


Former head of Memorial University's Mathematics Department Herbert Gaskill says too many high school students are entering university lacking the math skills they should have by that point. (CBC)

The former professor, who guided Memorial University's Department of Mathematics and Statistics for about six years, recently wrote a book titled Parents' Guide to Common Core Arithmetic: How to Help Your Child. The book focuses on primary and elementary math.

King again referenced that book when asked about Gaskill’s criticisms.

“I think there’s a far stretch to go from saying we still need to focus on math, and we need to make some changes, all the way to condemning the math program as part of promoting a self-interest book on your program,” King said.

Curriculum overhauled

“The reality is that we’ve had trouble with math for many years, and we overhauled the curriculum with almost $19-million investment six years ago. We still have a ways to go.”

King said former professors can lose sight of the fact that learning is a collective responsibility.

And he called the perception that rote math learning is not being taught a “fallacy” promoted by the political opposition. It is a “strong part of the new curriculum,” King insisted.

The education minister said many teachers, especially at the primary and elementary level, don’t have a “strong comfort level” with teaching math, something that could be a focus for education officials.

King noted that the Newfoundland education curriculum is similar to what is taught in 70 per cent of the provinces, with other jurisdictions having better results than here.

Before entering politics, King was a classroom teacher and education administrator, working his way up to CEO of the former Eastern School District.