I remember evenings as a child sitting around the kitchen table, dinner completed, dishes done, and Mom ready to help us tackle homework. The big idea in school back then was ‘new math.’ Yes, ‘new math.’ That’s how my parents said it, with a special, sarcastic emphasis on new. “I don’t know why they need to do this new math,” my dad would exclaim as he popped into our family’s homework hub. “What is wrong with learning math the way we learned it?”
Back then, new math was an attempt to rethink education. It was driven by the issues of the day. ‘New math’ was deemed important because we needed to match the mathematical skills of our competition in space exploration. It was believed that our math curriculum had to be relevant to the societal demands of the time.
As the years have rolled on, many education concepts, theories, models, and ideas have made their way into our children’s classrooms, not because someone suddenly had a brilliant idea but because our world and its demands changed. And education, a preparation for entry into the adult realm of everyday economics and global citizenship, needed to change too.
One of those approaches is “Personalized Mastery Learning (PML).” Aveson Charter Schools has pioneered PML for close to ten years. The difference between ‘new math’ and Personalized Mastery Learning is that PML is taking hold. Educators around the globe are trying out these innovative ideas one micro step at a time and reconstructing entire schools around it.
PML is catching on because it is relevant to the needs of our current global citizenship. These needs require a flexible, nimble workforce, individuals who know themselves well, people who are problem solvers and can work collaboratively. PML requires students to think about their thinking. It asks them to partner with their teachers in creating a learning experience where they can thrive and think critically about what they’re learning, how they’re learning and when they know they’ve mastered their learning.
Perhaps more importantly, my dad’s huffy question about “what is wrong with learning the way we used to learn?” has been answered by many resounding educational specialists throughout the years. PML is on the rise in response to their research. It is creating a spark in our learners and we are seeing many more engaged, curious, critical thinkers that are going to turn this “big idea” into a model that could be the next standard in education.