Previously, 45% of the students in Correa’s class had failed the math section on Mexico’s national exam. Not one made it to the “Excellent” category in math. 31% had failed Spanish.
After spending a year with Correa, only 7% failed math, 63% were rated “Excellent” in math. Only 3.5% failed Spanish; even their lowest language scores were well above the national average.
Sergio Juárez Correa’s top math student, Paloma Noyola Bueno, had the highest score in the entire nation. Ten of Correa’s students had math scores in the 99.99th percentile. Three placed at the same high level in Spanish.
The response of Francisco Sánchez Salazar, chief of the Regional Center of Educational Development in Matamoros: “The teaching method makes little difference.”
“Makes little difference?” Let us think of several reasons why a class would produce ten student scores in the 99th percentile.
- Cheating? This was a proctored test. Ten students would have had to bamboozle the proctor.
- Genetics? Ten children sired by a wandering descendant of Friedrich Karl Guass?
- Something remarkably different happened in the classroom?
So, what was the method of Sergio Juárez Correa?
Correa threw out the formal rules, plans, curriculum, procedures, and tests. Instead, he asked interesting and challenging questions. He stepped back, letting the students do the thinking. He explained nothing until asked. He answered questions when asked.
Does this method work? Correa’s students didn’t just ace the national exams, they raced through, they reported that it was easy.
How does this method work? Children learn best when grappling with interesting problems; Correa was working with their nature, not against it.