Dr. Nhung Tran-Davies, Age: 40
Hometown: Vietnam
Influential because: She isn’t afraid to shake up the education system

Last year, Dr. Nhung Tran-Davies observed that her daughter Kenya’s attitude about school had become negative. She looked into the curriculum and realized that the introduction of “discovery math” and inquiry-based learning had led to poorer math scores across the province. She saw it as the culprit. So she decided to act.

“I knew that if I just spoke to my child’s teacher I could certainly rectify the problem for my daughter,” says Tran-Davies. “But I still think about all the other children out there who don’t have a voice and whose parents can’t afford tutoring and don’t know what the situation is. I felt that, as a parent, I had to do something for our children here because I didn’t want them to lose confidence and be frustrated when I know they have the ability to succeed. I didn’t want them to have the false impression that they are lacking abilities when it’s the system’s failure.”

Tran-Davies began rallying other parents and educators with a petition aimed at the minister of education, Jeff Johnson. The call was to re-balance the math curriculum away from “new math” and towards the established method of mastering basic math concepts. Her petition gained more than 14,000 signatures and launched her into the forefront of public debate. Since then she’s met with MLA Diana McQueen, published an op-ed in the Globe and Mail and, this spring, led a march on the Alberta Legislature.

Parents from all over the province have come together to speak up in response. Tran-Davies believes the evidence against the new ways children are being taught in Alberta is overwhelming and the consequences of doing nothing are too great. “It’s loud and clear that the problem is extensive and that this curriculum is quite flawed,” she says. “Something needs to be done soon – so not another year goes by with children lost to the system.”