Kriston, I don't think I expressed myself well in my first post due to my disappointment in our schools math curriculum, "Investigations in Number, Data, and Space". The person who spoke about it so highly is our son's gifted teacher, and her description sounded a good deal like you described.

In a homeschooling situation I can see it working extremely well. In a group setting I see a good bit of frustration. "Investigations" does use a lot of real life examples to discover the properties of arithmetic, geometry, and some beginning algebra notation. Where my frustration is coming from is how it's implemented in a group setting. For example, some of the third graders are still grasping how you calculate the perimeter & area of their kitchen table by measuring it with their ruler -- that really was a problem on his homework recently. GS8 is ready to calculate the perimeter & area of our pastures, multiply the estimated forage yield by the area, divide that by the estimated forage use per head of cattle(which he gets by multiplying 3% of an average estimated weight of animal), and estimate how we should subdivide the pastures into paddocks so the forage is removed in a proper amount in approximately 3 days, then move the cattle to the next paddock so the grazed paddock can regrow.

I had no concerns about "drill & kill" when making him take a couple days to memorize his multiplication table but I have a big concern about how many more times he's going to be asked to measure the length and width of an object before everyone else in the room 'gets it'. Right now I'm looking at these 'real life experiences' as being "drill & kill" for GS8. Unless there's a real application, like calculating grazing capacity, GS8's going to be working on his standup comic routine in class.

As a method for introducing new concepts, what Dr F recommended is great. Just understand it can be "drill & kill" when used repetively, too!