So, the latest headline gimmick to support the teaching of maths in the UK – send for the Chinese!
I am not convinced that the problem with maths is as serious as some like to make out. We don’t measure up well educationally when compared to places like China and Singapore and this is perhaps as much to do with culture as it is with teaching. Also, the data can be unreliable and skewed by a sizeable under achieving tail. The oft quoted group of critics, the employers, will probably always find fault with job seeker’s basic skills – standards are never what they were!
One cultural problem we do have is that many of us regard maths with trepidation and do not have good classroom memories – we probably transmit some of this to our offspring and round we go. I suspect that we do need a serious change in the way the subject is taught and by whom. If we are to change the culture we need to focus on younger children and their parents and perhaps we need to recast maths as a language – we make sense of the world in words and in estimations – both things our brilliant brains do well. ‘What is it called?’ and then ‘How big is it?” How far away is it?” – both questions having both a word and a numerical answer, from the very earliest age. Specialist maths teachers are not necessarily the only or the best qualified to address a subject that can be defined as ‘philosophical’. As ever, it is parents who hold the key.
I suggest that this is where we need to have a debate. I also suggest that, along with everything else in education, the constant political interference is part of the problem. I can remember vividly being taught the binary system in the 1960’s – this was to equip us for the computer age! I think it was soon dropped. I rarely remember any one explaining to us clearly why we were doing this. Even in today’s pressured classrooms, time to explore the relevance of a topic can often be squeezed out.
How to make words and number equal partners in how children begin to make sense of the world – now there’s a research project.