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Ditching Piaget

America is changing the way it teaches children maths. Britain should do the same

By Ian Benson   January 2007

An end to one of America’s most bitter “education wars” is in sight, and it may have implications for Britain’s schools. In September, the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) issued recommendations for teaching the subject to American schoolchildren that emphasised the importance of algebra in primary schools.

This apparently innocuous report represented a U-turn by the NCTM. In 1989, it had sparked off the “maths wars” with a set of guidelines for teachers that emphasised “open-ended” solutions to problems, encouraging children to develop their own techniques.

The 1989 report strongly influenced school textbooks and the authors of US…

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