We must learn from the National Numeracy Strategy—and stop academisationby Andrew King / March 22, 2016 / Leave a comment
Read more: A long division
18?! If only tackling the problem of innumerate Britain was as simple as Osborne’s political rhetoric makes it sound. But if making maths compulsory up to age of 18 is the wrong answer to the question, what is the right one? I want to be clear that as a headteacher, former maths inspector and author of children’s books on mathematics, I am all for improving standards in maths—and not just for the few. A good understanding of key mathematical ideas is, and will continue to be, essential for those who want to function successfully in modern society.
Making maths compulsory to 18 is not one of Osborne’s greatest ideas. First, there are the practical issues of finding enough teachers to deliver on this and making sure that they have the right skills and motivation. Plus, making all young adults want to study maths to 18 will be a substantial task to say the least, when a significant proportion of them (however misguidedly) don’t want to see another numeral again. Many will hope they will soon see the back of “double maths” for ever. So, what is the answer?
Memories are short and what many people have forgotten is that we did have a very effective strategy for tackling innumeracy not too long ago: the National Numeracy Strategy. Of course it is politically tainted by the fact that it was a central part of New Labour’s “Education, Education, Education” project, plus it made significant use of local authority structures, so is not particularly fashionable at the moment. Nevertheless, the Strategy was demonstrably effective, improved the quality of teaching and ultimately raised standards.
When I first started working across a number of schools as an advisory teacher in 1995 I was staggered at the variability of practice in maths: yes, there were teachers doing amazing things, but there was also a significant number of teachers whose performance was poor and whose and maths lessons were simply about giving out work books and text books. Very often there…