About cookies

The NCETM site uses cookies. Read more about our privacy policy

Please agree to accept our cookies. If you continue to use the site, we'll assume you're happy to accept them.

 

Personal Learning Login






Sign Up | Forgotten password?
 
Register with the NCETM

Secondary Magazine - Issue 43: From the editor


This page has been archived. The content was correct at the time of original publication, but is no longer updated.
Created on 14 September 2009 by ncetm_administrator
Updated on 29 September 2009 by ncetm_administrator

Secondary Magazine Issue 431976
 

From the editor

Did you see this a few weeks ago? I haven’t read the report and I wasn’t at the British Educational Research Association (BERA) conference, so I’m having to judge everything by the BBC coverage, but still I found myself thinking about this and wondering how valid the headline is.

Having tracked down the original press release, the first thing I noticed was that the study had carried an analysis ‘…of 3 000 secondary pupils’ performance in algebra, ratio and decimals test’ and from the study of these topics the press release concludes that ‘there has been little overall change in maths attainment since 1976’.

I was at school in the 70s and 80s and have very strong memories of maths being drilled into me. I also have memories of the School Mathematics Project (SMP) booklets and thinking that I’d had a great lesson if I managed to complete a whole booklet!

I was struck by how much what we value has changed and wondered what the modern students taking the exam last  year must have thought of it. Is giving students a test carried out 30 years ago and analysing the results really comparing like with like? A study comparing English, maths and chemistry GCSEs and A Levels in 1975 and 1995 by the School Curriculum and Assessment Authority suggested that ‘…standards shown by the majority of candidates have risen because of the greater emphasis on breadth and the accessibility of questions’.

I hope that we are moving away from the idea that maths is just about being able to do the content – manipulating equations or adding fractions for example – and are moving towards a subject that values developing reasoning, problem solving, analysing, communicating and other high-level process skills.

Of course, not everyone’s maths lessons were like those that I remember. I’m sure there were some maths classrooms where the teacher created an environment buzzing with original, creative, high-level thinking. I’m also sure that some people (I’m guessing that this is probably you and me!) were able to develop the higher order skills by repeatedly practising question after question where little changed except for the numbers.

But I want more for my students now than to be able to regurgitate algorithms and methods and to hope that they develop the process skills through repetition. I want them to construct their own understanding rather than to give them mine (as Malcolm Swan might put it), to know what to do when they don’t know what to do and to see maths as a subject in which there is much to discuss, rather than seeking the answer from the back of their text book.

I’d be really interested in seeing a comparison in students’ ability to problem solve, to apply those algorithms, to think creatively in a mathematical context. I believe that the modern maths classroom is a place where both the measurable ability to work with fractions, decimals, ratio and algebra is entwined with a less objective ability to generalise, to think creatively and to problem solve.

What do you think?
 

 
 
 View this issue in PDF format
 
 Visit the Secondary Magazine Archive
 
 About Magazine feeds
 
 
 Previous page
Next page 
 
 
Back to top

 
 
 

Quicklinks

 
Secondary Magazine Issue 43 - download as a PDF
 
 
Magazine Feed - keep informed of forthcoming issues
 
Departmental Workshops - Structured professional development activities
 
Explore the Secondary Forum
 
Contact us - share your ideas and comments 

Comment on this item  
 
Add to your NCETM favourites
Remove from your NCETM favourites
Add a note on this item
Recommend to a friend
Comment on this item
Send to printer
Request a reminder of this item
Cancel a reminder of this item

Comments

 


There are no comments for this item yet...
Only registered users may comment. Log in to comment