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Bid to spread maths skills

Helen Ward Computer spreadsheets are to be used to improve primary pupils'

problem-solving skills as government advisers try to drive up stalled national test results.

From next term, schools will be advised on how to use information and communications technology to raise maths standards.

Officials at the National Primary Strategy have been working on ways of using technology to boost results across the curriculum. The biggest benefit, they believe, may be in improving children's problem-solving skills in maths after the tests were changed last year to include more problems.

The Qualifications and Curriculum Authority's analysis of children's performance found some struggled with questions which require several steps or have more than one answer.

In one example, pupils were given four items on a fish-and-chip shop menu and told Luke had pound;3. They were asked how much more money Luke would need to buy his dinner. Many 11-year-olds got the question wrong because they only added the four items and did not go on to subtract the pound;3 that Luke already had.

National Numeracy Strategy officials believe that spreadsheets - programs designed to allow people to work with problems which have more than one variable - will improve pupils' performance.

All literacy and numeracy consultants were trained earlier this year in how to use Excel, a spreadsheet program, to teach problem-solving.

Last year 73 per cent of 11-year-olds gained the expected level 4 in maths, the same proportion as in 2002. But the standstill hid the fact that in 30 local authorities results rose, while in 92 they fell.

The Primary National Strategy has been working with the Department for Education and Skills, Becta, the agency which promotes ICT in education, and the National College for School Leadership on the ICT programme.

Tim Coulson, director of the numeracy strategy, said: "There is something about the way ICT can interest children in learning and give teachers a way of doing things they could not do before."

Last week, the Office for Standards in Education said maths was one of the best taught subjects in the primary curriculum.

The report said ICT and, in particular, interactive whiteboards, had a positive effect in one in three schools.

But it added: "In many schools, the use of ICT remains limited.

"In part this reflects the lack of confidence of teachers and expertise, which is often linked to limited facilities and unreliable equipment."

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