Continental shift

Fifteen to 20 minutes of daily mental arithmetic and teaching the four basic operations to nursery pupils are among a series of maths reforms primary schools in France will introduce in September.

A circular being issued next month, based on recommendations from the prestigious Academy of Sciences, is expected to say that pupils should start learning addition, subtraction, multiplication and division aged four. By the end of primary education they should have mastered decimals and fractions. But teachers' representatives complain they have not been consulted.

A spokesman for SNUIPP, the biggest primary teachers' union in France, said the simultaneous teaching of the basic operations was "impossible, illusory and dangerous - rather like teaching English, German and Spanish at the same time."

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