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Making it all add up

The national numeracy strategy is off to an encouraging start, but thousands of teachers still need the high quality training only available to struggling schools, say Her Majesty's Inspectors in an interim report.

The inspectors, who visited a representative sample of 300 schools during last autumn, pinpointed the need for training in:

* teaching the inter-relationship between the four arithmetical operations;

* teaching the progression from informal mental methods to partial written methods, and using standard written forms;

* techniques for problem solving;

* the use of calculators;

* teaching fractions, decimals and percentages.

Not surprisingly, pupils' weaknesses reflected those of teachers. However, ministers' push for mental maths has had an impact. "Pupils' recall of number facts is becoming more accurate and faster," say HMI. "They are more aware of the strategies they use to calculate and are more often using the associated vocabulary correctly."

The teaching was good inhalf the lessons seen, and the oral and mental work at the start was the best taught of the daily maths lesson's three sections. Effective teachers posed a good range of open and closed questions.

In the main teaching activity, where new concepts are introduced, many teachers were unsure of their role, and whether to work with groups, individuals or the whole class. In good lessons, teachers saw the "scope for variety", while "less confident teachers...have a view that there is a preferred way of working that does not change".

The plenary session at the end, used for reinforcing the main teaching points and correcting misconceptions, was unsatisfactory in a quarter of lessons, through lack of time or inadequate questioning.

Teachers have welcomed the Government's maths teaching framework and heads said it had already brought improvements. But planning and preparation was time consuming, and in 10 per cent of schools inadequate resources hampered teaching.

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