Another year needed for maths revision

13th December 1996 at 00:00
Much concern has been expressed about proposals from the School Curriculum and Assessment Authority for the revision of the AS and A-level subject cores for mathematics and about underlying changes to regulations for AS and A-level and for modular courses arising from the Dearing 16-to-19 Review (TES, November 15 and 22).

The Mathematical Association has around 6,000 members drawn mainly from teachers in schools, colleges and universities throughout the country. It represents people involved in mathematical education with a wide range of concerns and opinions. I was asked, as chair, for the AS and A-level response to the consultation on these proposals, but SCAA gave us less than two weeks in which to respond.

The limited consultation with members of our association that this allowed showed deep concern that major changes are being proposed at this time and that they are happening with great haste. This gives no opportunity for sustained debate involving the wide range of interested groups.

Issues concerning calculators, the provision of formula sheets and the place of proof in a core, together with all the questions about content, require much more careful consideration than can be achieved in the timescale which has been allowed for these proposals to be drafted and discussed.

We would argue strongly for a delay of one year at the very least before any changes are implemented. Any changes that have to be made now should be minimal and carefully designed neither to disrupt nor damage established successful courses nor to inhibit future curriculum development work. The proposed core is too large, particularly for AS, but also for A-level. With too much material in a course it is difficult to teach it effectively. The proposals are likely to lead to superficial coverage, lower standards and a reduced student intake to AS and A-level courses.

There is, quite rightly, much concern about the quality of mathematical education in this country, but effective change will only occur following much careful thought and debate about the issues, leading to a broad consensus amongst those responsible for implementation.

There is a serious danger that the benefits of some recent developments will be placed in jeopardy, whilst very real concerns that have been voiced will not be met, if ill-considered and hasty changes are made at this time.

DOUG FRENCH Lecturer in education, School of education, University of Hull, Hull

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