Creativity in maths is the solution

22nd October 2004 at 01:00
Your article on maths and science is important (TES, October 1). The dearth of teachers, recruitment and retention continues to be of great concern.

This is exacerbated by the pressures placed on teachers in relation to class sizes, constant scrutiny by government and media, testing and inspection regimes and the plethora of "new" initiatives, each of which creates a commensurate increase in paperwork.

To make long-term inroads into maths teaching recruitment, the current generation of children must be helped to see maths as a creative, imaginative and problem-solving set of challenges. Learning maths must be seen as a pleasurable pursuit, as something worth doing in its own right.

As the National Curriculum Council non-statutory guidance (1989) indicated, mathematics is not only taught because it is useful. It should be a source of delight and wonder, offering pupils intellectual excitement and an appreciation of its essential creativity. The complexity is how teachers are encouraged to make maths creative when tests form such a major part of classroom activity. The recent Office for Standards in Education publication, Expecting the unexpected is timely.

However, shaping the conditions for creativity to thrive is another matter altogether.

At present the "pot" of undergraduates studying maths is small and unlikely to increase in the near future. There are, however, some excellent two-year postgraduate certificate in education courses which contain graduates who have some mathematical background. These students tend to be "mature" and committed to developing their talents as future maths teachers.

Unfortunately, many are self-financing through the first year of their course. To increase recruitment over the short and the long term we offer three suggestions:

* Students in the first year of two-year PGCE courses should receive the full training bursary.

* The testing regime, which acts as a barrier to so many potential students of maths, should be abolished.

* A mathematical culture which embraces creativity should be encouraged.

Paul Andrews

Chair, Association of Teachers of Mathematics general council

Barbara Ball

Professional officer, ATM

Diane Cochrane

Mike Ollerton

Members, ATM general council

Unit 7 Prime Industrial Estate

Shaftesbury Avenue, Derby

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