Divisions are unnecessary

9th June 2006 at 01:00
The debate about methods of teaching the four rules of number was stimulating and thought-provoking, but why do opinions always seem to be so polarised? Is it really all about "dark ages" or understanding, traditional or modern? The same polarisation was evident in the recent debate about the teaching of phonics.

Maybe there are two sides to every story, but all good primary teachers know that while understanding should always come before knowledge, there is a time, especially with slow learners, when children simply want the satisfaction of knowing they can do something correctly, whether they fully understand it or not.

This approach is seen in the Springboard materials where the simple traditional method of division is taught to those still struggling to come to grips with it.

In other words, there is scope for both traditional and modern approaches; good teachers will take the approach that best suits each child, and not be constrained by educational dogma.

Incidentally, while it's wrong to crow, isn't it good to read that Ofsted and mathematical accuracy go together like hippopotamus and Bovril? I refer, of course, to the comments of the chief inspector in your report that "almost 60 per cent of schools are good or better".

That judgement is based on 9 per cent of schools judged as outstanding and 44 per cent judged as good. To me, that sounds remarkably like "almost 50 per cent". Damn, I'm turning into a smug old git!

Bob Forster

Headteacher, St David's primary, Moreton-in-Marsh, Gloucester

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