Dons pave way for primary maths specialists

27th August 2010 at 01:00
Academics design CPD to overcome basic skills shortfall among two-thirds of teachers

A course designed to introduce mathematics specialists into Scottish primary schools is being developed by a Scottish university.

Researchers at Dundee University recently revealed that two-thirds of students entering primary teacher training lacked the basic maths skills required to teach the subject.

Now academics have set themselves the challenge of designing a continuing professional development course, aimed at primary teachers, which will not just increase their confidence in delivering maths lessons, but show them the subject is "creative, motivating, enjoyable and fulfilling".

In spite of efforts to make Scottish maths lessons rich and stimulating, most tended to feature some form of teacher-led demonstration, followed by children practising skills and procedures from a commercially-produced scheme, according to project director Brian Hudson and project manager Sheila Henderson, both former maths teachers.

The 2008 TIMSS report, which looked at trends in maths and science for pupils aged 9-10 and 13-14 in 50 countries, found that 72 per cent of P5 and S2 pupils in Scotland were taught using a textbook as the primary resource; this compared with the international average of 65 per cent and 60 per cent respectively.

The Scottish Survey of Achievement last year also reported that pupils using textbooks and working quietly on their own were the most common forms of activity in maths classes in Scotland.

Professor Hudson said: "Maths is often seen as being about rules, jumping through hoops and following procedures. Our belief is that it is a process of creative reasoning and problem-solving."

The project, called Developing Mathematical Thinking in the Primary Classroom, is being funded by the Scottish Government, under the banner of Curriculum for Excellence. It is supported with the cash set aside to "retain capacity" in teacher education institutions after student numbers were cut.

The first phase of the project, due to begin this month, will involve developing the course collaboratively with teachers in primary schools in Angus, Fife and Dundee.

The second phase, which will take place from January to March, will involve the course being rolled out to a wider group of 20 primary schools. There will be five days of face-to-face delivery, followed by a number of half-day face-to-face sessions supported by the use of the schools intranet, Glow.

The course will form the first stage in a masters-level programme for primary specialists in mathematics. It will be accredited as a free- standing module, worth 30 credits leading towards a Postgraduate Certificate in Mathematics Education.

Emma Seith

  • Original headline: Dundee dons pave way for primary maths specialists

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