HMIs were not against children learning tables

7th November 1997 at 00:00
As a retired HMI - not a mathematician - I was irritated by Tony Gardiner's unsupported assertion (TES, October 24) that HMIs in the 1980s were responsible for advising schools against teaching tables and fractions. This is a travesty of the truth, which anyone who takes the trouble to read the HMI survey of primary education, published in 1978, and the publication that followed in 1979, Mathematics 5-11, a handbook of suggestions, can see for themselves.

One of the main messages was that "teachers can, by working regularly with a group or the whole class, quicken the pace of mental response and encourage accuracy I children need to practise mental and written calculations in the four rules of number, including whole numbers, and, when they are ready, decimals and fractions" (Survey 8.22).

"By the age of 10, a large majority should know all the multiplication and division facts of the 10 by 10 table square and have the ability to use fractions in the sequence 12, 14, 18, 116, or 13, 16, 112 or 15, 110, including the idea of equivalence in the discussion of everyday experiences" (Handbook).

Both publications emphasise the survey's finding that "the teaching of skills in isolation, whether in language or mathematics does not produce the best results".

I urge Tony Gardiner to read these publications. Those of us who had the privilege of hearing Norman Thomas, the former primary chief inspector, or Arthur Owen, HMI, speak on the teaching of maths will find Tony Gardiner's assertions wholly unacceptable and without substance.

J E TRICKEY

6 Sandhurst Close Sanderstead Surrey

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