WE thought your readers might be interested in the effects of the sample mental arithmetic test on sane, sensible, highly-qualified individuals who wish to teach in secondary schools.
First, we practised the maths - the 100-plus students were fine at the maths. We practised some taped questions (no contexts). They had 15 seconds for each solution. The unease increased because of the time pressure. Some lost several questions in their anxiety, but most achieved success.
Then we did the Teacher Training Agency sample test - panic set in. The time constraints, combined with some fairly tortuous contexts, prevented many from accessing the maths they know. Some were unable to hear questions 4 and 5 beause they were doing the first three. For some, half the test was a blur.
We believe that future teachers should be numerate, but this type of test is no measure of numeracy (we will argue that another time). No teacher spends only 15 seconds working out such questions as: "Calculate the time of the first afternoon lesson", given duration, break time and end of school. Thirty seconds maybe, but any sane person reads the timetable.
To have a test that reduces a group of intelligent individuals to viewing themselves as failures does no one any service, particularly the teaching profession.
Pat Perks amp; Stephanie Prestage
School of Education
The University of Birmingham