YOU might be one of the many adults who think that 14.2888 is bigger than 14.3. Indeed, you might have been inclined to stop reading as soon as the long number came into view. But Dianne Chambers and colleagues from the University of Melbourne have been investigating ways of helping children make more sense of decimals.
Knowing how many children struggle to understand place value and how many grow into decimal-blind adulthood, the challenge was to find multimedia web-based teaching aids that could get more of the message across than older techniques have done. They started with student teachers, reasoning that if the teachers have a shaky understanding of how children grapple with the topic, then their pupils in turn are bound to struggle. Video, virtual reality images, sound and text were combined in a training resource that took them much closer to the realities of children learning maths. Results were encouraging and their work has led to CLICK!, a commercial CD-Rom offering a wider range of subjects. It is aimed at practising teachers who know how to use technology, but who want to know how to use it in their classroom. A preview is available at http:www.mup.unimelb.edu.auclickindex.htm.
What have local education authorities ever done for schools?More specifically, what have they ever done to raise standards? Government policies have reduced the influence of LEAs over the past decade. But school heads and governors (particularly in the primary sector) tend to appreciate the quiet support that LEAs offer, judging by a study carried out by the National Foundation for Educational Research (TES, July 28). The main findings of "The LEA contribution to school improvement - a role worth fighting for" are now listed on the NFER's website at http:www.nfer.ac.uksummarysumlist.htm. The NFER's Internet list of research summaries contains more than 40 recent titles, including "The impact of OFSTED inspections" and "The impact of class size". All at the same address. Her Majesty's chief inspector has a chapter on the LEA and school improvement in his annual report at http:www.official-documents.co.ukdocumenthoc157157-11.htm.
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