Maths proposals don't add up

1st March 2013 at 00:00

The latest draft of the proposed new national curriculum framework is now published for consultation and it promises us a "high quality mathematics education". My interest lies mainly in the proposals for maths at key stages 1 and 2, wherein lies a worrying inconsistency.

The maths curriculum section begins with encouraging statements about the purpose of studying maths and the aims of the maths curriculum. All the right words are there: conceptual understanding, reasoning mathematically, problem-solving and enjoyment. But when we look at the programmes of study for KS1 and KS2 there is hardly anything here that seems designed to promote these laudable aims. They are dull, lacking in genuine application and problem-solving, and are out of touch. They ignore the development of mathematical reasoning and focus on mastery of routines rather than conceptual understanding. The problem is that these statutory requirements are what teachers will use in practice to plan their teaching - and the requirements are so packed with demands for practice and mastery of abstract, formal arithmetic calculations that there is little chance that teachers will give time to providing pupils with experiences that will contribute to the purpose of study.

Teachers will, I fear, teach only the statutory requirements. This means that all the encouraging words in the opening statements will probably have no effect on the actual experience of children learning maths in primary schools.

Derek Haylock, Senior fellow, University of East Anglia, Norwich.

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