Maths so simple even a hack can do it

21st January 2000 at 00:00
The TES sent in a team of reporters to uncover the truth about numeracy tests for teachers. Sarah Cassidy reports.

THE NEW numeracy test for trainee teachers is likely to strike terror into the hearts of all but the most confident mathematician.

But fear not, even TES journalists, armed only with rusty O-level maths, managed a reasonable performance in what is sure to be the most demanding part of this summer's test.

Four journalists put the new mental maths paper to the test, with only two O-levels, an A-level and a maths degree between us.

Our judgment is that, if trainees can overcome the stress of sitting the test and can translate the sometimes-convoluted phrasing of questions, the numeracy skills under scrutiny are quite basic.

Sample questions for the test, which must be taken by all new teachers on June 1, were unveiled this week.

But the most stressful part of the test is likely to be the mental arithmetic questions, played on a tape, which must be answered without using a calculator.

Simply taking the test alone in a quiet office was enough to get our adrenalin flowing. The questions come thick and fast and are set in a variety of school-related contexts which can make the mind boggle.

From questions on how much space is left on the hard drive of the school computer to the cost of worksheets, the tests aim to assess the numeracy skills needed in a school environment.

All four reporters answered at least nine out of 14 questions correctly. But previous maths qualifications seemed to count for little, as one participant with A-level maths scored the lowest mark. The pass-mark has yet to be set.

Misinterpreting questions was the main cause of lost marks. Tie seemed short as you listened to the tape and rushed to answer.

With hindsight the questions seemed easy. However, we all found it a stressful experience - and our careers do not depend on the results.

All final-year trainee teachers will sit the test on June 1 this year. It will last between 30 and 45 minutes and will include a short audio test of mental arithmetic for which calculators will not be allowed. Calculators are allowed for the written paper. Trainees who fail will have to retake on July 26. This year's students who fail again will have until the end of their induction year to pass it - unlike future cohorts who will not gain QTS status without it.

More sample questions are available on the Teacher Training Agency

website http:www.teach-tta.gov.uk

SAMPLE ARITHMETIC QUESTIONS

Questions read on tape

(no calculator allowed)

In a year group of 125 pupils, 80 per cent achieved full attendance. How many pupils were absent on at least one occasion?

The school computer has an 800-megabyte hard drive and 435 megabytes are already used. A new program is installed and occupies a further 120 megabytes. How many megabytes are still available?

A teacher wants to show a 20- minute video, which must finish exactly five minutes before the end of the lesson. The lesson will end at 11.10am. At what time must the video start?

A supplier offers schools which spend pound;500 on equipment a 5 per cent discount. How much is saved on an order of pound;500?

Sample written question

(calculator allowed)

A department ordered a set of textbooks. The cost of each book was pound;5.95, with a special offer of one free book per 15 ordered. How much did 70 books cost?


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