Measure for measure

11th May 2001 at 01:00
Peter Lacey looks at the ATM's capacity to embrace change.

The Association of Teachers of Mathematics' Easter conference, held at Chester College, was a chance to celebrate the ATM's 50th birthday. More than 350 delegates spent three days and evenings working on the learning and teaching of maths. The theme, "2001 - A Spatial Odyssey", attracted delegates from around the world: teachers from all the school phases; initial teacher trainers; researchers, curriculum developers, advisers, inspectors and consultants. We also welcomed guests from other associations, including the Mathematical Association and the Association for Science Education.

There were more than 90 sessions, with opportunities to find out about curriculum developments in this country and in other parts of the world, to catch up with new technological projects, to engage with those involved with research, to observe and reflect on a live maths lesson, and to participate in workshops.

Over ATM's lifetime the educational landscape in England has been transformed. Change brings with it the risk of premature polarisation. Some might be cynical of anything educational that is determined by politicians. Others might whole-heartedly adopt the change without question. Of course, the rate of change may be faster than our ability to manage it, and sometimes we may challenge whether or not the effect of a particular change has been properly evaluated before it is universally implemented. Sometimes a change is presented as an answer to a question that is itself unclear, and this can lead to the change being judged both effective and non-effective at the same time.

Different constituencies witin the maths community may view certain changes differently. For example, a teacher may see the numeracy strategy as an initiative they are required to implement while a researcher may see the strategy as an initiative to question, challenge and evaluate.

For 50 years ATM's success has been to create synergies across the different constituencies of its membership. Its open-mindedness has allowed teachers, curriculum developers and researchers to learn from each other. It is truly an inclusive organisation.

At the start of the millennium ATM reaffirmed its aims:

* encouraging increased understanding and enjoyment of the subject * encouraging increased understanding of how people learn maths * encouraging the sharing and evaluation of teaching and learning strategies and practices * promoting the exploration of new ideas and possibilities * initiating and contributing to discussion of and development in maths education at all levels.

These aims suggest a timeless and professional agenda and serve as an open invitation to all those engaged in maths education.

The ATM adopted its current name at the 1962 conference. In its journal Mathematics Teaching, the then editor wrote: "We are truly an association of teachers. We have no experts; all are listened to with care, all are expected to make what contribution they can to our thought and work, and in turn all benefit from this pool of resources." In 2001, as witnessed at Chester College, this spirit remains evident.

Peter Lacey is chair of the General Council of the Association of Teachers of Mathematics, 7 Shaftesbury Street, Derby DE23 8YB. Tel: 01332 346599. Web:

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