No substitute for solid grounding

22nd September 1995 at 01:00
Your editorial "Is science too stodgy?" (TES, September 8) implicitly accepts that our mathematics and science teaching appear flawed. But your analysis is wrong on three counts: in asserting that "the maths required by law" provides "a sound basis for further study", in suggesting that "challenge and excitement" should be primary goals, and in labelling me as a traditionalist.

First, recent reports from higher education are unanimous in complaining about the lack of any usable foundation for further study. Second, those of us with experience of injecting challenge and excitement into pupils' experience of mathematics understand better than anyone that one cannot build on sand, and that our primary responsibility is to provide a solid foundation for all pupils. Third, I am not a traditionalist: I have spent my whole professional career exploring new ways of doing things, but too many recent changes have been based on nothing more than pious hopes as an increasing number of colleagues at primary and secondary level, in further education and in HE now realise.

If we are to sort things out, we must somehow co-operate and try to be objective. In the profile to which your editorial referred, there was nothing that "put the blame on the neglect of traditional teaching methods"; the nearest quote "all pupils are being short changed by not learning traditional methods" reflects the permanence of mathematics, not of teaching methods.

TONY GARDINER School of mathematics and statistics University of Birmingham Edgbaston Birmingham

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