Scary maths;Update

24th September 1999 at 01:00
Reva Klein on this year's British Educational Research Association meeting.

Listing the maths expertise expected of trainee primary teachers may only serve to remind them of the formal maths tuition they themselves experienced - and feared - at school, writes Karen Thornton.

Changes to the initial teacher education curriculum to boost primary teachers' subject knowledge mean students must now meet a long list of content requirements. But two research studies at Manchester Metropolitan University and Bath Spa University suggest trainee teachers often begin courses with intensely negative views of their own experience of maths at school.

These experiences were of a "version of maths dominated by concern for correct answers which pupils experienced as pressure to get it right or failure in getting it wrong", said the Manchester team.

College lectures in maths and how to teach it - with the focus more on learning than passing tests - rebuilt students' confidence. But on teaching practice students often found themselves once more up against a more formal style of teaching.

"There was a tension between what the students appeared to need in order to build up their confidenceI and what was required by the new national curriculum for initial teacher education - which is characterised by a long list of content requirementsI This content list is reminiscent, for the students, of that which they had grown to dislike and fear in their school maths," concludes the Bath Spa team.

* Primary Student Teachers' Understanding of Maths and its Teaching, Tony Brown, Una Hanley, Olwen McNamara and Liz Jones, Manchester Metropolitan University.l An Exploration into the Maths Subject Knowledge of Students on QTS Courses, Ruth Barrington and Tony Harries, Bath Spa University College.

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