Skills in maths

18th May 2007 at 01:00
There has been much criticism of key stage 3 Sats, especially from English teachers. The silence of maths teachers should not be seen as being in accord with this view. My advisory work in more than 150 secondaries suggests admiration for the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority and Sats developers for high-quality work.

KS3 maths questions are unpredictable, testing understanding, not superficial skill application, often in novel contexts. They are seen as fair and robust, providing more reliable data about pupils' progress than teacher assessment. Arguments about constraints stem from content and process polarities. Concern about curricular tedium and summative assessment is timely. Some of the gains of a more investigative approach to learning have declined as content concerns and shorter chunks of time spent on a topic have predominated.

In our school, we are looking at ways to achieve a fuller curriculum with multi-disciplinary tasks, involving some independent study supported by ICT, and we are thinking of changing Year 8 homework arrangements to "subject weeks".

A debate about the relative proportions of slog and creativity seems to be needed. Let us propose a minimum of 20 per cent creativity and a maximum of a third - recognising that sustained creativity needs underlying content skills for it to work.

Don Steward Shropshire

Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?


To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar,, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today