When maths doesn't add up

19th December 2008 at 00:00

You report (The TES, December 12) that pupils in England are performing among the best in the world in maths, but not enjoying the subject. At the same time, Steve Chinn (Letters, December 12) notes that the mode age for children to start to lose interest in maths is seven, mainly as a result of the very public nature of being asked to recall key facts and volunteer answers in class.

This reminded me of a seven-year-old I heard about last week, whose class was asked to hold up number fan cards for the number "after" 9. When the teacher switched to the number "before" 9, the child held up his 10 card again, looked round and saw everyone else had held up 8. At that point, he started to use his number fan as a pretend gun, and disrupt the lesson. It took so little to switch him off maths and turn him into a behaviour problem.

All this suggests we have got the age range right for our new Every Child Counts programme, which provides individual help for Year 2 children. Headteachers and class teachers are already telling us that the big difference they are seeing, apart from vastly improved numeracy skills, is the transformation in children's confidence and willingness to participate in class. I hope that schools will want to use the programme to prevent children's loss of enjoyment in maths, through early intervention.

Jean Gross Director, Every Child a Chance Trust, London.

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