Zero tolerance of maths ignorance

8th December 2000 at 00:00
IT IS depressing to read in Karen Gold's article (TES, November 24), research

purporting to find that more might be achieved with less well-qualified teachers.

The notion that maths can

be better taught by teachers of inferior, rather than superior mathematical knowledge, is presented without serious qualification. It is tendentious and highly misleading.

For it simply means that the "know-less" teachers are better as teachers and, therefore, better able to communicate what they know.

It does not mean that these teachers would not be better if they possessed a superior mathematical knowledge!

In no field of study are knowledge and understanding separable. If the "know-less" teachers are better teachers this probably means that the, in fact, have a better grasp of maths than others more formally knowledgeable. Did the researchers research this possibility?

It is a perversion of education and a real recipe for disaster even to suggest that "know-less" is an acceptable state of affairs. But this is a political and not an intellectual conclusion.

The reason why a country such as Hungary has been able to

sustain a high quality of maths teaching is that maths under

communism could not readily be adulterated by political ideology. The study of maths, therefore, retained its intellectual purity and hence its respect and prestige. The moral of this ought to be studied in our own highly politicised


Nigel Probert

29 Cae Caradog


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