Maths teaching doesn’t add up

10th June 2016 at 00:00

Once again, concern about numeracy performance in Scottish schools has hit the headlines. This is not a new issue, and it may be time to consider why previous efforts to improve the situation have not borne fruit.

The original Curriculum for Excellence proposed that numeracy education was a “responsibility for all”, to be addressed where feasible across all subject areas.

A more typical response has been teaching specific skills in atomistic detail. This has led to learners memorising procedures in a seemingly endless list, while quietly wondering: “Why would anyone want to know this?”

Applying a skill in an interesting context can prove a great spur to achievement; witness the impressive mental arithmetic of darts players, for example. And numeracy skills can be of value in the study of other subjects, too. Ideas introduced in maths can be reinforced and extended while bringing extra punch and life to studies.

A study in this area, which over 100 teachers contributed to, sketched out a number of suggested learning progression pathways. One particular pathway covered the theme of measurement, units and scale, highlighting opportunities to build on and link numerous identified experiences and outcomes, potentially at all stages from pre-school to S3.

Alan C Roach

Emeritus professor, University of the West of Scotland

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