Maths is Taught So Poorly

I realise that what I am writing is a gross generalisation, but I believe that maths is generally taught in a very abstract and monotonous way. No wonder the students are not benefitting from maths instruction at the primary level. Traditional maths teaching involves worksheets, a mindless array of algorithms and plenty of other rote styled goodies.

The tragedy of it all is that maths can be taught in a completely different way. I find the basic skills of maths the most refreshing and creatively exciting subject to teach. The fact that maths is a composite of everyday skills means it translates wonderfully to problem solving activities.

The other day, whilst teaching ordering numbers up to 4 digits, I got my 8-year-old students into groups, each given a particular airline to reasearch. The groups had to find the 3 lowest airfares for a return domestic trip between certain dates and times, These prices were then compared and ordered from least expensive to most expensive. Isn’t that the whole point of ordering and comparing numbers?

Whilst engaging in the exercise, the students enjoyed working in groups, competing for a bargain against other groups, learning how to book airline tickets and simply use their imagination by pretending they were actually intending in going on the flight.

Isn’t that more interesting than a worksheet that has numbers on it to order?

This is why I am not at all surprised that British students leave Primary school ‘with the maths ability of 7-year-old’:

An analysis of last year’s SATs results has shown 27,500 11-year-olds are going on to secondary school with the numeracy skills of children four years their junior.

The figures equate to a staggering one in 20 of the total of those leaving primary school. Boys perform worse than girls, with 15,600 behind in their ability.

Separate statistics published two weeks ago also revealed that one in three GCSE pupils fail to get at least a grade C in maths.

The disclosure follows the launch of a Daily Telegraph campaign – Make Britain Count – to highlight the scale of the nation’s mathematical crisis and provide parents with tools to boost their children’s numeracy skills.

It comes amid concerns that schoolchildren are less likely to study maths to a high standard in England, Wales and Northern Ireland than in most other developed nations.

I appeal to Primary teachers to give the text-book a rest and don’t be afraid to try new and exciting ideas to engage your maths students.


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