Posts Tagged ‘Numeracy’

Maths Lessons Should be “Toughened Up”: Gove

June 30, 2011

Michael Gove might think that rigorous daily and weekly testing in maths is the answer, but my experience tells me that testing doesn’t work for all types of students.  There are some students that lift their game when tested.  Their competitive juices get going, and their drive to get a good grade is palpable.  Then there are students who need to learn in a less pressurised and more r
elaxed setting.  They freeze during formal testing, but progress extremely well when the focus is on the skill or concept rather than the grade.

Michael Gove disagrees:

All primary school children should be given daily maths lessons and weekly tests to stop pupils falling behind those from the Far East, Michael Gove suggested today. 

Mr Gove said schools should also “bear in mind” a system used in Shanghai where pupils have daily maths lessons and regular tests to “make sure that all children are learning the basics”.

What disappoints me as a Primary Maths teacher, is that in the quest for better results the focus becomes testing instead of engagement.  I believe that Maths can be taught in a turgid and lifeless way.  Conversely, it can be taught in an interesting, engaging and creative way.  Whilst constant testing will make students resent the subject, there are ways of teaching maths which can engage and excite students.

The answer to improving our students’ maths skills should not result in them hating the subject.

Sometimes the Unions Don’t Help

June 26, 2011

There are times when the Education Unions just make me shake my head.  At a time when respect for teachers is at an all time low, unions have the opportunity to help promote the good work teachers do.  Instead, they often make things so much worse.  Take this story for example:

Students will not be allowed to enter teacher training in England if they fail basic numeracy and literacy tests three times, under tougher rules to raise teaching standards.

At present students are allowed to take unlimited re-sits while they train.

The Department for Education said one in 10 trainees takes the numeracy test more than three times, while the figure is one in 14 for the literacy test.

The National Union of Teachers said it considered the tests “superfluous”.

The aim is to improve the standard of students entering teaching.

From September 2012, candidates will have to pass the assessments before they are permitted to begin their training courses.

The tests are the same for both primary and secondary school teacher trainees, who must also have achieved a grade C or above in GCSE maths and English.
What is “superfluous” about ensuring that teachers have basic skills in the areas they teach?  What profession would allow trainees to practice without the requisite knowledge or skill?  It’s not as if the questions are so hard.  Here are a sample of the questions on such a test:


  • Q: Teachers organised activities for three classes of 24 pupils and four classes of 28 pupils. What was the total number of pupils involved?
  • A: 184.
  • Q: There were no ” ” remarks at the parents’ evening. Is the missing word:
  • a) dissaproving
  • b) disaproveing
  • c) dissapproving
  • d) disapproving?
  • A: d
  • Q: For a science experiment a teacher needed 95 cubic centimetres of vinegar for each pupil. There were 20 pupils in the class. Vinegar comes in 1,000 cubic centimetre bottles. How many bottles of vinegar were needed?
  • A: 2
  • Q: The children enjoyed the ” ” nature of the task. Is the correct word:
  • a) mathmatical
  • b) mathematical
  • c) mathemmatical
  • d) mathematicall
  • A: b

Does the NAPLAN Have Any Friends?

November 1, 2010

Professor Brian Caldwell, a former dean of education at the University of Melbourne, is the latest epert to criticise the NAPLAN testing.  Speaking to a Senate inquiry into National Assessment Program – Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN), he said that the program, and website, should be phased out.

“Essentially, I propose a sunset on current approaches to NAPLAN and My School and adoption of benchmark practice.”

Professor Caldwell proposed that a survey based on a sample of students would be enough to yield national information, rather than testing all students.

As a teacher, I believe that while it is important to monitor schools against a set of national benchmarks, the NAPLAN tests works against the natural instincts of the standard harworking teacher.  Principals instruct their teachers, not to teach for learnings sake, but rather to teach the skills and content covered in the tests.  So even though I taught a unit on persuasive writing in Term 2, my school wants me to cover it again in Term 4 because they heard it was the writing genre selected for the NAPLAN.

Shouldn’t the NAPLAN promte real teaching instead of depriving teachers from going about their jobs the way they should?

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