October 15, 2016


Secret Teacher: pupils are force-fed maths they'll never use again (The Secret Teacher, 15 October 2016, The Guardian)

Here are a few of the topics students sitting a foundation maths paper are expected to understand: working with standard form; laws of indices; highest common factors and lowest common multiples; quadratic equations; quadratic graphs; quadratic sequences; angles in polygons; angles on parallel lines; Pythagoras' theorem; vectors; area and perimeter of circle sectors; tree diagrams; set notation; solving algebraic inequalities and much, much more. What percentage of people in the country need to know even half of that to get by and thrive?

I'm convinced a smaller syllabus, and fewer maths lessons, would help more students enjoy and benefit from maths
I'd love to meet the employer who insists all their employees need to be able write 72 as a product of its prime factors. Who is suggesting that all school leavers need to be able to factorise the expression 7y - 21y2? Why does everyone in the country need to be able see a right angled triangle with a hypotenuse of length 4m and a side of length 3m and immediately work out the angle between these two sides. If you're going on to study maths or sciences at A-level, then this is all necessary knowledge - but it's highly unlikely those sitting a foundation maths syllabus will continue the subject post-16.

Ensuring all school leavers are numerate and confident with everyday maths should be a main priority in education. We should be making sure all pupils can add, subtract, multiply and divide, use a calculator properly and estimate answers to avoid the need of a calculator and/or check its output. Pupils should be able to understand bills, costs, profit and loss. They need to understand enough about probability to evaluate the risk of things happening. Pupils should also understand the basics about common 2D and 3D shapes, and be confident with other numeracy skills that will be useful in life.

I'm convinced a smaller syllabus, and fewer maths lessons, would help more students enjoy and benefit from maths. It would lead to more engaged pupils and free up time to study other subjects.

Posted by at October 15, 2016 8:23 PM