Teaching maths to ensure a good mathematics education
Every pupil needs a good mathematics education. They actually need more than that. Nowadays ‘good’ is probably not good enough!
The Mathematics: Made to Measure Ofsted report in 2012 stated just that. The Ofsted survey report analysed maths inspection evidence. It then collated the information and drew attention to the serious inequalities in both pupils’ experiences and their achievements. Four years on we wonder just what state UK primary and secondary maths education is like.
The report stated that Schools’ work in mathematics within the survey, was judged to be:
* Outstanding in 11%
* Good in 43%,
* Satisfactory in 42%.
However, it was rated as inadequate in two primary and nine secondary schools.
Improvement is really exorcising the government, inspectors, maths teacher trainers and teachers themselves. Back in November the headlines were:
It will take a decade to bring maths teaching in England up to world-beating standards, say subject experts.
Without more good teachers, efforts to improve skills were "built on sand
This came after the publication of a report from the Advisory Council on Mathematics Education (ACME). They observed and then suggested that teachers responsible for maths obviously require appropriate qualifications and more effective maths teacher training. One would imagine that goes beyond initial teacher training and encompasses continued professional development too. The report’s author, Robert Barbour used an interesting metaphor when he stated that ‘without more good teachers, efforts to improve skills were "built on sand".’
Mathematics teaching underpins so much in the contemporary world
It’s very serious because we know mathematics courses underpin so much of what the population needs to manipulate, undertake and understand in the contemporary world. Economically mathematics is vital. Right now the UK’s global ranking for maths and science is down to 20th. For a nation that prides itself in its heritage, tradition and standing in the world economy, that’s not very impressive.
You might say that perhaps initial maths teacher training in the UK is to blame.
But if you look at the Oftsed figures you will see that the maths teacher training courses were ranked ‘good to outstanding’. In fact 94% achieved this rating. So what is going wrong? Are we doing what we do well but does it need a complete overhaul? If we are to become a world class nation whose maths teaching is exemplary, exciting and relevant what exactly will need to change?
Perhaps we are simply not aspiring to be the best in maths across the world?
That doesn’t sound like the UK to us. We are world leaders and ‘up there’ in so many technological and cutting edge niches, industries and product development. Therefore it’s a shock to know mathematics education is deemed so weak. You wouldn’t think it if you saw theGet Into Teaching promotion.
So who do we need to look to for help ti improve maths teaching?
Certainly Asia is our first port of call. Shanghai, Singapore are up there always. Also Massachusetts in the US and Germany in the Europe are standard bearers. On an anecdotal level having chatted with some Portuguese youngsters who have moved to the UK to study in secondary schools they were amazed at how far behind their equivalent year group were. ‘English is tough’ they said ‘but maths is a breeze.’
Maths teachers need to have studied mathematics until 18 at the very least.
Certainly it is obvious that in the past, people that have shown an interest or aptitude for Maths in primary ediucation have sometimes been appointed lead teacher. This just isn’t good enough anymore. Anyone teaching maths should have higher qualifications wherever they are teaching. Subject specialists have a greater understanding of where students are headed. It’s not good enough to be reliant on skills picked up years before. A ‘C’ grade at GCSE is insufficient. Maths teachers need to have studied mathematics until 18 at the very least.
Why has there been such a downer on maths?
But that takes us back to the beginning. Why has there been such a downer on maths? When the Maths scholars scheme interviewed Gareth FFowc Roberts he mentioned how in Asia it is the done thing to promote maths. Quite often we accept when people say ‘Oh I hate maths or I can’t do maths!’ Why is that acceptable? No one wants to admit they are illiterate. So why is it ok to be numerically illiterate? We need to be careful how we present mathematics in every situation he says and watch what we say. We cannot afford to pass on outdated prejudices regarding this subject.
Many primary school have often struggled to find the correct number of teacher to offer core maths.
This can be addressed by reaching out to people with degrees that have a fair proportion of maths in their subject like engineering or economics. However, nkowing the struggle to recruit that’s going on right now this might be difficult to achieve.
We know teachers are proud of their vocation and most would welcome additional training to enhance their practice. After all teachers are passionate learners too.
Mentoring at all levels should be enbcouraghed as well as really sharing great examples of inspiraiotnal practice. Social media has really encouraged people to share resources and ideas that work. This has acted as a kickstarter but improving the general standard of maths education will be a long term strategy and it starts with maths teacher training. So what happens to the students who are currently in the school system? They can’t wait!
Lizana Oberholzer of the National Association of School Based Teacher Training stated it was vital to attract teaching trainees from a wider pool of graduates.
"It is key that we keep in mind that we need to make sure we develop people with maths skills appropriately and they might come to teaching from different walks of life."
The UK needs you to teach Maths now!
If you are planning to undertake initial teacher training in maths you might want toapply for a Maths Scholars scheme bursary to help you in that training year. It will help you to stand out from the crowd and also feed your passion and enthusiasm for maths that you can then pass on to the next generation. The next round of applications is now open, so why not apply right now!