A parent made an interesting comment to me recently concerning the availability of information for parents about progress with basic core subjects suggesting that its is a little patchy.
He suggested that as parents they were getting a lot of information about Language, Literacy and Social Skills but they faced a troubling dearth of information about Maths. It seemed to them that Maths was as least as important as those other subjects but the relative silence about Maths simply continues.
Some years ago, when changes occurred to the way Maths was taught, there may have been some willingness to sheet the blame (but no justification) that parents took the blame for this as a pedagogy new to them had replaced, it seemed, the ways of former days. But that is wearing thin after so many years of the current Maths pedagogy – indeed many millennial parents had been taught New Maths in much the same way as their little ones. Perhaps the once held view that because of the changes made to the curriculum parents were in a disadvantaged position to provide support for homework and had seemingly resulted in little homework in Maths coming home with the lunch box – but this did not seem to be the case with Language and Literacy which came home in abundance.
As the focus of experts swings towards addressing the issues of this important core subject and of arresting the decline in standards of Maths achievement in international comparisons there could be some answers in the ways in which primary students engage with Maths and the levels of excitement (or otherwise) of their early learning. I hear too often the complaint for students such as “I am not very good at Maths, I don’t like it!” And just as often I have been told by parents: “I was never any good at Maths!” as if the parents should be handing down being adept at Maths in the package of Maths with the inheritance of good looks and boistrous energy.
So clearly there is some work for The Experts Group to get on with.
I offer the following guidance for the experts:
- Develop ways of engaging parents and caregivers in their roles in giving Maths a life-out-of-school.
- Address the preparedness of teachers in pre-service to teach Maths and supplement this with regular nourishment in their own engagement as professional Maths teachers.
- Give Mathematics a new image which sees it as a central life skill rather then for those who are “bright” and have a carefully considered modulation to approaches into the teaching of Maths for different careers.
- To achieve the above, engage with top leaders in business and industry and commerce to develop an understanding of what Maths skills are required by which careers and when.
- Create an enthusiasm for Maths that takes it out of the protected species spot that it currently inhabits.
This last suggestion could be the most important one. There is clear evidence that when the penny drops about the importance for learning Maths to one’s future, engagement and learning are triggered. For the second and last time I note that students have no appetite for learning Mathematics for no obvious reason. This should not be seen as a criticism of the high-level academic curriculum nor the disciplines of Maths which are theoretical, for all of which there is a time and place.