Monday, 24 March 2008

It's not ok to be "useless at maths"

The BBC reports that according to a government review, every primary school should have a maths specialist and parents should have a less negative attitude to the subject. An interim report by Sir Peter Williams says the UK is one of the few developed nations where it is acceptable to say you are "useless at maths". Such attitudes will not help children see maths as an essential and rewarding part of their daily lives, it says.

The study criticises the amount of maths training teachers receive. Most teachers had the basic requirement in maths for teacher training - one GCSE in the subject.

The report said parents needed to have a "can-do" attitude to maths and to learn the modern techniques their children were using to help them and give them a love of maths. "Social issues surrounding the subject affect learners at all levels, including the very young," it says. "The United Kingdom remains one of the few advanced nations where it is socially acceptable to profess an inability to cope with mathematics. That is hardly conducive to a home environment in which mathematics is seen by children as an essential and rewarding part of their everyday lives."

That view was endorsed by schools minister Jim Knight: "Why is it that this is one of the few countries where it is acceptable, fashionable even, to declare that you are useless at maths. Maths is central to giving children the best start and the right skills for life. If children can't add up, and if maths isn't valued or seen as being important, how can we expect them in secondary school to understand science, or manage their own finances when they go to college."

The report recommended that every primary school should appoint a "maths champion" within the next five years to improve numeracy. These maths champions would be paid more and be expected to work towards a masters degree in education.

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