Monday, February 15, 2010

Education! Education! Education! What chance have our children got?

What chance have our children got when the primary school teachers can't do maths?

I have just watched Dispatches on Channel 4, Kids Don't Count (Part 1 of 2), and did the test that they set 155 teachers here. Apparently only 1 out of 155 got what I would regard as the minimum mark required, 12 out of 12. Something like half got 50% or less.

Do we seriously expect children to get anywhere when the teachers can't do the maths?

Lets be clear here, a primary school teacher does not need to be maths geniuses, but they do need to be able to do the sort of questions their students are expected to do in their sleep. (The test above is aimed at primary school leavers).

The head teacher who allowed dispatches in was very brave, if useless at maths. Clearly we have a problem, and we need to test teachers on the basics and where they fail, they will need remedial training. If they still fail, they need replacing.

Ed Balls and Michael Gove were asked to take the test. Both declined. Pathetic. I took the test and got the 12 out of 12. That means I can do primary school maths. One would hope primary schools teachers could, and also that those who seek to run education could as well.


Timothy (likes zebras) said...

Hmm. I think you're being a bit harsh.

It's worth noting, for example, that some of those questions are harder than the ones I remember from the intermediate GCSE Maths paper I sat [two years early] in 1994 [since when GCSEs have allegedly become even easier mind you].

So it seems like they are aiming for quite a high standard, which is good.

Obviously, they aren't going to meet such a standard if the teachers can't do it to start with, but it's going to be an incredibly long hard slog to increase Maths standards, given how lowly it is valued compared to football skillz and make-up application...

Benedict White said...

What score did you get Timothy?

The test is apparently supposed to be what primary school leavers are supposed to be able to do, that said I was a little surprised at the level of some of the questions. I would add that they were way below the Maths O level I sat, early, in 1984.

I was also shocked at how numerically illiterate adults were. I am used to checkout staff giving me quizzical looks when I have over £5.23 for a bill of say £4.78, having looked at my change and worked out that the resultant change back will get me 45p which is 3 coins, whilst losing 5 coins.. that said they type in the numbers and see the change and hand it over..

Some people could not work out whether 2 for £3 was cheaper than 3 for £4!

We need to start by getting primary school teachers up to scratch.

Ed Butt said...

OK, eleven and I passed one one because I thought it was pointless. 5 minutes, life's too short.

The test illustrates what is wrong with Maths teaching. It is not about numeracy we will use every day of our lives but about people who enjoy maths (like Carol Vorderman and Sudoku addicts) deluding themselves they are cleverer than those who have better things to do with their precious time.

Sorry but if this is what kids are being taught its no wonder they aren't interested.

I can't understand why anybody would need to work out whether 2 for £3 or 3 for £4 is cheaper. It isn't the kind of price comparison we see every day. I think most people, educated or not, would know 2 for £3 is cheaper than £1.75each.

If you want to know how good ordinary people are at maths go to the bookies and watch them work out their return on an each way yankee. Most maths professors would not have a clue.

People learn best what interests them.

David H said...

These seemed like reasonable questions to ask primary leavers. I would certainly expect the teachers to be able to answer them without difficulty and to be confident about doing so.

For what it's worth, I did all the working mentally and got through them in four minutes, scoring 11.5/12 (durr - read the question! If it asks for a percentage, give one!).