Posted by: aboutalbion | May 23, 2012

Mathematics maybe an unhelpful word in schools

Yesterday in the UK, a major report was issued that was critical of the way mathematics is taught and tested in schools.  Ofsted’s report, entitled ‘Mathematics Made to Measure’, concluded that school children were not reaching an adequate understanding of mathematics.

If I was asked for my advice, then I would suggest that the word ‘mathematics’ should not be used as a subject in schools with children up to the age of 16.

To my way of thinking, ‘Mathematics’ as a subject at school is an umbrella word for the distinguishable subjects of arithmetic, geometry, and trigonometry.  How our over-developed social world deploys counting and measuring ideas from these subjects in “modelling” is a further separate skill.  Therefore I am not surprised that a national report finds that mixing these distinguishable subjects up together in the same school lesson leads to an awful lot of confusion in children’s minds.

And then there is the further complication that today’s mathematics teachers are using different ways of explaining concepts (compared with the previous generation of teachers) which has the effect of disempowering parents from supporting their children in their school work.  For example, the arithmetical operation of division is now commonly explained to today’s children using the word “chunking” – a word that is unfamiliar to most of their parents.

By the way, I would say the same thing about the teaching of ‘English’.  To my way of thinking, ‘English’ as a subject at school is an umbrella word for the distinguishable subjects of reading, writing, spelling, grammar, and punctuation.  How our over-developed social world deploys linguistic ideas from these subjects in “literature” in order to communicate is a further separate skill.

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