Friday, 12 August 2011

Carol V's Report

Well it was a shrewd move to get Carol Vordeman to be the public face of the group reviewing mathematics in schools. Her celebratory status has guaranteed plenty of media coverage – and who could complain about what is proposed by her group?

Who would not be in favour of:
  • a greater emphasis in schools on the applications of mathematics to the real world in which youngsters are growing up;
  • more opportunities for students not particularly turned on by pure mathematics to engage with genuine and realistic problem-solving in real world contexts;
  • more young people studying mathematics in some form or other beyond the age of 16;
  • primary school teachers having a greater depth in mathematical subject knowledge and greater confidence in this area of the curriculum?
The last of these points has, of course, been the focus of my personal research, teaching and writing. Working with primary school trainees – many of whom have done no mathematics beyond scraping through a Grade C at GCSE – has revealed to me that many of them have to address worrying gaps in their subject knowledge, misunderstandings and lack of confidence in mathematics.

Requiring a grade B in GCSE mathematics as a minimum for entering teacher training would clearly help – and would enable teacher trainers to focus their efforts more on developing the 'pedagogical subject knowledge' of trainees. This is more than just knowing how many faces in a dodecahedron or being able to add fractions. It is the knowledge of mathematics needed to be an effective teacher, which would include being able to:
  • anticipate and analyse pupils' errors and misconceptions;
  • interpret learners' incomplete thinking;
  • predict their responses to mathematical tasks;
  • evaluate alternate ideas suggested by pupils and novel responses;
  • give clear and well constructed mathematical explanations;
  • evaluate and choose appropriately from different mathematical representations;
  • sequence mathematical material appropriately for learning.


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