Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Maths for teacher training

More demanding maths tests that must be passed before someone starts teacher training? What do I think about the latest proposals from the government in this respect?

Well, of course, I'm basically in favour of all our teachers being more confident with mathematics, whatever the age range and whatever the subject they are teaching. And the same goes for English language. But the case for passing a rigorous, mandatory assessment in English language is much stronger than it is in mathematics. All teachers need to be able to speak and write English accurately and coherently as part of their everyday professional activity. But, let's be honest: what really are the professional demands for mathematical knowledge, understanding and skills required to be an effective art teacher in a secondary school, for example? And are these the same as those of a teacher in the Early Years Foundation Stage?

Would I prefer one of my grandsons to be taught music by (A) a gifted and inspirational musician, with outstanding communication skills, extensive knowledge of the subject and tireless enthusiasm for the subject, but who cannot meet a particular level in a mathematics test – or by (B) an average, uninspiring, unenthusiastic musician who is a poor communicator and who has no idea how to modulate from F sharp major to G sharp minor, but who can substitute numbers into a mathematical formula and interpret a box-and-whisker diagram in statistics?

It's a no-brainer. The answer is clearly teacher A.

Yes, I would like all prospective teachers to take a national test in mathematics, particularly one that focusses mainly on the ways in which mathematics might be required in the everyday professional life of the teacher (see, for example, my book Numeracy for Teaching, which identifies and explains the mathematical demands of the profession). But this should not be a pass/fail test with a pass being a prerequisite for entering teacher training.

My view is that the individual's performance on this test should be graded, and that this grade is one of a number of factors that should be taken into account in determining whether an applicant should be offered a place on a particular teacher training programme – and subsequently in determining their suitability for a particular post for which they might apply. Anyone applying for a teacher training place will still make sure they do as well as they can on the test – because they will know that their chances of getting admitted will be enhanced by a good performance related to what is stated as one of a number of criteria used for assessing applicants.


5 comments:

  1. But the case for passing a rigorous, mandatory assessment in English language is much stronger than it is in mathematics.
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  2. I teach trainee techers in Scotland. We have introduced a self diagnosis test in Mathematics. My students do it in second year as part of their maths course. The scores are not recorded . The students have to hand in a self avluationreport tracking their progress and how they addressed any perceived weaknesses. This is the first year of use but the feedback from the students is very positive already

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