Rushing young people who show a proclivity for mathematics through the curriculum is harming the quality of education among students in later stages of their development, a new report has warned.
According to the Advisory Committee on Mathematics Education (ACME), those children who are earmarked as having the potential to study maths at A level and university are often then rushed through the process of learning the subject.
As a result, they emerge with only a shallow understanding of key concepts, the paper titled 'Raising the bar: developing able young mathematicians' argued.
It is the responsibility of people in mathematics teaching jobs at any level to identify the brightest students and foster in them a deeper understanding of the subject, as well as helping those who struggle with mathematical concepts.
However, the ACME warns that these promising pupils are often put on an accelerated course through the curriculum - a trend that is emerging both at primary and secondary school levels.
This will be concerning for the government coming as it does just a day after the publication of international test data that showed England is slipping behind its international counterparts in terms of maths performance among pupils at the ages of ten and 14.
Pressure placed on primary schools through Key Stage 3 National Curriculum Tests (SATs) and similar strains faced by secondary schools as a result of league tables were blamed by the committee for this situation.
In particular, the report suggested that league tables encourage schools to enter students showing the greatest mathematical aptitude for GCSEs early. However, this early entry often results in only a superficial understanding of basic concepts that can undermine progress during further and higher education.
Professor Steve Sparks, chair of the ACME and Fellow of the Royal Society, said: "Just because a pupil can charge through the curriculum at top speed through procedural learning, does not mean that he or she has developed a clear grasp of the subject matter or could apply the fundamental principles more broadly.
"The 'acceleration' approach is driven by league tables, and puts us at odds with many of the world's highest performers in terms of mathematics education. It is inconsistent with the government's stated aim to encourage more students to study maths to 19."
Posted by Tim Colman