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Think tank calls for primary maths to be more demanding

17/06/2013 Joanna
A report for a right-of-centre think tank has argued primary school teachers could introduce some mathematical concepts earlier in order to raise pupils' attainment.

The draft version of the new national curriculum has set out changes in the way maths is to be taught as of 2014 with the aim of helping children become fluent in the subject's fundamentals, learn to reason mathematically and improve their problem-solving skills.

Now a new publication for Politeia by Professor David Burghes, director of the Centre for Innovation in Mathematics Teaching at the University of Plymouth, has welcomed the new maths curriculum's greater emphasis on basic academic knowledge.

Yet drawing on evidence from Japan, Finland and Singapore, Professor Burghes argued primary maths teaching should be made more demanding, aspirational and rewarding in order to provide pupils with the foundations to succeed in the subsequent stages of their education.

His report advocated that pupils learn their multiplication tables up to 12 by the time they are eight, algebra and probability be introduced earlier and greater focus be placed on the development of logical and mathematical thinking.

On the other hand, the study also suggested some mathematical concepts, such as fractions, would be best introduced later than is currently being proposed.

Furthermore, Professor Burghes said the delivery of improvements in maths teaching was dependent on having enough primary teachers with a high standard of mathematics and that many current teachers would wish to improve their mathematical knowledge.

He recommended: "Current teachers could be encouraged to take A and AS-level mathematics examinations.

"Teachers could also work with local teaching schools, enhancing pedagogy through the use of Japanese style lesson study and with input from the increasing number of expert teachers being trained in primary mathematics. Greater use of new technology should also be considered."

However, speaking at the launch of this report, mathematician Tony Gardiner expressed concern at its proposals, according to BBC News, countering that many countries with a strong standard of maths education "start slower and do less".

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