Friday, 19 September 2008

Making maths engaging

A new report by Ofsted is complaining that secondary school maths teaching is teaching students to pass the tests and not to actually comprehend the subject. I did maths under the old 'O'-level system and the current exams are at least a bit more realistic and less theoretical but still maths teaching is not really fit for purpose and so it will continue to be taught in order to fulfill an artificial testing system.

Many children come to hate maths - they find it too abstract and inaccessible. I can understand their point. All through my undergraduate degree we were discouraged from the mathematical side by lecturers always emphasizing how difficult it was. Maths is not really like that, often it has a very simple elegance and when you study it properly it is not the impenetrable subject many teachers (who find it difficult themselves) portray.

Teachers want the students to pass and they think students find it hard so they teach the shortest path - they teach surface learning and this will cripple students who go on to further and higher education. Maths can be challenging but taught in the right way students will engage with it and find the challenge "fun" - something they want to overcome. As teachers we should not underestimate student's ability by teaching them bad habits.

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