What’s going on in primary maths education in your country?

I’m delighted to have been invited to run the workshop on the future of primary mathematics at this globally leading education inquiry conference: https://www.toddleapp.com/ties/

Please can you help me prepare for this workshop? Can you write a description of what’s going on in primary maths education in your country (or any other region or education collective you are in)?

The following questions are designed be prompts to help you think in depth about what’s going on.  You may not be able to or wish to answer them all and this does not matter.

Please write whatever you want to write – clearly stating which country, region or education collective you are writing about.  You may want to write about how things have changed over time.  If you can’t describe what’s happened in a collective of schools, you may wish to tell your story of your own experiences as a way of giving some insight into what’s going on.  These stories may be publicly shared so if you wish to remain anonymous please clearly state this.

I am currently developing a workshop for an international maths education conference on this topic.

Prompt questions:

1. What is the purpose of maths education in your society (is it functional maths, international status, social equity or something else? 

2. At what age do you start teaching the formal maths curriculum (i.e. the numbers to 10 are taught and will then be assumed to be known in subsequent years)?  Provide the age that younger children in the year group are when they finish the relevant academic year.

3. Are lessons fully scripted in advance or not? 

4. To what extent is teaching stepwise (accessing a lesson depends on having mastered previous lessons and lesson content provides access to the next lesson) and to what extent is teaching low-floor high-ceiling (i.e. access points to lessons are very low and so children do not need to have attended recent lessons to access them and levels of discussion about maths may be higher than the curriculum)

5. Are classes streamed or mixed attainment (or perhaps mixed year) and are some children left behind?  If so which children? 

6. If lessons are fully scripted in advance, who scripted those lessons and how much scope do classroom teachers have to influence those scripts?

7. To what extent is it assumed that the child’s brain is an empty vessel to be filled? (or is it assumed that a child’s brain is full of their own ideas that need to be uncovered and linked to the classroom maths?)

8. Do you teach maths, or do you teach children?  i.e. is maths teaching about transmitting mathematical skills or is it about developing personal skills and the influencing whole child?

9. Is failure in high-stakes tests considered to be beneficial for learning?

10. Who decides the answers to the questions above in your country? 

(Primary maths is assumed to be maths to age 11. If this is not what primary maths is for you please say so and explain the age range that you are referring to).

Please email your description to rebecca@authenticmahts.co.uk

2 Replies to “What’s going on in primary maths education in your country?”

  1. Dear Ms. Hanson,
    I am a retired teacher and lecturer in mathematics education at the faculty of education at the University of Toronto in Ontario, Canada. I was impressed with the careful thought which went into your questions. Although implied, there is one area which could be addressed more specifically: the topic of cognitive readiness . If we want a student to understand and be able to apply a concept in mathematics, then the concept must be presented when the child is developmentally able to process the ideas. Both Piaget’s cognitive stages and Vygotsky’s zone of proximal development are essential metrics. So I would humbly suggest the addition of a question probing whether (and if so how) a student’s cognitive readiness is evaluated before teaching any topic in mathematics.
    Allen Gorlick

    1. Dear Allen,

      Thank you so much for your comment. I agree with you completely.

      However the national curriculum in England demands concepts are taught at specific ages which ignore all this (and many other countries are in similar situations). This left me stuck – I had to choose between lecturing teachers that they should ignore their national curriculum and trying to help them cope with it – without any confidence that what was being demanded could actually be achieved. Ultimately I decided to go and look for the very best teachers who people said were achieving it and listen to them. Eventually I puzzled out how they do it and that’s what I’m sharing. It’s still nonsense that they have to do it. But it’s also unrealistic write anything that assumes they don’t have to. Sigh…..

      I found you on Linkedin but couldn’t request to link because your profile doesn’t allow that. You’re welcome to request to link to me or to comment here further. I do always question the course I’ve taken.

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