# Impending Disaster For Maths Education

Discussion in 'Mathematics' started by pencho, Feb 24, 2012.

1. ### penchoNew commenter

I think Maths education over the next few years could end up being a disaster if we are not careful. The soundbites from Gove and Ofqual worry me. On one hand they want to toughen up exams and less students to get high grades, yet on the other they want more students to get a grade C, all students to study Maths post 16. We are already THE subject that gets fewest grade C's, the subject that students find difficult, the subject that students struggle with the most. How will what the government proposes today improve things.

2. ### brambo

You have forgotten the simple fact that Gove et al think it is the teaching of Maths that is the problem. They think that Maths should be more accessible to all, but teaching of Maths is poor...
We are not helped by educational researchers that have political motivation alone that keep producing documents stating that our current methods don't help the majority understand the subject. These people want pupils to be able to use their own methods more.
Well, lets take simultaneous equations as a good example. In the past I've had pupils that only ever solve them via methods of trial and error, which work as long as both answers are positive integers. As soon as answers were fractions (even simple fractions) or negatives, their methods didn't work because they seldom thought of these.
Or, solving equations with unknowns on both sides using inverses but not setting out work in a mathematical manner.
e.g.
7x -4 = 3x + 8
7x - 3x = 4x
8 + 4 = 12
12 / 4 = 3
Now, each line of working makes sense, but each does not follow from the one above as a proper method of working out. Especially if they are then given a further step up...
e.g. (5x + 1)/2 = 2x + 6
As many have not understood that the equation remains equal when inverses are used, they don't know properly how to use the divide by 2.
Now, you might argue that the pupil has not understood how to solve equations due to teaching methods AND that the prior method of working out is adequate for those at Foundation level (which I'd agree with to some extent). In response, I'd argue that pupils that adopt formal methods quickly are more able to progress to a more difficult step (or purely another step) than those that use their own methods. Yes, it becomes a mechanical process, but when the solving of a final equation is not the main point of a question (e.g. A level), they are more capable of getting the right answers.
So, in my experience, using proper mathematical methods and setting out work with formal techniques is how maths should be taught. More important than finding their own methods to "solve" things is an understanding of whether answers are "reasonable" and being able to check answers with simple methods. That is the part of maths that causes issues. Pupils do the work and just accept an answer. The do not have any "feel" for what the answer should be...

3. ### lancsHODNew commenter

I agree with you we'll make the exam tougher and all should get a C by 18 is a bit confusing!
I have just told my husband who is a teacher but not Maths this conflict his response was simple.
Well he (Gove) knows nothing about education!