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Can students learn how to solve mathematics problems by taking maths tests?

Blog Editor, IOE Digital26 February 2020

By Francesca Borgonovi, British Academy Global Professor, UCL Institute of Education and Francesco Avvisati, Analyst, Directorate for Education and Skills, OECD.

Few subjects in education spark as much controversy as tests. Many people recognise that tests are useful to students because they provide a strong incentive to study rather than procrastinate; they can help teachers because they provide information about what students know and what they do not know; and they are useful to education policy makers because they promote accountability. But most people consider tests as little more than a bitter medicine that one needs to swallow to get better; and many worry that, as with medicine, too much testing may have toxic effects – so much so that “teaching to the test” and “learning for a test” are seen as diverting valuable time and resources from education. (more…)

How the trade union approach to learning helps workers overcome maths phobia

Blog Editor, IOE Digital1 August 2019

Beth Kelly.

The more collaborative style of learning led by trade unions in the workplace helps people to become more motivated and confident about learning and using mathemtics. Indeed, my new research shows that even long-held negative feelings towards mathematics can be overcome.

The study, published in Motivating adults to learn mathematics in the workplace: a trade union approach, finds a strong link between developing adult learners’ confidence and the support provided by local social networks and the particular pedagogic processes promoted by trade unions in the workplace. However, there is still much debate about the value of using trade union resources to support such skills development. This is despite evidence from government-funded research showing that it is one of the ‘few effective existing models of work-based support for mathematics and English’ and (more…)

Life after levels: is the new Year 6 maths test changing the way teachers teach?

Blog Editor, IOE Digital19 July 2016

Melanie Ehren
Earlier this month (5 July), the Department for Education published the results of the Key Stage 2 test for 10 and 11-year-olds. The publication was awaited with more anxiety than usual as this year’s test was the first one on the new national curriculum. One of the major changes in the test is the removal of the ‘old’ national curriculum levels 3, 4 and 5, where children were expected to reach at least a level 4. The level 6 paper for the most able children has also gone and results are now reported as ‘scaled scores[1]’. Each pupil now has to achieve at least a score of 100 to reach the expected standard. It seems like a minor change with little impact on how teachers teach mathematics and prepare children for the test, but recent findings from our Nuffield-funded study suggest otherwise.
We interviewed 30 Year 6 teachers in schools performing both below and above the floor standard in Mathematics. Interviews took place prior to the changes in the test in (more…)

Why les deux sacred cows of the curriculum don't add up

Blog Editor, IOE Digital16 March 2016

John White
I loved the algebra I did for my School Certificate in 1949 – and have never used it since. Ditto for a lot of the geometry. I agree with Simon Jenkins’s Guardian piece on March 10 that we make a fetish of mathematics in the secondary school. Like Kevin Williams,  I’d say the same about foreign languages (MFL) – for most people another non-usable subject. Post-basic maths and foreign languages make up nearly half of the five EBacc subjects which nearly all students will take GCSEs from 2020
But why use so much of their valuable school time on two subjects which only future specialists among them are likely to use? Some post-basic maths, agreed, is essential, not least basic statistics for civic education, plus the limited amount necessary to understand elementary science. This apart, we are in totem territory.
There is no good argument why more advanced mathematics or MFL should be compulsory for all up to 16. That said, there is a case for compulsory short taster courses in both (more…)

Introducing East Asian teaching methods into western schools: is it a good idea?

Blog Editor, IOE Digital18 June 2015

John Jerrim.
About six months ago I released a paper discussing the reason for East Asian success in the OECD PISA survey of 15 year olds’ skills and knowledge in reading, mathematics and science, focussing largely upon the role of home background and culture. I have been somewhat overwhelmed by the number of people who have shown an interest in this paper and who have contacted me about this work since. Today, I present some evidence on the other side of the story – the ‘impact’ of East Asian teaching methods on children’s mathematics test scores. (more…)