Belabouring the Real World

Bridget Phillipson is UK Labour’s shadow minister for education. She is proposing a new program, “phonics for maths”, which sounds like a good thing. Countering Rishi Rich’s idiotic demand that everyone study mathematics until they’re 50, Phillipson gave a speech a few days ago, with a decent chunk on primary school mathematics:

“Maths is the language of the universe, the underpinning of our collective understanding. It cannot be left till the last years of school.”

“… it’s why I’m proud to tell you today, that we’ll tackle our chronic cultural problem with maths, by making sure it’s better taught at six, never mind 16.”

Great. And how is Labour to do this? Well,

Labour says it will replace Rishi Sunak’s demand for compulsory maths classes until 18 with improved maths teaching for younger children and “real world” numeracy lessons for pupils in England.

Bridget Phillipson, the shadow education secretary, will tell Labour’s conference in Liverpool that its curriculum review would “bring maths to life for the next generation”, using practical examples drawn from household budgeting, currency exchange rates for tourists, sports league tables and cookery recipes.

Not quite. Phillipson tinkered with her speech after feeding it in advance to the media. So, “real world” is no longer there. But, the real world message is:

“Because be it budgeting or cooking, exchange rates or payslips, maths matters for success.

And I want the numeracy all our young people need – for life and for work, to earn and to spend, to understand and to challenge, I want that to be part of their learning right from the start.”

Yep just like phonics, which is, of course, all about the real world.

These people are always the same, the emphasis on “the real world” demonstrating only that they understand nothing of mathematics education. Greg Ashman responded perfectly to a tweet making this point: “It’s a ‘tell’ as the poker players would say”.

Phillipson may have deleted “real world” from her speech but there are still plenty of tells.

OUP’s Missed Chance on Knowledge and Skills

A bit over a week ago, the Australian arm of Oxford University Press, in collaboration with the Australian Maths Trust, released a White Paper: The knowledge and skills gap in Australian primary mathematics classrooms. Yeah, it’s in the “well, duh” category of reports, on the massive range of student mathematics levels, which primary school teachers must then manage. But, still, the report can’t be a bad thing, can it? Well, …

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